In defense of the current MLS All-Star format; Don’t change a thing!

6 Comments

KANSAS CITY – I know that Joe Prince-Wright has advocated a return to the old East-West format. But I suspect my PST colleague has an ulterior motive.

You see, if MLS went all “back to the future” on that one, Joe would probably have a reasonable chance of landing on one of the rosters! I mean, I hear he’s not too bad.

Long story short here, I love the current format. And when Don Garber asks me for my opinion – which is almost sure to happen; I’m a little surprised he hasn’t gotten around to it already – I’ll insist that it never changes.

The first reason, as noted above, is about protecting quality. I remember the former games and how so many performers were All-Stars only in the academic sense that they had secured an invitation to participate in an All-Star event.  But they weren’t All-Stars in the more typical use of the language, in the way we see best-and-brightest types.

(MORE: MLS All-Star preview vs. AS Roma)

In truth, there were too many participants who were too far from ‘something special’ quality. True, there are more teams MLS today, all with larger rosters than before. All of that serves to increase the selection pool, which can only elevate that overall standard of All-Star.

On the other hand, I just don’t see 40 MLS men today who look and feel like the difference maker a true All-Star should be. There will be something of a dropoff between the first and second MLS teams Wednesday at Sporting Park that I would put somewhere near “noticeable.”

Otherwise, I love the way this format distinguishes itself from others, importing a big brand from overseas or Mexico to challenge a team that best represents top-shelf MLS stuff.

The East-West formats are a bit stale, but what choice do these other sports have? Major League Soccer’s chosen format exploits an opportunity the NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB simply doesn’t have. It doesn’t need changing or improving.

Moreover, by including the likes of AS Roma, Chelsea, Manchester United, etc., organizers stand a chance of adding fans to the MLS brand, supporters of the game who otherwise might not tune into league action.

Believe it: anybody who watches enough of Wednesday night’s match may or may not emerge impressed with any MLS All-Stars, and fair enough. But if they aren’t a little moved by the amazing ground just outside Kansas City, then they aren’t fans worth having. Truly, Sporting Park (pictured) is a gem – and the money spent, about $200 million, should say something about the ongoing, passionate commitment.

That has to mean something.

French league terminates goal-line technology contract

Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
Leave a comment

PARIS (AP) The French football league has terminated the contract with its goal-line technology provider after a series of glitches.

The LFP had already suspended the use of GoalControl, the German system that was deployed at the 2014 World Cup.

According to L’Equipe newspaper, the league will launch a tender in February to find a new provider of the technology that determines whether the ball crossed the line.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

In recent months, the French league had repeatedly expressed its discontent with GoalControl.

Goal-line technology entered soccer after a goal was wrongly disallowed at the 2010 World Cup.

FIFA is already focused on fast-tracking the next phase of technology – video assistant referees – for the World Cup in June.

Goal-line technology and VAR were provided by Hawk-Eye at the Confederations Cup last year.

Bristol City’s Johnson: “They certainly have heard of us now”

Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Premier League world may see Bristol City next season, but it seems its manager has the personality to arrive on the top flight whether or not his Robins earn promotion this season.

Johnson, 36, earned plenty of plaudits after leading his Championship club to the League Cup semifinals, famously defeated Manchester United in the quarters.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

Before that, Bristol beat Premier League sides Crystal Palace, Stoke City, and Watford. The Robins beat third tier Plymouth Argyle 5-0 in the first round.

Johnson was beaming after the Robins took Man City to the edge, closing to within a goal of extra time before Kevin De Bruyne‘s stoppage time number ended the tie 5-3 on aggregate.

“Absolutely I’m proud. It’s not just tonight but over the course of the season, particularly the cup run. It was a fantastic occasion, I’m sorry we couldn’t get the win but we played against the best side that I have ever seen live. They have so many good individuals.

“We kept going and it’s taken two injury-time goals to beat us. They certainly have [heard of us] now…everybody knows what we’re about. It’s been great.”

Bristol City is in the Championship’s fifth place, bidding for its first top flight campaign since 1980. Johnson should be a hot prospect to earn a shot in the Premier League should the Robins not make the jump.

League Cup semifinal preview: Arsenal vs. Chelsea

Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images
Leave a comment
  • Chelsea has won 4-of-7 League Cup matches vs. Arsenal
  • Arsenal leads all-time series 74W-58D-62L
  • Clubs have drawn four times this season

Hardware hopes are on the line when Chelsea hits the Emirates Stadium for a League Cup semifinal second leg with Arsenal on Wednesday.

The sides drew 0-0 at Stamford Bridge, giving Chelsea the advantage of knowing a scoring draw would do the trick and set up a date with Manchester City at Wembley on Feb. 25, though Arsenal has home field advantage in pursuit of a win.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

Henrikh Mkhitaryan may debut for Arsenal, though the club released an interesting note on Tuesday: He’ll wear No. 7 in most competitions, but will have to use a different number in the Europa League because Alexis Sanchez wore it to start the tournament.

Chelsea’s Antonio Conte won’t have Alvaro Morata (back) and Cesc Fabregas for the match, though Andreas Christensen will be available for selection.

The clubs are no strangers to each other in big non-PL spots, squaring off in this season’s Community Shield (Arsenal won in penalty kicks) and last season’s FA Cup Final (Arsenal won).

Nothing has separated the sides on the field aside from those penalty kicks at Wembley Stadium, as Arsenal and Chelsea have drawn 1-1, 0-0, 2-2, and 0-0 since August.

What they’re saying

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger on Henrikh Mkhitaryan“He can play in different positions, but personally I see him first in a wide position, but I’m thinking about him a possibility to play through the middle. You are certain in our job of nothing, that’s absolutely sure. But you believe and I believe he has the qualities to do well, is a team player and our game is based on team attitude and movement and I think he can absorb the quantity of movement in our team.”

Chelsea’s Conte on the lineup: “Every game is different, you change the quality of your opponent and you must be intelligent enough to understand if you should continue with the same players or make some changes.”

Javier Mascherano leaving Barcelona after 8 seasons

Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images
Leave a comment

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says defender Javier Mascherano is leaving the club after eight seasons.

Barcelona says there will be a farewell ceremony on Wednesday with Mascherano, club president Josep Bartomeu and the rest of the squad.

[ MORE: Man City to buy $86m CB ]

The 33-year-old Argentina international will say goodbye to the fans before Thursday’s game against Espanyol at Camp Nou in the Copa del Rey. He is reportedly going to play in China.

Mascherano, who also played as a defensive midfielder, arrived in Barcelona in 2010 from Liverpool and helped the Catalan club win 18 titles. He has made 334 appearances with Barcelona, but recently hadn’t been playing much.

The club earlier this month signed Colombia international Yerry Mina to boost its defense.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga