Before I dive head long into what's probably going to be a lengthy preview/argument against the MLS All Star Game let's be clear about one thing: the only reason why I care about the tomorrow night's game and the only reason why I'll be watching it at all is because of Captain Jack Jewsbury. I would not have wasted a single typed word on this "match," nor have strained a single finger in pressing even one key on my keyboard had he not been included.
And this is not a slight against Jack Jewsbury. Hell, as our current MVP of the season I'd say he damn well deserves the honor. After eight years of toiling away under a Sporting Kansas City management that let him drift in an out of the first team, I'm very happy our city turned out to be such a haven for him. So this is no slight, if anything it's a huge compliment. I'm writing this for Jewsbury and I'll only be watching the game at all for Jewsbury. We owe him that much...
Anyway, as I mentioned above this will be a small preview as well as an argument for why I don't personally enjoy the All Star game series and why I think it's a waste of everybody's time...
Previewing the Match
Looking ahead to tomorrow's match doesn't bode well for those few out there who will actually be rooting for the MLS side (more on that later). Unlike last year where Manchester United only won by a slight 5-2 margin, this year in their lead up to the big game they've been on somewhat of a roll, handily clobbering each MLS squad as they come.
- New England Revolution vs. Manchester United 1 - 4
- Seattle Sounders vs. Manchester United 0 - 7
- Chicago Fire vs. Manchester United 1 - 3
Each has been an impressive display by a number of Man Utd. starters and reserves. So to say the team is brimming with confidence over MLS sides is quite an understatement.
"But wait!" you say. "The All Star squad is made up of the best of the best MLS has to offer. Surely that should be able to contend with Manchester United! Right?"
I'm not going to say that the best of the best MLS has to offer (Thierry Henry, David Beckham, Omar Cummings, Jamison Olave, Bobby Convey, etc) is better or worse than Manchester United, although I'm sure there are plenty of arguments for the latter, but a team they are not. The MLS All Star roster is not a team. Most of these guys don't practice with each other, share a locker room, or really know each other's tactics all that well. There lies the inherent problem with expecting a win. Bobby Convey has never played with Thierry Henry, Jack jewsbury has never played with David Beckham... these are facts. Manchester United, on the other hand, IS a team. They know each other, they know how to play with one another.
Let's turn focus a little closer to home back to Jewsbury. Jewsbury is a great midfielder. He's solid, he's been consistent, and he's a great set piece/corner kick taker. I haven't seen every team play this year, but I'd be surprised if he wasn't in the top 5 for set piece distribution accuracy. He hasn't been perfect for the Timbers, but I'd say were the team to not have him in the squad right now the season would have gone far worse. For this reason, his inclusion into the All Star squad is no surprise and I applaud him for that. But, despite all this, we can't expect him to perform in the same way as he does with the Timbers, it's not going to happen.
The same can be said for every single one of those players out there. I'm not discounting a win (as soccer is a harsh mistress indeed) I just don't expect one.
Which leads me to my argument against the series altogether...
MLS All Star Game is a waste of time
Okay I get it. MLS is a small league in a huge ocean of American sports. They need as much money as they can get just to stay afloat (or so the arguments go). I understand that and I understand that the MLS All Star Game brings in some nice extra cash for MLS to spend on... whatever the hell it is MLS spends money on. That said, in its current incarnation, it makes no sense.
Remember above how I pointed out that there will be very few fans actually rooting for the MLS All Stars tomorrow night? Not that there won't be any, but the majority of hardcore fans have some pretty deep seated rivalries with other MLS teams. Take, for example, Kasey Keller. As a Timbers Army member would you root for him tomorrow? Chant his name? Sing his praises? I sure wouldn't (even though his participation in the game is unlikely). He a Flounder and seeing as how I'm an ardent supporter of the Timbers I can't bring myself to root for him.
There in lies the problem... this isn't a national team, there's no banner with which fans have loyalty. MLS is a league, they're a team and, outside of debating against people who disparage MLS as being a viable soccer league, I hold no loyalty to them. Should the Timbers up and leave MLS tomorrow for a different league I would still be a Timbers fan, not an MLS fan.
And then there's the whole issue regarding mid-season friendlies and how, because of tomorrow's All Star Game there's a very real chance we could see our first Jewsbury-less Timbers game on Saturday. Depending on which players play the most minutes, I'd be willing to wager that many squads will be missing key players this weekend. An unfortunate side affect for some cold hard cash.
The MLS All Star Game would be fantastic if it were a pre or post season phenomena, but then there would be no way a team like Manchester United would come over leaving the game to more than likely revert back to its West-East system which, in my opinion, seems far more whimsical and fun than dragging out a lop-sided reserve ridden EPL team who care for nothing more than taking home a big fat check.
So all of us MLS fans and teams have to put our our league on hold, or bring down the overall quality of the games we love to watch so a team like Manchester United can pump out some American dollars in the run up to their next season. If MLS were a human being, I'm pretty sure it would have some seriously low self-esteem.
So yeah there's some rambling words on why I think the MLS All Star game would be better off not existing at all. I mean, if the future really is to become one of the dominant leagues in the world, we're going to have to ditch it eventually, right? Personally, I'd like to see that reality sooner rather than later.
Tomorrow's All Star Game is on ESPN2 at 5:30 PM. I swear, Jewsbury better get some minutes...