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My View: Look abroad for All-Star oomph
August 28th, 2002 3:29PM

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The decisions made under duress at this year's MLS All-Star Game were hardly as appalling as some media outlets portrayed them. Considering the awful luck of the day, the solutions were reasonable. The simple fact is that the field was unplayable immediately after the storm. The 10 minutes attempted at that point were laughable. Simply put, Paulina Rubio's performance allowed the field to drain. And as much as sports ''purists'' might hate such realities, a league thirsting for sponsors cannot afford to dismiss a giant like Pepsi.

That settled, whither the All-Star Game from here? Clearly this was the best format to date. But as Bruce Arena already hinted, repeating it next year would be inappropriate.

The concept that MLS was already pursuing before the U.S. success in Korea sounds most enticing: bringing in a world-renowned club, such as Real Madrid, Manchester United or AC Milan, as the opponent. Even if they're just starting preseason, it would make for an intriguing game.

The best thing about such a matchup is that the fans will actually have an allegiance to one side. Part of what takes the wind out of the sails of any all-star game is that nobody really cares who wins. Fans half-heartedly cheer goals for both sides and the game generally loses drama as it progresses. That's why having an outside opponent is better. Another idea worth investigating, then, is a team of Mexican League all-stars playing against MLS's best.

Either of those scenarios will have its objectors if the game is anchored in the middle of the season. Coaches don't want people to care who wins, because their main concern is avoiding injuries heading into the stretch run. But those same coaches are the first to say, ''If you go in soft, you're going to get hurt'' and ''injuries are completely random.''

So MLS should make sure that the groundwork laid this year allows a high-class opponent to be announced well ahead of next year's game.

by Soccer America Senior Editor Will Kuhns



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