Photo by ISIphotos.com
HARRISON, N.J. — Putting on an entertaining show is what most hope to accomplish during an All-Star Game, but in the minds of those on the MLS side tasked with going up against Manchester United, getting a result is just as important, especially with the burn from last year's 5-2 thrashing in Houston still lingering.
"We want to change the result from what happened (last year)," Houston Dynamo midfielder Brad Davis said. "We talk about how these games are all fun and exciting and getting to be in this atmosphere, but now the league and us players, we want to make a good showing, we want to prove to them that we're growing in talent and growing as soccer players. We soak in every moment of this and have fun, but come tomorrow night, I'm going to take it pretty seriously and try and win the game."
The Red Devils have had tremendous success in their U.S. friendlies thus far this summer, beating the New England Revolution, Seattle Sounders and Chicago Fire by a combined score of 14-2.
"They've been really incredible this whole U.S. tour," Real Salt Lake midfielder Kyle Beckerman said. "From last year to this year they didn't miss a beat. I think we're taking it with a little bit of a chip on our shoulder to try and right the ship and see if we can be the ones to get a result against them."
Here are a few more notes from the build up to the MLS All-Star Game:
MLS All-Star coach Hans Backe spoke of his approach to substitutions, and he appeared to lean more toward multiple substitutions on a couple of occassions as opposed to changing the flow of players repeatedly over the course of the game. Backe said that he has nine substitutes with which to work.
"I'll try to give everyone minutes, definitely, but I will try to not kill the game," Backe said. "Friendlies, sometimes you do six subs in the second half and the game is killed. So we will do perhaps four at halftime and four after 60 minutes, and that's only two times that we'll sub players, and that's less even than a normal game."
Despite Manchester United being in preseason mode, the club has had opportunities to play games together over the last couple of weeks. The same can't be said for the MLS All-Stars, who will have had the luxury of two training sessions together prior to taking the field.
"To work with the tactical defending, attacking, you just have two sessions," Backe said. "It's definitely a challenge."
Added Davis: "It does take a couple days to get to know one another, play possession and knock the ball around a little bit. We have a lot of guys that are pretty experienced playing tomorrow night, so I'm confident that we can do well."
WORDS OF WISDOM
While Davis and Geoff Cameron have been around the All-Star circuit before, two of their Houston Dynamo teammates earned their first nods. Midfielder-turned-left-back Corey Ashe and goalkeeper Tally Hall are enjoying their first All-Star experiences, and Davis, a four-time All-Star had some words of wisdom to pass down to the first-timers.
"I just told them, 'You've been working your tails off, and this is the reward, so go in, soak it all up, don't let all the exterior things bother you or get you off track. Do what you want to do, be kind of selfish, put yourself forward and enjoy every minute of it, because you never know when it's going to happen again and how many times this is going to happen for you. It's not every day you get to play Manchester United.'"
For Ashe, the All-Star appearance is a full-circle event. It was against the Red Bulls earlier this season that he was converted into a left back, to help deal with Dane Richards' pace on the wing, and he returns to Red Bull Arena as an All-Star at the position. Hall, also, has had two of his better performances this season against New York.
AN ABUNDANCE OF ADMIRATION
Ask an MLS All-Star which Manchester United player he's looking forward to going up against the most, and you wind up with a collection of names.
"If I could list the whole roster I would," New York Red Bulls forward Juan Agudelo said. "It's amazing, just every single player on Man. U … I'm just honored to step on the field with them."
While the Red Devils have been touring the states for a few weeks and have gone up against the MLS All-Stars before, that doesn't take away from the amount of admiration aspect of Wednesday night's match.
"Obviously when you're playing on a field with Giggs, Rooney, Vidic, Ferdinand, that team is amazing," Beckerman said. "There's just so many names that they have. Being one of the best teams in the world, that's the type of players that you get. It's going to be a great experience and I'm sure one that everybody's really looking forward to test and challenge themselves."
Added New York Red Bulls forward Thierry Henry: "You are talking about one of the best teams in the world. So you can only look at them, especially playing in this league, and admire what they are doing and what they did in the past."