MLS All-Star Game: Soaking up the experience

A guy like Sacha Kljestan, an 11-year pro and veteran of the UEFA Champions League with Anderlecht, isn't so jaded that a chance to play alongside international stars like Kaka, Andrea Pirlo and Didier Drogba isn't cool. But what if you're a rookie just out of college like Keegan Rosenberry or Brandon Vincent?

Sitting next to Kaka at the pre-AT&T All-Star Game press conference, Kljestan, who leads MLS with 12 assists for the New York Red Bulls, said he modeled himself after the MLS all-star captain.

"He's a guy that I watched so much growing up, plays a similar position," said Kljestan, now 30, a midfielder for the New York Red Bulls and leading Major League Soccer in assists with 12. "Idolizing him and now getting to know him off the field … and to be in training with some of the best players in the world and the best players in our league, it's a pretty cool experience. When you get guys like Kaka and David Villa and Andrea Pirlo on the field together, you're going to see some magic."

MLS Rookies in All-Star Game:
2005 Michael Parkhurst
2013 DeAndre Yedlin
2016 Keegan Rosenberry
2016 Brandon Vincent
Note: MLS vs. foreign clubs.

This is the first time Kljestan has been at an All-Star Game -- he was selected in 2008 but couldn't go because he had been picked to represent the USA at the Olympics -- as it is for Rosenberry, who points out he was getting ready for his senior season at Georgetown just a year ago, and Vincent, who was playing up the road from Avaya Stadium at Stanford.

“I’m at a loss for words sometimes, honestly,” Vincent, a rookie with the Chicago Fire, told the media. “You dream of the big lights, being in the spotlight, and then all of a sudden you walk into it and it’s kind of shocking and amazing, all at the same time.”

Vincent has had a brief moment in the spotlight -- he was on the bus back to his hotel at the adidas MLS Combine when he got a message from Jurgen Klinsmann, calling him up to the national team in January and earned a cap -- but for Rosenberry this is all new. Still, he was an obvious pick -- the lone player to play every minute for the Philadelphia Union, one of this MLS season's surprises.

“I think I’d be lying if I said [being named to the MLS all-star team] crossed my mind as I started the year,” Rosenberry said. “I was just blessed to have the opportunity to play coming in. Like I’ve said before, other rookies have come into the league with just as much talent or as much work ethic as I have, and they’ve got either a 10-year starter or a captain in their position, and they don’t get a chance."

While some of the big-time stars grudgingly participate in the All-Star Game activities, Rosenberry has soaked up the experience and is happy to do photo shoots, Snapchat takeovers and hang out at the sponsor fanzone in downtown San Jose. But it's the soccer part that he relishes.

“Just interacting with these guys and seeing how they carry themselves," he said. "Not only on the field, but just at dinner, in the hallways, with media and stuff.  I can learn a lot. They’ve been around the world and in the highest leagues in the world."
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