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Kaval's Kickoff: All-Star Game musings

It was really an amazing scene in New York last week as the MLS All Stars took on the juggernaut that is known as Manchester United at Red Bull Arena. This was one of the biggest events of the year for Major League Soccer. The League did a great job promoting the match and all 26,000 seats were sold out months in advance.

I was excited to watch the match and spectacle up close; from the pre-game parachute jumpers to the throngs of Red Devil fans at Red Bull Arena, MLS put on quite a show. I was especially happy to see two Quakes players on the team with both Bobby Convey and Chris Wondolowski making real contributions to the MLS team. Wondo's turn-and-shoot chance in the second half brought some excitement to the MLS attack and almost resulted in an Omar Bravo goal.

What strikes me about the match-up is that whenever you have a real team playing against a group of all stars, you have a major advantage for the real team. This clearly showed in the lack of chemistry on the MLS side. I think Hans Backe did an admirable job getting the guys to attack out of the gate by playing three forwards. The MLS team had some real opportunities in the first 15 minutes, but could not capitalize. That was not a problem for United who took advantage of their opportunities near the goal. That is one of the big differences between the Premiership teams and MLS. The Premiership players seem to finish when given even a sliver of a chance. The first United goal in the 20th minute was case-in-point. A fantastic sequence of passes from Wayne Rooney to Dimitar Berbatov and then to Brazilian wonderkid Anderson led to an easy tap in around Philadelphia Union keeper Faryd Mondragon. I thought the most exciting goal was Berbatov's impressive volley off the cross bar that he re-captured and put away to make it 3-0 at the start of the second half. That was all over SportsCenter.

It was interesting to see all the United fans at the match. It felt more like a United home game than one for the MLS All Stars. That is to be expected, but nonetheless made it harder on the MLS side.

I guess the question must be raised on whether it makes sense for the MLS to play teams like Manchester United in the All Star Game. This is the second year in a row that we have lost to the Red Devils. On one hand, it is very exciting to see a team like ManU playing against our best. On the other, it reinforces the perception that the Premiership is considerably better than MLS. There is also the issue of giving more MLS players a chance to play if you had a more traditional Western versus Eastern conference match-up.

What do fans think? Should we continue to bring in big time international opponents for the All Star Game or should be revert to an intra league contest? If you favor an international opponent, who should it be?

This coming week is a huge home match against the expansion Portland Timbers. I am hopeful we can get our second consecutive sellout as our fans rally to support the team. I am certain that many folks will turn out for the Wells Fargo sponsored Chris Wondolowski Bobbleheads. It is certainly time to put the winless streak behind us and notch three points at home. The last time we played Portland was in a US Open play-in game in May. The Quakes got the win in the 120th minute on an Ike Opara header. That helped turn the season around at the time and get the team back on track. Hopefully, this match against Portland will once again give us some mojo to take into this critical time of the season as we fight for a playoff spot.


Dave Kaval
San Jose Earthquakes


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