MLS All-Star week 2016 has come to an end, but it certainly left its mark in San Jose. Events took place all week leading up to Thursday night’s All-Star game between the most recognizable names in North American soccer and the English Premier League’s Arsenal FC.
Starting off with a big welcome to our house, Flo Rida and Belanova performed a free concert at Plaza de Cesar Chavez Monday night.
The plaza was filled with fans, concertgoers and a couple of Quakes’ players. Andrew Tarbell made an appearance and Fatai Alashe and Tommy Thompson were spotted with Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The festivities continued Tuesday with an open practice for MLS All-Stars and a live recording of the Men in Blazers show. The Quakes’ very own Chris Wondolowski and All-Star head coach Dominic Kinnear, who was celebrating his birthday, interviewed along with Jordan Morris, Kyle Beckerman, Jermaine Jones and others.
LISTEN: Men in Blazers All-Star Special
The soccer matches kicked off Wednesday with the Chipotle MLS Homegrown game, but not before MLS WORKS, San Jose Earthquakes, adidas and Southern New Hampshire University donated a mini-pitch to Ocala Middle School.
The Quakes’ Tommy Thompson made his third consecutive appearance in the Chipotle MLS Homegrown game and served as the captain during the first half as the MLS side faced Mexico’s U-20 National Team.
The week of events finally reached its pinnacle Thursday afternoon when the MLS All-Stars and Arsenal took the stage for the highly anticipated matchup at Avaya Stadium. Although the squad from North London was without a few top players, including Chilean winger Alexis Sanchez and French defenseman Laurent Koscielny, the Gunners still brought a loaded squad to San Jose.
The MLS All-Stars looked like a group of world beaters themselves, even drawing comment from head coach Dominic Kinnear calling the squad the best the league has ever assembled. The likes of Didier Drogba, David Villa, reigning MLS MVP Sebastian Giovinco and 2007 FIFA World Player of the Year Kaka took the field clad in blue.
More than 160 countries tuned-in to watch the match, including Cuba for the first-time in MLS history. The millions of soccer fans around the world would not be disappointed.
Once the smoke cleared from a loud and raucous pregame fireworks display, an early penalty kick scored by Joel Campbell of Arsenal flipped the game on its head. The MLS’ best fought back to equalize just before halftime on the right foot of Drogba, but the back-and-forth match was eventually sealed on a late goal by Arsenal forward Chuba Akpom, giving the away side a 2-1 victory.
The Earthquakes had two players take the field during the match, with goalkeeper and rising star David Bingham playing the duration of the second half and veteran goal-scorer Chris Wondolowski playing the final 20 minutes or so. Wondolowski’s substitution into the match drew a roar from the crowd louder than anyone, and deservedly so for all he has done for the San Jose community.
As the sun set on the beautiful Avaya Stadium, which drew praise from local, national and international media alike, fans of both sides departed the parking lots with smiles on their faces.
Catch the Earthquakes when they return to Avaya Stadium on Friday, August 5 against Villa, Andrea Pirlo, Frank Lampard and the rest of NYCFC, presented by the City of San Jose.