Saturday, July 30, 2005

It's All-Star Day

MLS All-Stars vs. Fulham FC
Saturday @ 3:30pm EST
Broadcast on ABC

So today is MLS's big day to shine. It is the first match of the season to be broadcast on network television (the opener between Chivas and DC was suppose to be broadcast on ABC, but with the death of Pope John Paul II, it ended up on ESPN). Add to it some spice from the English Premiere League and you have a good recipe for attractive soccer.

But before we get into the game itself, it is interesting to note that this is the fourth time in four years that the setup of the All-Star game has been different from the preceding year. Last year it was East vs. West; in 2003, the All-Stars took on Chivas de Guadalajara; and in 2002 it was the All-Stars vs. the US national team minus their European-based players. Of all those, I think this is the most interesting. Anytime you have an EPL on the pitch, it is going to get more coverage and attention. Not to knock Chivas or the US nationals, but it doesn't really seem to be as big of a deal when they come to play.

Enough with the history chat, how about today. Do the names Carols Ruiz, Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Greg Vanney, Jimmy Conrad, Matt Reis or Brad Davis ring any bells for you? If not, you probably have not watched any highlight reels after any given MLS weekend. These folks will represent the best America's top league has to offer. On a side note, it is a shame Eddie Johnson, Amado Guevara and Eddie Pope are injured, as they would make this great lineup even better.

As for Fulham, I have a soft spot in my heart for them. I think it has to do with their constant underdog status. For those who do not know, they are Chelsea's West London neighbors (there stadiums are only a few tube stops away from one another). They might share a lot in regards to location, but they don't share as much when it comes to paychecks. Also, the stadiums are truly on opposite ends of the spectrum. Fulham's Craven Cottage is an old stadium with narrow entries into the less then wonderful seating areas. Stamford Bridge looks like a lot like a modern US football stadium with its large concourse levels and individual, non-obstructed views. It is easy to tell were the money is. Still, Fulham always find a way to make the best of it and stay with the 20 best teams in England.

For this match, the main storyline has to do with Brian McBride (and to a lesser extent Carlos Bocanegra's) return to the MLS. When McBride played with the Crew, he scored a very impressive, and still team record, 62 goals. He is also a starter for the US national side. Carlos Bocanegra was twice named the MLS defender of the year during his four years with the Chicago Fire. With subplots like this, ABC should have more then enough fluff pieces to fill any slow moments in the game.

Overall, it should be a wonderful match. Look for a lot of offense and some moments of pure beauty.

My prediction:
MLS All-Stars 3 - Fulham 2


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