HATER’S GUIDE BACK JERKS. AND DEFINITELY NOT FOR ANY GOOD REASON WE WERE JUST KIND OF BORED AND MAKING FUN OF OTHER TEAMS ISN’T AS FUN WHEN THERE’S A KINDA DECENT CHANCE YOU’LL LOSE TO THEM. SO. YEAH. ALL-STAR GAME. ATLANTA CAN’T TECHNICALLY LOSE. WOO?
As always minimal effort has been put into this. There has been low effort research, next to zero editing and there’s a legitimate chance that you won’t find any of this entertaining in any way. If you take any of this seriously you deserve to be made fun of through a series of elaborate yet one-side social media campaigns against you that you won’t realize are happening until it’s far, far too late. As a commenter once eloquently stated even after reading a disclaimer about how dumb and irrevocably pointless this article would be…
“This is a waste of time. Nothing here folks.”
This is a kind of sort of year by year guide to the fascinating and delightful world of the MLS All-Star Games of the past. At least the parts the author, who was not old enough to remember many of the games in question, found interesting through average to good internet research that definitely hit a point of diminishing returns around 2009. There are no jokes in this article.
The first few MLS All-Star games tinkered with the format of the game as the event and the league found its bearings, while also tinkering with the idea of “What if no one tried on defense in soccer?”
For the first few editions, everyone kind of just did what they do in the NBA All-Star game where everyone just kind of chills on defense for showmanship purposes. Even the AR’s pretty much said “offside is really just a construct if you like really think about it.”
The format interchanged between East-West All-Star games, USA-World All-Star games and Player-Owner All-Star games and I only made one of those up but part of you is still unsure which is real or not. These first editions of the game saw scores of 3-2, 5-4, 6-1 and 6-4. The whole thing sounds like a blast and part of me longs for the days of the East-West game. Either way though, it’s interesting to go back and look at the scores and scattered videos and see some of the names that are still very recognizable today and still making an impact on the league and have even provided Atlanta with its best moments. Names like Kreis, Savarese, Armas and holysmokesthisguyisnamedDigital.
The internet tells me Digital is a Zimbabwean footballer who played for the Wiz for four years. Is the nickname “Digital” the single most “The movie ‘Hackers’ existed in the ‘90s” nickname ever? It’s quite possible. Naturally, to celebrate the low internet speeds of the ’90s (probably), Digital had a signature celebration called the “Digital Crawl” wherein after scoring, he would...crawl. Apparently.
So yeah, someone please please please let me buy your rainbow Digital Takawira jersey. I will double my student debt if need be. My DM’s are open. I’m not kidding. I will drive from Georgia to pick it up. Please. I mean, lookit.
Absurd money. Absurd.
In the midst of this, it’s important to note that it is very hard to find highlights made by all the players in many of these games, however someone on YouTube has taken the time to document every Carlos Valderrama touch in each All-Star game he played in from 1996 to 2000.
Here’s one of them. They’re fascinating. And their origin undoubtedly more so.
I now fully believe that Carlos Valderrama is the single greatest MLS player ever and no one will convince me otherwise. (Unless they have a Digital Wiz jersey they want to give me for free. I promise I won’t even giggle anymore at “Digital Wiz.”)
The second most important thing you need to know about the 2000 MLS All-Star Game is that the newly built MAPFRE Stadium got treated with the same reverence as Notre-Dame de Paris. The lead-in to the game amazingly featured a horn score that probably came in third-place in an Junior Olympics theme song contest being used as background for a voice-over that...well…
“IN THIS LAND OF PLENTY. WHERE FOR A COUPLE OF GENERATIONS IT SEEMS THAT THERE HAS ALWAYS BEEN SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE. AT LONG LAST, THERE IS THIS FOR THE AMERICAN SOCCER FAN: COLUMBUS CREW STADIUM.”
I checked. The broadcaster was not Jim Nantz as much as I wanted to be.
Seven goals in the first half. 9-4 final.
The first most important thing you need to know is that Mamadou Diallo won MVP with 2 goals and 1 assist.
Now is a good a time as ever to remind everyone that Mamadou Diallo had the nickname “Big Mama” and between him and Digital, what the hell has happened to nicknames in MLS? We can do better y’all. So much better.
Anyway, the reason this All-Star MVP stands out among the others? Big Mama went on national tv afterward for an interview. It is the single greatest post-game interview of all-time.
It starts at 4:08 in the highlight video. I have no idea what the question leading in was. I don’t care. All that matters is Big Mama said this in a wonderfully hurried and confident monotone:
“I’m very happy here because it is the first time I’m in the United States and I like the people and I’m very happy to play at this field because it’s fantastic that’s why I score so many goals and why I’m the Big Mama because I make the control all the fields, I make the control all the goals, that’s why I’m Big Mama. Thank you for everybody.”
In the 2001 All-Star game OHMYGOD LANDON DONOVAN BLONDE. BLONDE. VERY BLONDE.
Landy scored four goals in a 6-6 draw, won MVP, then presumably ignored his friends to go back to work his scheduled shift at the factory to provide for his family at the 8 Mile trailer park.
Oh, also, he wore a sports bra as a homage to Brandi Chastain. That’s a real thing. So. Yeah.
