The MLS All-Star game is upon us yet again with the MLS All-Stars facing off against Real Madrid at Soldier Field in Chicago. It might be tempting to say that the game is the granddaddy of all meaningless midseason friendlies that teams from MLS play in. After all, Ronaldo will sit this one out as he prepares for the upcoming La Liga season (and goes to court hearings) and the list of players snubbed for the All Star is almost as long as the list of players actually on the roster. Despite that, the game is about fun and the matchup with Real Madrid is shaping up to be a potentially thrilling match.
The MLS All-Stars are stacked
This might be the most talented team MLS has ever fielded and Josef Martinez isn’t even on the roster. While Real Madrid boasts a side full of Galacticos, the boys in the throwback denim kits will field a world class side. David Villa, Kaka, Bastian Schweinsteiger, DaMarcus Beasley, and Tim Howard have preformed and thrived in huge matches. Those players, along with Michael Bradley, Graham Zusi, and Giovani dos Santos all have World Cup experience. Up front, Jozy Altidore is in the form of his career and Nemanja Nikolic is leading the Golden Boot race. Diego Valeri and Sebastian Giovinco are two of the best players in the league and will look to make an impact in the match.
None of this mentions Greg Garza picking up where he left off before a hip injury sidelined him for nearly two years, Miguel Almiron making a case for being the league MVP, and Michael Parkhurst captaining one of the most exciting teams in MLS.
Real Madrid are brilliant, even in a friendly
If the Miami Classico showed anything, it is that Real Madrid will rise to the occasion even in a friendly. The match featured high energy with the teams trading chances throughout the match. Ultimately, Barca were too much for their Spanish rivals but the game lived up to the hype.
Facing a familiar foe
This is actually the second time MLS has fielded a team against Real Madrid. The first was in 2005 for a friendly played at the Bernabeu for a preseason tournament. Rather than an All Star team, the side, made up of a hand picked group of players, was called the MLS Select Team and they didn’t quite live up to expectations. The players only had two days in Spain to prepare for the game and get over their jet lag, and it showed.
After going down 2-0 in the first half but giving their opponents a difficult time breaking them down, the lack of preparation for the MLS team was evident when Real scored three more goals in the second half to make the game 5-0. The All Stars will look to have a better showing against their opponents on Wednesday night, but at least they will be on this side of the Atlantic for the match.
A chance to beat European giants
The match is a chance to show the best teams in the world that MLS is more than a “retirement league” and can field talent that can compete with the best in the world. While no team likes losing, it must particularly sting to lose to a team made up of the best players in MLS.
Just ask Pep Guardiola, he was unhappy with the referees not calling fouls in a friendly, but losing the match no doubt made the events on the field that much more difficult to tolerate. After falling to Arsenal last year, the MLS All Stars will have a chance to beat a team that won La Liga and the Champions League last season.
There are three Uniteds, but only one with players in the ASG
Atlanta United has the second most players on on the MLS All Star team with three. The team is in good company with Toronto FC and FC Dallas who each also have three players. Needless to say, that is a huge accomplishment for an expansion team and goes to show that Atlanta United is paving a new path for MLS franchises, both established ones and new ones.