KANSAS CITY – Thierry Henry says he never watched MLS All-Star matches previously in the old East-West format. He said it two or three times, in fact, even getting a bit of French attitude about it when the question was put to him again.
But … he certainly did watch when the MLS All-Stars faced European competition.
“It’s about exposure,” he said, perhaps a bit curt, but making a good point.
None of the All-Stars seemed too beat up by Wednesday’s 3-1 loss. If their pride was dented, they didn’t show it – although all 22 MLS All-Stars probably wished they could have put on a little better show for the typically boisterous, sold-out crowd at Sporting Park.
“It’s hard to bring a group of guys together with just one practice,” All-Star manager Peter Vermes said with a bit of a shrug.
But Vermes, also the manager of Sporting Kansas City, warned everyone not to be overly caught up in a result of a friendly, even a high-profile one like Wednesday’s. He emphasized the buzz around town, the wonderful facility, another night where a passionate and knowledgeable crowd made the ground a special place as metaphors for the game’s progress locally and nationally.
“Every time you step inside the white lines you want to win,” Vermes said. “But the result was not necessarily the key focus for the last three days here. It was really about the vision becoming a reality. It’s amazing, because the owners here made a commitment, to take a franchise that unfortunately was underperforming in so many ways, and they have been able to follow through on every single commitment or goal they have set out for this organization. And this week was just another example.”
Would the words have sounded differently had Roma not made such relatively easy work of the All-Stars, had the game generally been a little more attractive? Maybe.
But in all honesty, the players and managers treat these games differently now. Talking to them over the last three days, it really is different.
A few years ago, they wanted to beat Fulham, or wanted to beat West Ham or maybe hold their own against Chelsea or Celtic. There was some feeling of needing validation in these opportunities.
Now … not so much.
As Vermes said, it’s just an event for them now — certainly a big and important one. The days of seeking validation seem behind them.
MLS validation is in Sporting Park, where SKC officials spent liberally and truly got it all right. The validation is in the buzz. It’s in the potential owners here who are jostling for position in the ongoing expansion sweepstakes.
Validation is in the air being breathed around All-Star week. It would be nice to pair all that with a better result (and a more attractive game than last night’s). But if MLS wins, say, half these games … isn’t that about right from a competitive standpoint?