Perhaps the best sign of progress for Major League Soccer will be when it doesn’t require an All-Star Game versus a big European club because the world takes for granted that the top XI from MLS would handle its business against preseason XI from the likes of a Premier League, Bundesliga or La Liga club.
But we’re clearly not there, and MLS will send its All-Star Team to take on DeAndre Yedlin and Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday in Colorado, less than a year after the ex-Sounders back started for the All Stars in a 2-1 win over Bayern Munich.
The BBC chose Steven Gerrard to play center back in its MLS XI, showing just what England seems to think of America’s top flight (And regardless of how you feel about MLS, Gerrard as a starting CB in a 3-5-2?).
Omar Gonzalez, Bill Hamid and Clint Dempsey were the only Yanks to make the XI of the BBC, who chose an awkward formation for their bunch in order to feature Robbie Keane, Didier Drogba and David Villa. In fact, their XI includes seven players who’ve been in MLS for less than a season and four for under a month.
The BBC wasn’t trying to say their team should play on Wednesday, as Gerrard, Keane and Frank Lampard all withdrew from the team due to injury. And that’s a good thing, because the MLS All-Stars should give a real run to Spurs as constructed.
Again, while Spurs have the benefit of knowing each other, the MLS players will be in form and in midseason fitness, and don’t have to play the entire match. Conceptually speaking, it’ll be quite a task for the preseason Spurs defense to handle Sebastian Giovinco, Kei Kamara and David Villa running atop Kaka and Benny Feilhaber, amongst others.
Plus, there was a time when the MLS players on an All-Star team wouldn’t be able to have a spot on a Premier League roster. That’s certainly not the case. If visa restrictions weren’t an issue, I’ll estimate that at least 70 percent of this “roster” would find a slot on a PL squad.
This isn’t to say we’re at the point where an MLS All-Star Game is a no-doubter for the league side, far from it. But as meaningless a game as this is, it would probably be a good sign for the league if it could count on something close to a win each year (or at least keep the three-goal losses to Manchester United a thing of the past).
Admit it, you scoff a little when you read of Arsenal hammering Singapore’s XI and Stoke City pretty much doing the same. Nobody’s actually comparing MLS to Singapore’s league, but they are certainly more apt to discuss the similarities between the two then, say, MLS and the Premier League.
Here’s hoping MLS makes the idea of this contest laughable in the next decade, if not sooner. Like tomorrow. Because I’d rather watch the East try to give the West a bit of comeuppance. I realize I’m in the minority, and I’ll be among the numbers who will certainly tune in for this, but when this game doesn’t rate, it’ll matter.