While All Star games are always met with a touch of apathetic indifference regardless of the sport, there's no denying that any time the current UEFA Champions League champions take the field on American soil, the world takes notice. Tonight, in Chester, PA, some of the best players in Major League Soccer will get the opportunity to test themselves against one of the greatest football clubs in the world.
While the make-up of the MLS side was met (as always) with plenty of angst and debate, Ben Olsen will certainly have plenty of weapons at his disposal. Superstars like Landon Donovan, Dwayne De Rosario, David Beckham, and Thierry Henry all headline the squad of MLS players.
Here at The Bent Musket we're going to take a quick glance at tonight's match, and be sure to check back tonight for our live blog during the match!
CHELSEA FOOTBALL CLUB
The reigning champions of Europe already have a 4-2 victory over Seattle Sounders, as well as a 1-1 draw with Paris Saint Germain under their belt on their North American preseason tour, and they'll look to continue their run of form on Wednesday night. Well-known Chelsea veterans such as Petr Cech, John Terry, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole, and Fernando Torres have all made the trip, giving the London side an almost Hollywood rockstar quality in the United States.
On Sunday night after their match with PSG, Chelsea head man Roberto Di Matteo addressed the struggles of finding minutes for each of his players, stating, ""We need to consider the fact that some players have only came back into training on Wednesday and they’ve also had to travel...That’s why tonight I gave seven players 60 minutes and four players [in] the first game 60 minutes. I’m going to try and increase the minutes and we won’t have many substitutions on Wednesday, so I’m planning for some players to hopefully get more minutes."
How much the stars of the Chelsea side will play in tonight's match remains to be seen, but at least one star has been ruled out by Di Matteo, the enigmatic Torres: "We’re looking forward to having him back in the squad and we’ll have to see if he might be involved in the Miami game maybe on the weekend". Which leaves the workman's share of the striker responsibilities on the physically-imposing, 6'3", Romelu Lukaku.
As a bit of late news, on Monday, MLS and Chelsea reached an agreement to allow the use of up to TEN substitutions during the match, so expect, at least from a Chelsea perspective, a revolving door-like quality in their lineup.
MLS ALL STARS
MLS Head Coach Ben Olsen has kept his lineup and strategy relatively quiet, today's release of the "inactive" list at least gave us a little insight into who may feature in the match. Major stars such as Geoff Cameron (impending move to Stoke City?), Kenny Cooper, Fredy Montero, Brek Shea, and Brad Davis all were named on Wednesday, meaning they won't take part in tonight's match.
After the inactive list players are removed, it leaves Olsen with roughly a normal sized 18 man squad, headlined of course by the usual superstar suspects in Beckham, Donovan, and Henry. Olsen has really enjoyed the process, and understands the difficulties with such a unique coaching experience, "It’s not an easy process. … Some of these guys have games on Friday so I want to be respectful for the coaches and the players. I don’t want to put these players in jeopardy to be injured by being overtaxed. … Part of the experience is picking players and playing fantasy soccer within our league, which is also another great exercise for a young coach. I’ve enjoyed it."
With the substitution rule changed to ten, expect just about everyone to get some sort of playing time on the night. Make no mistake, however, Ben Olsen, as well as everyone involved with Major League Soccer, understands that whether it's fair or not, football fans around the world will be judging MLS as a whole by their performance, and the game plan will reflect as such.
If Major League Soccer is to repeat their victory over Chelsea from 2006, it's going to fall upon the shoulders of its star players. One could argue that the quality of play in the MLS has absolutely improved, and tonight presents a great opportunity to show the rest of the world just how far American soccer has come.
ACTIVE PLAYERS FOR MLS ALL STARS: Jimmy Nielsen, Steven Beitashour, Jay DeMerit, Aurelien Collin, Justin Morrow, Graham Zusi, Osvaldo Alonso, Dwayne De Rosario, Landon Donovan, Thierry Henry, Chris Wondolowski, Dan Kennedy, Carlos Valdes, Ramiro Corrales, Kyle Beckerman, David Beckham, Chris Pontius, Michael Farfan, Eddie Johnson