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Tiebreaker needed for MLS All-Star Game
by Ridge Mahoney, July 30th, 2009 7:03AM
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[MLS] An All-Star Game is a spectacle, and as such the wisdom of using penalty kicks to decide an exhibition does make some sense, since entertainment is the first priority. Fans at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, ran through the gamut of emotions, facial expressions and gestures, and most of them left disappointed at the result. As bizarre as it might have seemed for Everton players to step up to the penalty spot after playing 90 minutes in a friendly, at least a few - and not the least, U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard - got it right. After a 1-1 tie in regulation, Howard saved three shots as Everton took the shootout, 4-3, to end a five-match winning streak posted in All-Star action against foreign teams.

Howard slapped away a feeble chip by Seattle's Freddie Ljungberg on the All-Stars' sixth kick after he'd thwarted Davy Arnaud and Brad Davis, who had scored for the All-Stars in regulation by getting on the end of a Conor Casey centering pass that Dynamo teammate Stuart Holden nicked in his direction.

Holden's assist belied his direct responsibility in the 12th minute for Everton's goal. His square ball across the edge of the penalty area rolled right to Louis Saha, and the former Fulham and Manchester United striker pounded his shot past All-Stars goalie Kasey Keller.

Ljungberg's futile penalty kick took some sheen off an excellent performance. Prior to the match, he'd expressed some familiarity with the concept through his fondness of ice hockey, and wearing the captain's armband he drove the All-Stars' attack forward with powerful runs and aggressive dribbles.

The Swedish midfielder set up Landon Donovan to win the game in the 75th minute when he ran onto a ball Casey played to the right flank, and cut it back for Donovan to touch once and smash past Howard but against the far post.

Loaded with a surplus of attacking talent, All-Stars coach Dominic Kinnear sent out his starters in a 3-4-3. Fredy Montero, Cuauhtémoc Blanco and Casey played up top; Ljungberg teamed up with Kyle Beckerman in the middle of midfield, with Davis and Holden playing the wide slots as they've often done for Kinnear with the Dynamo. Defender Chad Marshall took the center slot with Wilman Conde on the left and Geoff Cameron on the right.

Keller started in goal, came off at halftime for Zach Thornton, then returned to the match in the 61st minute when Thornton injured his thigh. Liberal substitution rules implemented for friendlies had been agreed upon, but re-entry is a different matter, and permission was sought from and granted by Everton coach David Moyes, who himself sent out the strongest starting XI available to him with only 16 players in uniform.

Until it tired midway through the second half, Everton maintained a decent pace and threatened often enough to win the game in regulation. Marouane Felliani stripped Blanco in the opening minutes and fed Saha with a ball he shot narrowly wide, and Tim Cahill drove a feed from Leon Osman right to Keller.

After Davis equalized in the 26th minute, the MLS All-Stars stepped up their pressure. Blanco and Montero found time and space to work some one-twos and also link up with Holden, whose cross provided a Casey shot that forced a fine save by Howard, who rescued his team again near the end of the first half when his fingertip deflection denied Montero.

Will Johnson, Bakary Soumare, Donovan and Thornton entered the game for the second half. Donovan provided a chance for Ljungberg, who struck the ball well but sent it wide. Thornton's injury prompted Kinnear to bring on Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Javier Morales and Arnaud as well as Keller.

After Donovan hit the post, Casey fired from close range and the ball pinged between the ankles of Jose Baxter before being cleared.

Howard rescued his team again in stoppage time when he palmed Davy Arnaud's point-blank header skyward, and claimed the game MVP award with three more vital stops in his third All-Star Game appearance, which served as a dry run of sorts for a U.S. match against El Salvador in the same stadium Sept. 5.

The result ended the MLS All-Stars five-game winning streak against foreign teams: Guadalajara, Glasgow Celtic, Fulham, Chelsea and West Ham.

VIDEO of penalty-kick shootout

MLS ALL-STAR GAME
July 29 in Sandy, Utah
MLS All-Stars 1, Everton 1
(Everton wins 4-3 on penalties)
Goals: Davis (Holden, Casey) 26; Saha 12
Penalties -- All-Stars: Donovan (goal), Davis (saved), Arnaud (saved), Johnson (goal), Casey (goal), Ljunberg (saved); Everton: Vaughn (wide), Jo (saved), Baines (goal), Neville (goal), Lescott (goal), Rodwell (goal).

MLS All-Stars -- Keller (Thornton 46, Keller 61), Cameron, Marshall (Soumare 46), Conde (Hurtado 64), Holden (Morales 64), Beckerman (Johnson 46), Ljungberg, Davis, Montero (Donovan 46), Casey, Blanco (Arnaud 63).

Everton -- Howard, Hibbert, Lescott, Yobo, Baines, Cahill (Wallace 76), Fellaini (Jo 55), Neville, Rodwell, Osman (Vaughan 76), Saha (Baxter 76).

Attendance: 20,120

 



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