2013 MLS All-Star game

Is it time for the All-Star Game to return to East vs. West?

12 Comments

With Kansas City locked into All-Star Game fever, the razzmatazz and splendor of a top foreign team visiting US soil has got everyone in a frenzy.

But it hasn’t always been this way.

Up until 2002, there was just the good old Eastern conference vs. Western conference format. So why has that now become a thing of the past?

There are multiple reasons, but can East vs. West become a thing of the future?

I’m not so sure about that. But I hope so. After Chivas Guadalajara became the first foreign opposition in 2003, MLS went back to the East vs. West format for the 2004 game.

But that didn’t last for long and since then Fulham, Chelsea (twice), Celtic, West Ham, Everton, Manchester United (twice) and now AS Roma have been the benchmark for MLS’ best to pit their wits against.

However, after trolling back through the history books (well, it’s a website now but you get the idea) the early days of the MLS All-Star Game seem like a distant and mystical land.

From the 9-5 wins, extremely awesome mullets and hideous jerseys to over 70,000 at Giants Stadium, back in the mid 90s the ASG had a different vibe to it. Now it seems classier, Macklemore was out wooing the crowd yesterday in KC and a whole plethora of events have been lined up this week.

(MORE: Morning MLS All-Star notes, including some expansion tidbits)

It is not just about the soccer. So why does a foreign team have to turn up and join the party? Because, like I said, an ASG really isn’t about the soccer.

These top European teams treat the game as a friendly as they prepare for the upcoming league season, while many people around MLS treat the game as a measuring stick to see how the players compare to some of Europe’s finest.

But there is no need to invite another team to compare MLS’ elite against. No need. Regardless of the inferiority complex that exists in the minds of US soccer fans vs. other regions of the world, MLS is doing great. So let the All-Star Game be a celebration that includes a plethora of the best players in the league, not just a limited number because there can only be 11 starters.

Yes, I know teams like Manchester United, Chelsea and tomorrow’s opponents Roma help sale tickets and create more interest in the game. But from where I’m standing there are always going to be MLS fans from across North America flocking to this game. Even if a big-name European team isn’t present.

(MORE: The conversations we’ll have… at MLS All-Star activities in Kansas City, that is)

My proposal is that the East vs. West format returns for the 2015 season. Next year’s ASG has already been slated for Portland’s JELD-WEN Field and Timbers owner Merritt Paulson has already said “the biggest global name” will be rolling into town.

So after that, can we return to East vs. West and crazy 9-5 scorelines? I get that MLS doesn’t want to be like MLB, the NBA or NHL. But a one-off game between the best of Major League Soccer’s East and West conferences would certainly be an occasion to savor.

That said, so will tomorrow’s game at Sporting Park. Enjoy celebrating the success of MLS.

Maybe one day it will be East vs. West again. Maybe.

Landon Donovan replaces injured Keane on MLS All-Star Roster

6 Comments

This afternoon Major League Soccer announced that Landon Donovan will keep his incredible streak alive.

Donovan will make his 13th consecutive appearance, a league record, when the MLS All-Star Game rolls into Kansas City next week.

Commissioner Don Garber made the selection, after Donovan’s Galaxy teammate Robbie Keane had to withdraw through injury.

ASG head coach Peter Vermes is delighted to have an in-form Donovan at his disposal. “Landon is a great addition to the MLS All-Star team,” Vermes said in a statement. “Obviously his form is fantastic right now and his impact and representation of Major League Soccer throughout his career is immeasurable.”

Vermes is right. Donovan is on an all mighty rip, scoring 7 goals and recording 7 assists in his last six games for the USMNT, following his return from a self-imposed sabbatical. Donovan has been the catalyst for the USA’s swashbuckling run to the Gold Cup final and his spell away from the game seems to have reignited his hunger and passion.

