[MLS ALL-STAR GAME] The MLS all-stars have played and beaten the likes of Chelsea (twice) and Chivas de Guadalajara but they have never before played a team from continental Europe. They'll face Roma of Italy in the 2013 AT&T All-Star Game at a soldout Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan., Wednesday in a match in which both teams have something to prove.
For Thierry Henry, who is playing in his third All-Star Game, the event is another chance to enlighten a wider audience on the little secret that is MLS.
“What was great about last year, when we won against Chelsea, was not that we won against Chelsea," the Frenchman said Monday. "But at the end of the game, the guys we played against came around and they were actually surprised at how we moved the ball around and really played football, or soccer. So that’s one of the most important things that when we play Roma on Wednesday, obviously we want to win. But, if they turn around and say we saw some great players and excellent play, that speaks volumes for the league.”
This year's All-Star Game comes on the heels of the USA's victory in the 2013 Gold Cup final in which five MLS all-stars played. They include Golden Ball winner Landon Donovan, who was a late replacement for LA Galaxy teammate Robbie Keane, who is injured.
MLS Commissioner Don Garber called Donovan, who is playing in its record 13th straight All-Star Game, a "special person" and thanked him for coming to the All-Star Game instead of returning to rest home at home where he had a family commitment.
Other Gold Cup final starters at the All-Star Game are goalie Nick Rimando, defender Matt Besler and Kyle Beckerman.
Besler, a Kansas City area product, is one of three MLS all-stars from Sporting KC along with French defender Aurelien Collin and U.S. national team midfielder Graham Zusi.
Roma is coming off a season in which it finished sixth in Serie A and lost to archrival Lazio in the Coppa Italia final. It features American Michael Bradleyand Italian veterans Daniele De Rossi and Francesco Totti.
"Roma is a world-class team," says Zusi, "and honestly, they're coming off a year [in which] for them, they underachieved a bit. We know that they're going to come out and jumpstart their season as best they can. We're expecting a serious game out of them. We're going to take it seriously as well."
Under its new coach, Frenchman Rudi Garcia, Roma will be playing the first game of its North America tour as it prepares for its opener against Livorno in three and a half weeks. It will also face Toronto FC Aug. 7 and Chelsea Aug 10 in Washington, D.C.
2013 MLS All-Stars:
GOALKEEPER:Raul Fernandez (FC Dallas), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake).
DEFENDERS: Corey Ashe (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Tony Beltran (Real Salt Lake), Aurelien Collin (Sporting Kansas City), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders).
MIDFIELDERS:Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Patrice Bernier (Montreal Impact), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Will Johnson (Portland Timbers), Mike Magee (Chicago Fire), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City).
FORWARDS:Marco Di Vaio (Montreal Impact), Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Jack McInerney (Philadelphia Union), Camilo Sanvezzo (Vancouver Whitecaps), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes).
MLS All-Star Results:
2012 MLS All-Stars 3 Chelsea 2
2011 Manchester United 4, MLS All-Stars 0
2010 Manchester United 5, MLS All-Stars 2
2009 Everton 1, MLS All-Stars 1 (4-3 PKs)
2008 MLS All-Stars 3 West Ham United 2
2007 MLS All-Stars 2 Celtic 0
2006 MLS All-Stars 1 Chelsea 0
2005 MLS All-Stars 4 Fulham 1
2003 MLS All-Stars 3 Chivas de Guadalajara 1