Blog: MLS All Stars vs Manchester United
Last night’s fixture between the MLS All Stars and Manchester United at Red Bull Arena lived up to expectations, with a sell-out crowd and plenty of fanfare as the MLS’s best came to the New York area to take on one of the Premiership’s finest squads. We were excited to see the masses come to the stadium and create an atmosphere that the architects of the soccer-only Harrison arena had originally envisioned— one of a packed house and the thrill associated with seeing a great game, even on a weeknight. And as it would turn out, the final score also lived up to many fan’s beliefs that the English squad would handily beat the best the MLS had to offer. We took our seats still hoping the US (and Canadian) squad had a chance to keep the wolves at bay and show that the American league could hang with the big boys.
The first half proved to be a pretty balanced affair, with the All-Stars arguably having the majority of the possession and better chances before the 20th minute. Omar Cummings had a near post chance in the first five minutes that was stopped by Anders Lindegaard. Shortly thereafter, a Henry-forced turnover lead to an excellent outside shot from Beckham (who still has it, by the way, proving all night in the center of the pitch that he is still a world class player), which caused the United keeper to parry over the bar. This seeming momentum was put to a halt when a clinic on one-touch passing was put on in the other direction by United’s Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov, leaving the final pass to Anderson on the top of the box, who coolly slotted the ball past the MLS keeper to make the score 1-0 in the 20th minute. Despite efforts to even the score throughout the remainder of the half, the All-Stars’ hopes of keeping the tally at one going into halftime were dashed as Park Ji-Sung netted a late goal after a lousy clearance by the MLS defenders. The unusually high number of Korean fans in the stadium were elated.
The second half proved to be much of the same as United put two more away. Berbatov’s goal in the 52nd minute off of a well weighted ball from Rooney was a class finish, lofting it over the keeper’s head and following through on his original shot which went off the crossbar. And after the multitude of substitutions in the 60th minute, Danny Welbeck’s final goal off of a deflection from an MLS defender added insult to injury. After four goals (or a sufficient amount of beer), the United fans finally found their voice, with the visiting team’s supporters’ section taking to song. For the majority of the first half, the Red’s section sounded more like they were in church than watching their favorite squad trounce the MLS team, but perhaps it took until the 70th minute or so for the non-English fans to learn the lyrics of the support songs.
The All-Star squad missed a few good chances to save some face with opportunities in the second half, much to our dismay. The late addition of Juan Agudelo provided a little spark, but perhaps too late in the game (which is pretty typical of the All-Star coach Hans Backe – leaving him on the bench too long). At least all of the goals were scored at our end.
All-in-all, it was a great night for the game and the sell-out crowd of over 26,000 got what exactly they paid for— a great demonstration of first class soccer and a reminder of what the MLS should aspire to be. Recalling the enthusiasm from the inaugural season of the NY/NJ Metrostars, we still hope that the US soccer league can create, attract, and retain the skill level of the English squad they faced last night. As was evidenced by the final 4-0 score, we are clearly not there yet, but in the meantime, going out to Harrison on the PATH to support the NYRB squad is still one of our favorite ways to spend a summer night.