The 2013 MLS All-Star Game will take place at Sporting Park in Kansas City, KS on July 31st. As with every All-Star Game, the manager of the club where the game is being played at will manage the All-Star team. This means that Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes will be in charge as the MLS All-Stars face off against Italian soccer club AS Roma.
Earlier this week Vermes announced the gameday roster for the All-Star team, which featured three Sporting KC players: Matt Besler, Graham Zusi, and Aurelien Collin. This will be the second year in a row that both Collin and Zusi have been featured on the gameday roster, while it will be Besler’s first.
While getting recognized as an All-Star for your league is always a great honor, I have my reservations with this game.
Like any American professional sports league, the MLS feels like it needs an All-Star Game, but in the end the game is just a glorified friendly (the soccer term used for an exhibition game). This friendly is played in the middle of a busy schedule. All MLS clubs have a game to play the weekend before, and the weekend after the Wednesday night All-Star Game. This means some of the best players in the league will be playing three games in the span of seven days. While this not uncommon, when every game matters for a MLS club, you do not want your best players involved in a friendly that is meaningless at the end of the day.
With Sporting KC qualifying for the CONCACAF Champions League, they will begin that tournament on August 7th. So on top of the regular MLS league play, Sporting KC will be involved in another competition, making an already busy schedule even busier.
Let’s also not forget that with any game comes the possibility of an injury. With AS Roma in their preseason, they will be looking to get match fit ahead of league play in Italy. While they will not be playing with the intensity of a mid-season game, their coach will be expecting players to be getting back into that game mentality.
It isn’t hard to imagine some fluke play where Zusi gets injured and has to sit out for the rest of the season. That would mean he would miss on the rest of the MLS season, the MLS playoffs, the rest of World Cup Qualifying, and maybe lose his spot on the United States Mens National Team while he rehabilitates from his injury. All of that for a meaningless friendly to “expand the league.”
For those wondering how often an injury occurs in the MLS All-Star Game, just go back to last year when Collin ran into the back of Chelsea’s Michael Essien, breaking his face. He had to sit out a couple of weeks. While this was Collin being a clumsy defender, it is proof that injuries can and do happen in the All-Star Game.
A better alternative to a MLS All-Star Game in the middle of the season would be play a game similar to the FA Community Shield that opens every season of the English soccer season. With that game the winner of the FA Cup plays the winner of the English Premier League in a friendly to commemorate the start of a new season. For MLS we could have the best players from the East and the West square off against each other a weekend or two before the start of a new MLS season. It would be a meaningless game to showcase the best talent in the MLS before the incredibly busy season begins.
My biggest hope for the All-Star Game is that Vermes plays Zusi, Collin, and Besler for 30 minutes, and makes other Eastern Conference players stay on the field for the full 90 minutes. I don’t want to wish an injury on any player, but if Vermes could wear out Thierry Henry and Marco Di Vaio, that would be great for Sporting KC.