(MORE: Where to look on MLS All-Star Game roster for possible replacements)

The 31-year-old forward will have only a few days rest before the ASG, after the USMNT’s Gold Cup final against Panama on Sunday in Chicago. But a short trip down to Kansas City shouldn’t be an issue and expect to see a second half cameo from Landon at Sporting Park.

But does he deserve to represent the All-Star’s against AS Roma?

Some would argue that plenty of other players were ahead of Donovan in the ASG selections. Javier Morales? Jack McInerney? But given the run of form he is on and the loyalty and commitment he’s shown to the league, it wouldn’t really feel right if Donovan wasn’t there.

Yet despite his blistering run of form for the USA, Donovan has only scored three goals in 12 MLS starts for LA this season. But his performances have continued to improve and after tearing it up in the Gold Cup, Donovan reminded us all exactly why he’s All-Star material.

Apparently Commissioner Garber took note.

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis to perform before MLS All-Star Game in Kansas City

1 Comment

When the MLS All-Star Game rolls into Kansas City on July 31, a few more superstars will join the cast.

But they don’t play soccer.

Earlier today it was announced that award winning hip-hop artist Macklemore and his producer Ryan Lewis will put on a free show for MLS fans on July 29, as the week-long festivities in KC have a headline act.

The Power and Light district will host the event as soccer fans will be treated to the music from one of Seattle’s most famous exports. But will Macklemore be sporting a Seattle Sounders jersey in KC? We will have to wait and see.

With AS Roma and Michael Bradley also rolling into town for the game, it will be a massive weekend at Sporting Park and in Kansas City. Admission to the concert is free, but a ticket is required. If you will be lucky enough to be in KC in the lead up to the All-Star Game, here is the ticket info.

Macklemore is a huge name and a major coup for Major League Soccer, as the razzmatazz of the MLS All-Star Game has certainly been cranked up a few notches this year.

And with Portland announced as the host city for the 2014 ASG, how are they going to better the occassion in KC? I’m sure Timbers owner Merritt Paulson has already got plenty of plans up his sleeve.

In years gone by the importance and profile of the ASG has certainly increased, with the last two events in New York and Philadelphia proving a huge success.

Remember the scenes (reminisce in the video below) at PPL Park last season for the 2012 ASG? Can Macklemore upstage fireworks along the banks of the Delaware River?

Fans mostly get it right in MLS All-Star fan balloting

10 Comments

Fan voting in All-Star proceedings frequently devolves into a painful reminder of the world’s imperfections.

But I gotta hand it to MLS fans: they pretty much nailed it with the collective All-Star picks, which were announced Sunday by the league.

Remember, this is not necessarily the team; SKC manager Peter Vermes is in charge. He can pick who he wants, although most managers have tried to remain as faithful as possible to the fans’ selections.

Here is the list (with more commentary on how the fans got it right below …)

Goalkeeper: Raul Fernández (FC Dallas)

Defenders: Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Aurélien Collin (Sporting Kansas City), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy)

Midfielders: Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Will Johnson (Portland Timbers), Mike Magee (Chicago Fire), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

Forwards: Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes).

  • The 11th player, forward, will be selected July 11 in a schlocky marketing stunt along with FIFA Soccer 13.
  • I was especially pleased to see that Portland’s Johnson had made the list. He really is having a sensational season, the driving midfield force for so much that’s going right this year around Jeld-Wen. As there are certainly more illuminated names, it would have been easy for fans to miss this one.
  • The nitpicks would be Brad Davis and Chris Wondolowski, neither of whom are having their best years. Neither has been awful in 2013, necessarily; they just aren’t up to previous year’s versions of themselves.
  • Robbie Keane deserves the forward spot over Wondolowski, or perhaps Marco de Vaio or even young Jack McInerney.
  • If you see Henry as an aging star not necessarily deserving of a spot, you haven’t seen the way that guy can still turn a match in a second with moment of his class.
  • Holding midfielders got no love. Then again, holding midfielders never get any love.

The MLS All-Stars meet AS Roma on July 31 at Sporting Park in suburban Kansas City.