A format change occurred that pitted MLS vs. the USMNT. The format change meant that teams actually kind of tried on defense which...yay? Anyway, the game started on ABC and then -- I’m not kidding -- had to switch over to ESPN three-quarters of the way through the game because ABC News was scheduled to start at 6 p.m. The game started on time. They just kind of planned ahead to turn it off. We’ve come a long way.
In 2003, the MLS All-Stars took on a club team for the first time as they took on Chivas (no not that one). Naturally, DaMarcus Beasley played a big part, scoring the match-clinching, almost definitely offside but still, goal. In 2003. Sixteen years ago. DaMarcus Beasley’s first All-Star game goal is old enough to drive. 2003.
‘04 saw Real Madrid come to Gillette Stadium Real Madrid cancel last second to go play friendlies in Japan. The game quickly relocated to RFK and returned to the East-West format and the 2004 Sierra Mist (lol) MLS All-Star Game finished with a 3-2 scoreline in favor of the East.
MLS beat Fulham. Good job?
Halftime entertainment provided by Bowling for Soup.
Missing key players like Clint Dempsey and Ante Razov due to the fact they…*checking*...had a regular-season game scheduled the next day, MLS took down Chelsea 1-0 with a 70th-minute goal from Dwayne De Rosario. Chelsea actually played some very very talented soccer humans from a side that nearly won the Premier League and Champions League that year, even if they did take most of them off at the half. For real good job this time MLS.
Freddy Adu played in this game.
David Beckham watched this game.
I guess the game happened but more importantly, MLS released a promo for the game on a relatively new website called “Your Tube” or something that is random highlights set to the Wii start-up screen music sped up to 200 BPM.
This game includes some very 2007 branding.
Actually, wait, all of these games have logos.
Oh man, hold on, we’re taking a detour really quick.
Something I believe to be wholly integral to understanding MLS is the horrific branding that inevitably coincided with anything created in the 90’s, the darkest time in American (cultural) history. There’s obviously the cleat hitting the ball logo on a very foam green and teal background that lived far, far too long. But there were also things like “the Mutiny” and the aforementioned “Wiz” that were definitely choices that people made.
In Phil West’s “The United States of Soccer,” he uncovers the reasoning behind the names and logos from an old MLS press release. They are perfect.
“Kansas City Wiz - No real local connections, it seems, but instead a play on the name of the popular musical The Wizard of Oz - the rainbow strips coming from the musical’s most famous song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.
“Tampa Bay Mutiny - Despite Tampa Bay’s ocean location and the nautical overtones of the new club name, the logo contains instead what its creators call a cyber-mutant from the dark blue depths of space...soccer reaching the fourth dimension.”
Somehow, miraculously, the league survived these names and a set of “unique” kits designed -- and again, not kidding -- with a strong focus on skateboard culture in mind.
The All-Star logos aren’t quite *that bad*, but man, are there a few things here. Most notably Soccer Starfish, a soccerball/shuriken combo that first appeared in 2000.
And Soccer Starmie continued to appear for multiple years after before reaching its final evolution in 2003 as a flame-engulfed nightmare that appears as if soaked it in kerosene and lit it on fire.
The logos do in fact get much better over time, but not before Ziggy Soccerdust gained Canadian citizenship.
All of this to say that MLS branding was genuinely, hilariously bad and to celebrate it me and a friend made a website where you can type in a city and find out what your 90’s MLS team name is and it’s very fun, here’s the link:
And that folks is the kind of cross-promotion MLS has failed to understand for so long. See. Levels, y’all. Levels.
After playing teams like Fulham, West Ham and Celtic, MLS decided to ease up on the competition and invite Everton to compete against the MLS All-Stars. Miraculously, the ragtag group of Toffees kept the match at 1-1 until full time and forced the game to a shootout. Everton keeper Tim Howard made three saves and that, my friends, is the story of how Everton overcame the odds to win the club’s most recent competitive trophy.
*checks to see who pays me from time to time*
The 2010 MLS All-Star Game did not happen.
Oh, come on.
Ok look, so after getting thrashed in 2010 by Manchester United in front of 70,000 people to the tune of a 5-2 beatdown, MLS decided to invite Manchester United back in a revenge match for the ages. The MLS side prepared itched to redeem itself. The MLS side ran wind sprints every day and stared at a picture from the defeat every morning, muttering a mantra only known to them. The MLS side had heart. The MLS side had moxie. The MLS side got ded gum thrashed again, y’all.
Manchester United won 4-0. (MLS please don’t fire me.)
REVENGE. KIND OF.
After a tough blow to the MLS team that occurred when MLS All-Star manager (and manager of host team Philadelphia Union) Piotr Nowak got fired before the All-Star break, MLS rallied for a 3-2 win over Chelsea, a team from the same country as Manchester United. Count it. Chelsea has still never beaten MLS. Hell, Chelsea couldn’t even beat Bobby Boswell.
From there, things have been *pretty* normal by MLS standards. Except for the time Pep Guardiola almost got into a fight with Will Johnson and Caleb Porter in 2014.
Ok, so maybe not entirely normal. Definitely still fun though. And it’s a certainty that we’ll get a handful of excellently weird moments in this game over the coming games. Who knows, maybe something may happen tonight that we’ll talk about for years for the sheer absurdity of it. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time something strange happened in Florida.