Skip to content

MLS All-Star Preview: Game vs. Bayern the culmination of league’s marquee event

Aug 6, 2014, 4:55 AM EDT

MLS_All_Star_Game_Logo_2014

PORTLAND, Ore. — Wednesday night is part of a progression for Major League Soccer, though one of the virtues of this journey is not knowing where you are. The league may have reached the pinnacle of its current format, with German champions Bayern Munich presenting a standard few other teams could eclipse. More likely, however, we’re seeing the maturation of an idea, one which, when first tried over a decade ago, represented the last, long reach for relevance. On Wednesday (9:30 p.m. Eastern), MLS will present a distinct, marquee event. The All-Star Game has become the biggest showcase in Major League Soccer.

Increasingly, however, the game itself is being dwarfed by the buildup, with an onslaught of events that began monopolizing Portland’s Pioneer Square and Waterfront Park creating an experience that would make the NBA proud. From the interactivity of the events in the downtown plaza to the popularity of The Flaming Lips’ set on the shore of the Willamette, the All-Star Game has hit its stride, with MLS having figured out how to invade a city, dominate a small part, and depart having left a lasting impression in one of its markets.

Strangely, because of that dynamic, the opponent almost becomes secondary. Whereas teams like Manchester United, Chelsea, or this year’s adversary, Bayern Munich, should add to the uniqueness of the event, now they’re part of the scenery – a differentiating factor for only that team’s hardcore fans. The streets of Portland aren’t overrun with Bayern fans. Instead it’s Timbers’ gear, All-Star game apparel, or the various branding MLS has pushed out during what’s become a high leverage event for sponsors.

Since the league went away from a neutral site MLS Cup final three years ago, this has become the league’s standout event, one that’s able to leverage its place between European seasons to generate worldwide appeal. It’s the party they have a year to plan, one that sees foreign media who’d otherwise never come to the States get a chance to experience the league’s culture in the beautiful American summer. Pull it off, and MLS gets the type of marketing value it can’t generate through any other source – a message that can attest to the league’s prolonged growth.

Unfortunately, little of that will matter on the field, where a league that’s been able to bring back likely All-Star starters Micheal Bradley and Clint Dempsey will be outclassed by the German champions, whose squad features six players who lifted the World Cup last month (Jérome Bôateng, Mario Götze, Philipp Lahm, Thomas Müller, Manuel Neuer). With world-class attackers like Robert Lewandowski, Arjen Robben, and Franck Ribéry augmenting that core, Bayern’s team may be better than the national team it helps support, leaving an MLS squad assembled on the fly hard-pressed to keep things close.

On the FieldTurf of Providence Park, München will be able to best the Nationalmannschaft’s tempo. A style of play that averaged 755 passes per game (and 71% possession) in last year’s Bundesliga will be going against MLS’s attack-heavy group with no established system, one that’s missing two of its best center backs (Omar Gonzalez and Chad Marshall). Unaccustomed to facing Bayern’s this style or talent, MLS’s best should struggle to keep up. Imagine the United States versus Germany with more talented Germans and fewer U.S. national team stars.

Bradley, Dempsey, Matt Besler, and DeAndre Yedlin will be there, as will Landon Donovan, who didn’t get a chance to face his former team in Brazil. Thierry Henry, potentially in his final All-Star Game, will also be in the squad, as will his Red Bulls teammate, Tim Cahill. Add in stars like Graham Zusi, Diego Valeri, and Obafemi Martins, and MLS has one of the more talented teams it’s ever put on the field, albeit one that’s unlikely to notch the league’s third win in 11 games against foreign opposition.

Then again, Wednesday isn’t about the result. These All-Star Games never are. They’re about the spectacle. They’re about the event, from buildup to final whistle. They’re about MLS’s part in a broader, global game. They’re about putting on a show.

If anything, the actual game is just the culmination of a much broader performance. By the time MLS and Bayern kick-off on Wednesday, most of the show will already be done.

MLS’s All-Star week has already been a success. Now, it’s time to see if Caleb Porter can engineer a result.

Latest Posts
  1. David Beckham’s Miami franchise could make big announcement on Thursday

    Sep 17, 2014, 9:20 PM EDT

    Former England soccer captain David Beckham attends the world premier of the film "The Class of 92" in London Reuters

    Marcelo Claure has hinted that news regarding a potential MLS franchise in Miami could soon be on it’s way.

  2. Jose Mourinho on Chelsea’s draw with Schalke: “That’s football”

    Sep 17, 2014, 8:42 PM EDT

    Mourinho AP

    “Remy could have scored, Terry could have scored, Hazard could have scored, but that’s football,” Mourinho said.

