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All-Star exhibition not-so-friendly for Bayern Munich, Major League Soccer

Aug 7, 2014, 3:39 AM EDT

will_johnson AP

PORTLAND, Ore. — Major League Soccer’s success was the story after the league’s All-Stars earned a 2-1 win over German champions Bayern Munich at Providence Park, but in a match that was supposed to be an exhibition, two yellow card-worthy fouls nearly stole the show. With Bayern Munich head coach Pep Guardiola twice yelling at the MLS bench during Wednesday’s second half, it was clear the league’s guests were not on the same page as its All-Stars.

In the 64th minute, Osvaldo Alonso’s challenge at the edge of the MLS stars’ penalty area earned a booking from Jair Marrufo, with Guardiola left pleading to the fourth official after trying to have words with Caleb Porter. In the 89th minute, a second sliding challenge gave German international Bastian Schweinsteiger an injured right ankle, with Timbers midfielder Will Johnson drawing the game’s second yellow card.

For a game that usually carries an exhibition’s intensity, the All-Star Game’s fouls were an unexpected show of force. After Johnson’s booking, Guardiola and his assistant again appealed for help, showing the fourth official the various points on the field where they felt had been too rough.

After the game, the Bayern coach, who Porter called “an idol,” declined to shake his counterpart’s hand, later claiming, “I didn’t see him.”

“I’m upset because Bastian’s injured,” Guardiola explained, often alluding to the “respect” his team tried to bring to the occasion:

“I’m not talking here about my colleague. I’m here to talk about the game, our performance.

“We came here to play the best way as possible. We came here to respect the people, the fans, respect our opponents … to respect this game, to respect Portland, to respect MLS. And we did it.

“And the other players, I don’t know. [I don’t know] about my colleague.”

It was as if MLS’s All-Stars had broken an unwritten rule about exhibitions, forgetting why they’re called “friendlies.” Though players take their chances with injuries in competitive games, there are no stakes in games that don’t count. Unspoken but typically observed, players are expected to pull up.

But foor MLS, this isn’t just an exhibition. This was a proving ground. The team wanted to win.

“The guys care. The guys are proud …,” All-Star Game MVP Landon Donovan explained. “We wanted to win the game. It says a lot about guys’ character. What happens this coming weekend is more important for guys in the long run, but this was an important night for us.”

It’s an attitude that defines the divide on Wednesday’s tackles. For Bayern, the game was part of its preseason, with seven players flying in five hours before the game to make obligatory cameos. From that point of view, it’s easy to see the dogged play of Alonso and Johnson as excessive. Had those plays happened in a Bundesliga match, there wouldn’t be any complaints.

It’s a point of view Porter understood, having been in Guardiola’s shoes before:

I understand the frustration completely, because they’re in preseason. I’ve been in games in preeason with my teams, and you do, you get a little bit wound up when that happens, because they’re getting ready to start the season.

These guys are world class players and, as coaches, your job’s on the line. You need the best guys in this game.

I understand completely why there was some emotion there, but we certainly didn’t mean to do anything negatively in the game.

Others weren’t as sympathetic. For the 23 players Porter had in his squad, this was a showcase event, one that’s only been won twice before. Against a team with Bayern’s talent and pedigree, MLS’s best had the attention of many who’d never otherwise watch them play. It’s one of the few chances they get to impress the world.

“We had to play our game. No matter who’s in front of me, I have to play my game,” Alonso said. “We come to play to hard, to play simple, like we did in the second half. We showed we can play with any team.”

And ultimately, that’s the point; at least, that’s the point for MLS. All-Star Week has become a success from a marketing perspective, but competitively, the league still needs to put its best foot forward. Though results haven’t been favorable in the past, one of the points of this format is to see MLS’s elite compete against some of the world’s best. If that competition amounts to a walk through, the exercise loses its value.

“Listen, we want to win the game,” Donovan explained. “You don’t want to hurt anybody, you don’t want to be foolish, but those guys play hard. That’s what they do.

“I saw both plays. Ossie Alonso’s play was probably a little worse than Will’s. Will’s was sort of innocuous …When you play a real game, those things happened, and I’m gald that we played with that kind of intensity.”

Now whomever agrees to play next year’s All-Stars knows: There are no unwritten rules. If you come to North America, you’re coming to play. Don’t expect the Will Johnsons of the world to pull up on their challenges. There’s nothing friendly about Ossie Alonso.

With that lesson learned, Guardiola wants another shot. Though his disappointment saw him shun Porter at the final whistle, the Bayern boss hopes to get a rematch in 2015.

“I expect [MLS is] going to invite us next year, Guardiola predicted, “and I’m going to prepare a little bit better. We will be sure what’s going on. We’ll prepare much better … and I hope our invitation is coming.”

  1. tariencole - Aug 7, 2014 at 6:23 AM

    I agree with Landon here. Johnson’s challenge didn’t seem like anything that could’ve been pulled out of. It was a 50-50 ball, and even in an exhibition, players are going to try to win them. Alonso’s challenge was reckless, late, and not consistent with the event. Even on the MLS side, it’s still an exhibition. No one is getting fired for losing an All-Star Game.

    Also, I’d dispute that MLS has done poorly in these. Last year was a loss, sure. But 8-3-1 is the mark, as I recall. That’s hardly poor for a team that doesn’t know each other.

