MLS All-Star Game: Wondo ready for challenge

All-Star Games are supposed to be wide-open, entertaining affairs, and if so, are tough tests for all of those players burdened with defensive responsibilities.

A few of Arsenal’s top attackers stayed home to rest from their international duties at the European Championship and Copa Centenario, but the likes of Jack Wilshere, Joel Campbell, Theo Walcott, Santi Cazorla and Granit Xhaka even in preseason mode can be daunting challenges.

The MLS All-Star roster includes Euro-experienced veterans such as centerbacks Jelle Van Damme and Laurent Ciman as well as Costa Rican international Kendall Waston, yet rookie outside backs Keegan Rosenberry and Brandon Vincent could be in for some rough lessons in their soccer education.

Fire head coach Veljko Paunovic is happy that Vincent. which has played 13 games (12 starts) at left back for the Fire and debuted for the USA in February, was picked.

“It's going to help him having that experience to learn from more experienced guys on the All-Star team,” Paunovic, who is coaching his first season on MLS, said in his weekly conference call.

Paunovic’s enthusiastic comments contrasted sharply with those of New York City FC head coach Patrick Vieira, the other first-year MLS coach brought in from Europe. He lamented losing midfielder Andreas Pirlo and striker David Villa for several days to play in a “friendly.”

That was before Villa was suspended and can’t play in NYCFC’s important home game against Colorado, but Vieira isn’t the first European coach puzzled at the need for a midseason exhibition, even if it is against the club that made him famous, or notorious, as the case may be.

The power of Pirlo drew several dozen fans to cluster around him after the Tuesday training session. Dads with their sons, star-struck teenagers, and a young woman wearing a Pirlo Juventus jersey (“No. 21”) met the Italian icon and posed for a photo. Pirlo smiled every time.

With a potent array of attacking players -- Sebastian Giovinco, Sacha Kljestan, Ignacio Piatti, Didier Drogba, Pirlo, Villa and Kaka -- in midseason form and Quakes fans wanting action from them as well as hometown star Chris Wondolowski, the Arsenal back line may also be under duress. Said Kaka, who is looking forward to playing with Pirlo, his AC Milan teammate for six years, “The mentality is to win.”

There are several such intriguing matchups/duels possibly on the docket. Gunners keeper Petr Cech won four Premier League titles and a Champions League crown at Chelsea with Drogba. Of his former teammate Cech said simply, “I’ll be ready for him.”

Centerback Per Mertesacker did not travel with the squad to the U.S. after suffering a knee injury in a training session and is probably out for several months. At the All-Star press conference on Tuesday, Arsenal head coach Arsene Wenger confirmed surgery had been performed on Mertesacker’s knee.

The Gunners play Chivas at StubHub Center on Sunday, then fly back to England to face a daunting opener against Liverpool in less than three weeks (Aug. 14). Despite the All-Star setting and national TV audience on ESPN, they will avoid any situations that smell of injury.

So, too, will the All-Stars, but for at least some of them, this exhibition, friendly -- whatever -- means a lot.

As the hometown hero, Wondolowski -- selected for his fourth All-Star Game -- is just as motivated as always to win at Avaya, where the Quakes have lost only once this season.

“It’s always a great opportunity to play with these guys and against such a great team as Arsenal,” he said. “We know it’s preseason for them but we know they don’t want to lose and neither do we, so it hopefully it will be a good game and the fans will enjoy it.”

One interesting tidbit did emerge when asked about the teams he enjoyed watching while growing up in Danville, a small city about a 40-mile drive from Avaya Stadium.

“I liked watching Tottenham,” he said with the grin of someone well-versed in the North London derby.

Like or hate the All-Star format, it does operate on many levels.
3 comments about "MLS All-Star Game: Wondo ready for challenge".
  1. Richard Brown, July 28, 2016 at 7:32 a.m.

    So I guess the allstar team coach is not going to tell his guys to high pressure on defense. I know they will both agree not to high pressure in an attempt to prevent injuries.

    But if doing well in this game is important to him and his players. That is exactly what he should do. A friendly game is not really a friendly game. It just does not count in any standings.

  2. beautiful game, July 28, 2016 at 9:32 a.m.

    R.B., what does "high pressure" have to do with injuries?

  3. Richard Brown, July 28, 2016 at 2:14 p.m.

    When you go hard for tackles or when you slide tackle sometimes you don't always get the ball and fouls occur. Players hit the ground.

    When you low pressure and their is not a lot of contact every team can look like a great attacking team. So you see a lot of controlled passing and Every team even the US all star team can look pretty good. You have more time to control the ball then you would have normally.

Next story loading loading..

Discover Our Publications