  3. Report: Man stabbed, another injured, following Roma’s 5-1 win over CSKA Moscow

    Sep 17, 2014, 7:54 PM EDT

    Alberto Pizzoli AFP Alberto Pizzoli AFP

    Gazzetta dello Sport claims that one CSKA fan who had been stabbed in the stomach.

  4. PHOTO: Ajax fans tell PSG what they think of Paris (and Ms. Hilton)

    Sep 17, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT

    ajax

    Gotta love Ajax fans, they’re always loud, positive and pretty darn clever.

  5. Julian Draxler’s stunning performance puts Chelsea, Premier League on high alert

    Sep 17, 2014, 6:45 PM EDT

    Chelsea FC v FC Schalke 04 - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    Living off the counter-attack, Schalke looked for Draxler every time out the gates.

  6. Yaya Toure’s lackluster display stands out as Manchester City struggle

    Sep 17, 2014, 6:03 PM EDT

    Germany Soccer Champions League AP

    Toure’s inept displays bring up question marks over his commitment to Man City.

  7. UEFA Champions League roundup: Roma, Porto win big; Chelsea, PSG slip up

    Sep 17, 2014, 5:12 PM EDT

    Italy Soccer Champions League AP

    What happened across Europe in the Champions League? Here’s a recap of all eight games.

  8. Chelsea 1-1 Schalke 04: Huntelaar secures point for the underdogs

    Sep 17, 2014, 4:59 PM EDT

    Chelsea FC v FC Schalke 04 - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    A solid outing by Chelsea but Jose Mourinho’s side will rue their lack of finishing in the final third.

  9. AS Roma 5-1 CSKA Moscow: Juan Iturbe and Gervinho tear up the Russians

    Sep 17, 2014, 4:46 PM EDT

    AS Roma v PFC CSKA Moskva - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    An impressive display from Roma who will fancy their chances of an upset against Manchester City and Bayern Munich in Group E.

  10. Bayern Munich 1-0 Manchester City: Last-gasp win for Bayern in Bavaria

    Sep 17, 2014, 4:41 PM EDT

    Toure is beaten to the ball once again by Xabi Alonso. AP

    Boateng’s late volley hands Bayern win against stubborn City.

  11. Mario Mandzukic breaks nose, set for surgery

    Sep 17, 2014, 4:07 PM EDT

    mario_mandzukic Getty Images

    Nothing like breaking your nose in the third minute and playing the full 90. Beast.

  12. LIVE – Champions League half time update: Roma storm ahead, Bayern pressing

    Sep 17, 2014, 3:33 PM EDT

    Italy Soccer Champions League AP

    Find out what’s going on around Europe as the group stage openers continue.

  13. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer likely out at Cardiff City

    Sep 17, 2014, 2:59 PM EDT

    Newcastle United v Cardiff City - Premier League Getty Images

    The former Manchester United legend has had difficulty finding results for the troubled Welsh side.

  14. FOLLOW LIVE – Bayern Munich, Manchester City clash in Champions League

    Sep 17, 2014, 2:25 PM EDT

    Bayern and Man City collide for the second-straight season in the UCL. Reuters

    For live updates from the Allianz Arena, look no further.

  15. Paul Lambert gets extension at Aston Villa

    Sep 17, 2014, 2:09 PM EDT

    Aston Villa v Parma - Pre-Season Friendly Getty Images

    After a hot start to their Premier League campaign, Aston Villa has extended Paul Lambert’s contract until June of 2018.

  16. Happy Anniversary Messi

    Sep 17, 2014, 1:20 PM EDT

    FC Barcelona v Club Leon - Joan Gamper Trophy Getty Images

    On this day 14 years ago, Barcelona signed Lionel Messi. The rest is history.

  17. UEFA Champions League Preview: Manchester City vs. Bayern Munich

    Sep 17, 2014, 12:35 PM EDT

    Manchester City v Liverpool - Premier League Getty Images

    European giants clash as Manchester City travels to Germany to take on the mighty Bayern squad.

  18. WATCH: 2014 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final highlights

    Sep 17, 2014, 11:50 AM EDT

    2014 U.S. Open Cup - Final Getty Images

    Check out full match highlights from Seattle’s 3-1 extra-time win over Philadelphia in the U.S. Open Cup Final.

  19. Men In Blazers podcast: A happy PL return, while Spencer Lanning talks ‘football’

    Sep 17, 2014, 11:15 AM EDT

    meninblazers

    In this new edition of the Men In Blazers podcast, Rog and Davo explore Johnny Football’s favorite football team.

  20. UEFA Champions League Preview: Chelsea vs. Schalke

    Sep 17, 2014, 10:50 AM EDT

    Chelsea v Swansea City - Premier League Getty Images

    Chelsea will look to open up their Champions League campaign with three points at Stamford Bridge.

Featured video

Week 4: Top five Premier League goals