  2. redrock81 - Aug 7, 2014 at 6:39 AM

    Alonso’s tackle was out of line when he clearly had a shot at the ball without having to take the other player out. Its was a crude tackle and he knows it.

    • talgrath - Aug 7, 2014 at 1:07 PM

      It was an ill thought out tackle, but most of the time Alonso wins those sort of tackles cleanly, a little better positioning and he would have gotten the ball and everyone would say “that’s a good tackle”.

      • redrock81 - Aug 8, 2014 at 2:59 AM

        the thing is it wasn’t even a mid-run tackle. had it been, I would have shrugged it off as a collision… impossible to stop or control with that momentum. The other player was stationary, Alonso had space to spare.

  3. renhoekk2 - Aug 7, 2014 at 8:24 AM

    I don’t think MLS is neither stupid enough or courageous enough to invite Pep and Bayern back next year. Judging by Pep’s remarks I think it’s safe to say he’s looking to humiliate them next year.

    • blugold94 - Aug 7, 2014 at 9:07 AM

      If they really want to show the world what they’re made of, then you do invite Bayern back. Otherwise it’s like coming from behind, pushing a guy in the back and then running away.

      You’d have an All-Star Game Bud Selig would envy and been trying to create (without success)… with regular season intensity.

    • christophershearin - Aug 7, 2014 at 1:19 PM

      i absolutely agree, if MLS invite Bayern back next season, look for a 8 – 0 win over the allstars. Pretty pathetic if you ask me, how MLS handled this game.

      • mlsconvert88888 - Aug 7, 2014 at 2:42 PM

        Whats pathetic is how upset people are that the MLS All Stars outplayed a European B team.

        It seems like so many people wanted to crow about how inferior MLS is to other leagues, and when the MLS players flipped the script, all they were left with is bitterness.

      • charliej11 - Aug 7, 2014 at 4:29 PM

        blugold94….Pep is that you still whining ?

  4. troy2 - Aug 7, 2014 at 10:18 AM

    I believe losing is a little embarrassing for Bayern. They came to the US to impress and show off their product, also opening their new office in NY. The Chivas/Bayern “friendly” earlier had some hard challenges also. Bayern won that game and there was no face lost so no complaining by Pep.

    If the score was reversed for the MLS/Bayern game I see a handshake afterwards.

  5. jamescoco1 - Aug 7, 2014 at 10:18 AM

    The Spic should stop whining…

    • jhnyr45 - Aug 8, 2014 at 9:35 AM

      You are a scumbag

  6. troy2 - Aug 7, 2014 at 10:36 AM

    I think losing is a little tough to take for Bayern. They came to the US to impress and show off their product, also opening their new office in NY. The Chivas/Bayern “friendly” earlier had some hard challenges also. Bayern won that game and there was no face lost so no complaining by Pep.

    If the score was reversed for the MLS/Bayern game I see a handshake afterwards.

    • braxtonrob - Aug 7, 2014 at 10:41 AM

      Exactly! Well said @troy2!

    • mikeymo74 - Aug 7, 2014 at 10:56 AM

      Yes, I think the expectations have become too high and Pep is already starting to crack from the pressure. Bayern was already expected to win every league and competition last year. Now with many of their players coming off amazing performances in the World Cup, the expectations are even higher.

  7. braxtonrob - Aug 7, 2014 at 10:40 AM

    If Bastian is really hurt all that bad, I’ll eat my shoe.

    That being said, I was surprised O. Alonso and Will Johnson even made the All-Star team, so I’m not shocked the amateur tackling came from them.

    Does Pep have a legit complaint? Yes.
    Is the source of that complaint mostly due to being on the loser’s end? Absolutely.

    And, why are the stars commended for showing up when they didn’t even play a full half?
    I’m very grateful they made the game; I realize it’s no short trip over here, but I’m not ready to throw them a parade when they didn’t even play that much.

    • redrock81 - Aug 8, 2014 at 3:10 AM

      The WC players shouldn’t have been there but they showed up because they already committed to it before the WC. At least they showed up. Bayern could have opted to omit them from the tour altogether. Schweinsteiger was told by the team’s doctors to sit-out for 6 weeks or even miss a few league games.

      Frankly, there’s no use in having them play a full 90 minutes when they are more needed when Bayern play BVB in the German Super Cup this Aug 13. From a coach’s perspective, would you risk injuring or further injuring your top players in a friendly when you have a more important match coming up? No.

      • braxtonrob - Aug 8, 2014 at 6:30 AM

        I didn’t say anything about a full 90 minutes. (And, truly, I’m not really complaining about them at all; it was an absolute thrill to see them, all. But, they didn’t even play near a full 45, so to listen to everyone commend them over and over, maybe not necessary.)

  8. emphraser - Aug 7, 2014 at 11:20 AM

    American arrogance already setting in, is it. Best just stick to throwball, or hand-egg, or whatever you call your winnable, padded version of rugby and leave the football to those who understand it.

    • heyclownshoes - Aug 7, 2014 at 12:38 PM

      Great! Can you let us know when that person shows up?


    • charliej11 - Aug 7, 2014 at 4:34 PM

      Agree 100%, please leave it for us. thanks in advance.

  9. medic0nduty - Aug 7, 2014 at 12:28 PM

    With that kind of attitude Pep, good luck getting invited back next year. MLS is going to have the All-Stars play someone with a little more class.

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