[MY VIEW] Major League Soccer has a winner with its all-star format. What other sport can tout an all-star event played with the intensity of the 2010 game in Houston?
It didn't hurt that Manchester United lost to the Kansas City Wizards on Sunday. Its first goal by Federico Macheda after 20 seconds was a gift, courtesy of a horrendous pass by Kevin Alston, but United came right at the All-Stars and played with energy you'll never see in other all-star games.
If MLS is going to get spanked, it might as well give up some golazos. The brilliant goals by Darron Gibson and Tom Cleverley were featured prominently on the "SportsCenter" Plays of the Day.
Alex Ferguson would scoff at the idea he was fielding a second-tier team in Houston. Given the new EPL roster requirements that take effect Sept. 1, United is in good shape, thank you, with "homegrown" players like Gibson and Cleverley and a teenager like the Italian Macheda.
Don't believe for a second that Landon Donovan isn't thinking of moving abroad. Asked if he'll be leaving, Donovan told our SA alum Allen Hopkins, "I guess we'll see in the next month and a little bit." Donovan knows his future will be decided by Aug. 31 -- the deadline for the summer transfer window. It would be more convenient for Donovan to leave in January -- after leading the Galaxy to an MLS title with what could be the best MLS championship team since the great D.C. United teams of the late 1980s -- but the big money that Donovan's transfer might command in the summer wouldn't be available in the winter.
The elephant in the room on the broadcast was the Galaxy's 4-1 loss to the Puerto Rico Islanders. Did they ever mention the score? The timing of the Concacaf game, win or lose, couldn't have been worse. Donovan was the MLS lead to both the game broadcast ("Landon Donovan brings his post-World Cup journey to Houston") and "SportsCenter" segment (Donovan warming up). False advertising? There was no way he was going to play more than a quarter of an hour after playing the entire game on Tuesday night and arriving in Houston from Los Angeles at 4:30 in the morning. (He entered in the 74th minute.)
The ESPN commentators tried to tie the All-Star Game to the future of the U.S. national team, but it sure was a painful stretch to talk about All-Stars "pushing" to make the team in 2014 or Omar Gonzalez "being the future of the American soccer." If anything, the composition of the All-Stars showed the work Bob Bradley or his successor has cut out for him.
Only three Americans, all defenders, started against Man United. Two of them, Chad Marshall and Heath Pearce, didn't make the cut on the 2010 World Cup, and the third was Alston. Just 10 of the 22 All-Stars were Americans, and only Alston and Gonzalez will be under 30 in 2014.
Where is the future of the national team?
For great reading, check out si.com's Grant Wahl's interview with MLS Commissioner Don Garber. Fascinating stuff.
The notion that most of the best Americans play abroad certainly irritates Garber: "I don't quite get the intrigue with 'Americans Abroad.' I don't understand why people are so infatuated with the fact there are American players playing overseas." The idea of losing Donovan must worry Garber: "Never has he been more important now that he has become a real breakthrough personality."
The interview took place on Tuesday, before the Galaxy debacle against Puerto Rico. Garber said it was "incredibly important" that an MLS club win the Concacaf title and win in Mexico. He went on to note -- correctly -- the difficulty MLS teams have competing in the knockout stage, during their preseason.
Problem is, the three MLS teams competing in the preliminary round may not make it to the group stage, let alone the knockout stage. The Galaxy is all but out, and there's no assurance the 1-0 advantages Seattle and Toronto FC take to Central America will be enough.