[MLS] A sellout crowd of more than 70,000 and seven goals provided MLS with the atmosphere and excitement it wanted for the All-Star Game, won by Manchester United, 5-2, Wednesday at Reliant Stadium in Houston. Here's what we liked and didn't like about the 2010 MLS All-Star Game ...
What we liked ...
-- After several seasons of filling up a few of its smaller, soccer-specific stadiums for All-Star Games, MLS went big-time in terms of facility and opponent. The aura of Manchester United, not seen in the USA for six years, prompted huge advance sales, and added attractions like Landon Donovan and Brian Ching and Mexican star Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez packed Reliant Stadium with 70,728 fans.
Man United will make further inroads into the Mexican market by playing the first match at Guadalajara’s new stadium Friday. Hernandez, sold by Guadalajara to United for a fee in the range of 7 million pounds ($10.7 million), is scheduled to play a half for each team. His goal showed he’s not being bought solely for marketing purposes, and the fans in Houston can brag forever that they witnessed his first goal in a United shirt.
-- Man United left many veterans at home for this tour, and in this match its young players came out in force. Many fans came out just to see Hernandez, and he scored United’s fifth goal with an elegant lob, yet a player four years younger -- Federico Macheda, just 18 -- hit the first two. Darren Gibson, also 22, nicked the third, and Tom Cleverley, 20, scored the fourth goal with a clever dink over defender Wilman Conde and cool first-time finish.
-- Goals light up any match, but watching teams share a dozen or more goals through languid defending takes away the rarity value of goals, and much of the excitement, inherent to a competitive match. Such as been the case with East vs. West and other All-Star Game matchups. The MLS All-Stars tried to stop Manchester United, but a line of defenders unaccustomed to playing together surrendered numerous chances in the highest-scoring All-Star Game played in the current format. United came at the All-Stars eager to wipe out the memory of a 2-1 loss to Kansas City on Sunday and the MLS players weren’t ready for the pressure.
-- Local hero Brian Ching headed in the All-Stars’ first goal on a free kick served by FC Dallas attacker David Ferreira, and former Dynamo Dwayne De Rosario scored the second with a sharp low finish inside the far post. Current Dynamo midfielder Brad Davis nearly scored twice, but both shots came back off the woodwork.
What we didn't like ...
-- The All-Stars took about 20 minutes to settle into the game, and by then they were two goals down. A terrible pass by Kevin Alston sent Macheda in alone on goal to score after just 20 seconds, and minutes later, a giveaway by Heath Pearce provided United with a counterattack chance it nearly converted. Macheda scored again in the 12th minute on a set play with a close-range header and no opponent near enough to challenge him.
A disjointed performance and set-play confusion is to be expected, since the All-Stars had only a brief training window, but several players struggled with simple traps and touches in the early going. United’s players were seldom guilty of such technical deficiencies, though they did concede Ching’s goal on a free kick.
-- Scheduling deprived the All-Stars of an optimum performance and the fans of seeing the MLS representatives at their best. De Rosario and Donovan played Tuesday night for their clubs in the Concacaf Champions’ League; neither got into the game until the second half, and Galaxy striker Edson Buddle never got off the bench. Sounders Steve Zakuani and Fredy Montero, who could have livened up the All-Star attack, were occupied during the All-Star Game with their own Concacaf match on Wednesday.
As evidenced by the crowds and excitement generated by Man United’s visits to Chicago (for training), Toronto, Philadelphia, Kansas City, and Houston, adhering to its scheduling necessities overrode the inconvenience of Concacaf conflicts. And All-Star Game distractions can’t be blamed by the Galaxy, drilled at home 4-1 by Puerto Rico Islanders on Tuesday with Buddle and Donovan on the field.
MLS All-Star Game
July 28 in Houston
MLS All-Stars 2 Man. United 5. Goals: Ching 64, De Rosario 90; Macheda 1, 12, Gibson 70, Cleverley 73, Hernandez 84.
MLS All-Stars -- Ricketts (Rimando, 46), Olave (Gonzalez, 46), Alston (De Rosario, 74), Marshall (Conde, 63), Pearce (Donovan, 74); Le Toux (Convey, 46), Morales (Moreno, 63), Joseph (Davis, 74), Barros-Schelotto (Ferreira, 46), Pappa (Larentowicz, 46); Angel (Ching, 46). Subs: Buddle. Goal:
Man. United -- van der Sar, Rafael, Brown, J. Evans, Fabio (Scholes, 72); O’Shea, Fletcher, Giggs (Gibson, 52); Nani (Hernandez, 62), Macheda (Welbeck, 62), Obertan (Cleverley, 23).
Referee: Jorge Gonzalez (USA)