Every day, the sun comes out and the sky’s always blue. That’s what I miss about Denver. Dikembe Mutombo was right. We’ll miss Denver. Because, in front of a sold-out crowd often trickling over with emotion, the MLS All-Stars of 2015 just topped the Tottenham Hotspur, 2-1.
A warm and polite post-match greeting from Captain Kaká: “Hello good evening, not bad for my first All-Star game. Goal, assist, and MVP. I didn’t expect that for tonight, as I said yesterday I thought we could win, as we won, but I did not expect to score, assist, and MVP so I am so happy for that and I think everybody’s happy, because tomorrow in the soccer world everybody will talk about the MLS All Star team [that] beat a very good team.”
Just 90-minutes before, under the gorgeous sunny clear skies of the Mile-High city a bright-eyed, somewhat rag-tag group (the roster was finalized this afternoon) of MLS All-Stars took on the Tottenham Hotspurs in the 20th edition of the MLS All-Star ceremonial match, showcasing some of the best MLS has to offer, including two of the newest internationals to cross the great pond. And showcase they did! Kaká and David Villa scored three minutes apart in the first half. Kaká scored in the 20th minute with a flawless penalty kick. Moments later, a quick series of passes from Gyasi Zardes, to Clint Dempsey, to the MLS All-Stars captain, to David Villa created a beautifully-timed second goal for the All-Stars.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) July 30, 2015
Meanwhile, Nick Rimando, in spite of a knee injury, gallantly chose to play on the starting lineup, saved the All-Stars from three previous Harry Kane goal attempts, till he finally let an unrelenting bullet from Kane through for Tottenham in the 35th minute. Happy belated birthday to the Spurs superstar. However, as Kaká put it: “…in the end he saved the game.”
Heading into the second half, the complete change in the lineup for the All-Stars took its toll on the buildup in pace from the first. A close call from Nacer Chadli and then Josh Onomah nearly leveled the playing field for the Spurs in the 54th minute and 73rd minutes, were it not for Ousted’s hustle. In spite of flashes of brilliance from Kei Kamara and Fabian Castillo, there were no more goals to be had. The All-Stars held onto their lead till the final whistle blew, giving MLS their second in a row win in the MLS-ASG.
“Mentality is everything so I felt that it was important that we keep a high line and really make it difficult for them to play out and I think the guys applied themselves really well in the first half and were really able to make that thing about where they wanted to play in the areas and for the most part they did a good job.” — Coach Pablo Mastroeni.
In front of a sold-out crowd of 18,671, Kaká and his teammates took the relatively easy victory and proved their star status. Kaká easily won MVP honors and was beaming with happiness afterwards.
“His desire to be here was tremendous. For a guy that has done everything he can do in a football career and still have a desire to come here to Colorado in altitude midweek, and be excited and hungry about it speaks more about the human than the player.” – Pablo Mastroeni, regarding Kaká’s leadership tonight.
The win is good for MLS. Does it serve to help legitimize or solidify their status as a powerhouse on an international competitive stage? Does it merely serve a purpose for bringing enjoyment and star power under one glamorous stage for a single night of beautiful soccer? Does it matter that this group of men only had the chance to practice once together as a team? Will the format change again (yes, surely it will) and will it boost crossover fan support?
Coach Mastroeni has had his own viewpoints, which shifted from before tonight’s match to afterwards:
“If you ask me which one showcases our talent better [East-West or Current Format], I think it might be beating a team like Tottenham. We’ve always been perceived as a team that is up and coming. I believe as years go by we will soon be that league that everyone thinks we can be. Having experienced it first-hand, it feels great to get validation from winning against a team like Tottenham as far as where we are going in the future of this league.”
But, no matter what direction the All-Star setup takes in the near future, the game is young and transforming. Twenty years went by in a flash and if tonight is any indication of the future, it’s looking bright for MLS and its coming of age.
MLS All-Stars (1st Half) : Nick Rimando – DaMarcus Beasley, Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez, Tony Beltran — Gyasi Zardes, Dax McCarty, Kaka, Graham Zusi — David Villa, Clint Dempsey
MLS All-Stars (2nd Half): David Ousted – Waylon Francis, Laurent Ciman, Chad Marshall, Drew Moor – Benny Feilhaber, Sam Cronin (77’ Jozy Altidore), Juninho, Ethan Finlay – Kei Kamara, Fabian Castillo
Tottenham Hotspur (1st Half): Michel Vorm – Ben Davies, Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld, Kyle Walker – Nabil Bentaleb, Eric Dier – Nacer Chadli, Christian Eriksen, Mousa Dembele – Harry Kane
Tottenham Hotspur (2nd Half): Michel Vorm – Ben Davies, Kevin Wimmer, Toby Alderweireld, Kieran Trippier – Dele Alli, Eric Dier – Nacer Chadli, Mousa Dembele, Thomas Carroll – Harry Kane
Tottenham Hotspur (2nd half, 63’): Luke McGee – Danny Rose, Kevin Wimmer, Federico Fazio, Kieran Trippier – Dele Alli, Harry Winks – Josh Onomah, Thomas Carroll, DeAndre Yedlin – Harry Kane (77’ Shaq Coulthirst)