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Days of seeking validation now over, it’s just a “big event” for MLS All-Stars

Aug 1, 2013, 12:37 AM EDT

2013 MLS All-Star Game Getty Images

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.”

(MORE: MLS All-Stars fall to AS Roma, 3-1)

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?

  1. footballer4ever - Aug 1, 2013 at 1:12 AM

    It was bound to happen that validation is no longer necessary anymore and that only is a sign the league is maturing and developing out of “teenage” years. I predict that by the 20th season, there will be pleasant changes, other than expansion football clubs, that will overhaul the way our league is looked at.

  2. charliej11 - Aug 1, 2013 at 10:53 AM

    Some one tell ESPN this. You can’t watch a game without ESPN riding the 70s banter of how does soccer grow in the US.
    There are LOT of reasons why NBC is better at covering soccer than ESPN, but this has to be the number one reason. I just want to watch soccer, and have it covered well, not watch a hour and a half of questions on whether MLS is on the right track.

    • nussdorferac - Aug 1, 2013 at 1:27 PM

      ESPN is awful. Hopefully NBC and Fox1 can do better.

      • charliej11 - Aug 1, 2013 at 1:57 PM

        Fox ? You gotta be kidding me. Gus Johnson is the only reason it isn’t a complete joke…and please do NOT partner him with Winalda again….ouch he was bad.

  3. talgrath - Aug 1, 2013 at 2:39 PM

    Beating top-tier teams in pre-season with a thrown-together squad of 20 players from 19 (previously fewer) teams was never going to be a great way to be “validated”; there are far too many bizarre circumstances to really do that. The only way to really test the mettle of MLS in a realistic way is for them to play friendly games against top-tier teams when the top-tier is in season form and so is the MLS team. The All Star Game is fun, it’s light-hearted, only fools would judge the results as some indication of the league’s quality.

  4. bobinkc - Aug 1, 2013 at 5:59 PM

    My choice (which is obviously unattainable on the face of it) would be for the MLS Network to carry the game. At least that way, you get announcers that know the game and are willing to share their knowledge and that will not put the game down at every conceivable opportunity.

    Beyond that, we enjoyed the hype that infected KC for almost a week and enjoyed the game itself. I do wish the All Stars had been better able to acquit themselves, but what do you expect when you put a miscellaneous group of players who are already tired against a team that has played together for years and is busting its collective hump getting ready for their new season.

  5. hildezero - Aug 4, 2013 at 3:31 AM

    I love this ASG format. I hope MLS keeps it for a few more years.

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