MLS Legends ready for spotlight
While there might be some who doubt the quality of play for Saturday's Celebration Game as part of the Sierra Mist MLS All-Star festivities at RFK Stadium, the players that made their mark throughout Major League Soccer's history showed at their pre-game training session Friday that they haven't lost that old magic just yet.
"I haven't seen that kind of sharpness in a long time, except with my U-10 boys team," said John Harkes, who played for three seasons on the RFK field as captain of D.C. United, where he now currently serves as the club's director of youth development.
A fun-spirited - if not full-speed - combined training session for the collective "Legends" teams was held Friday at United's home, after the Eastern and Western Conferences went through their paces. The players worked the ball around, took some shots on net, played a small-sided game and teased each other about their lack of fitness.
The USA Legends team is comprised of players that represented the U.S. in the 1994 World Cup and went on to lay the groundwork for much of MLS. Their foreign counterparts have been pooled together to form the opposition, which reads like a who's who of foreign stars that brought their skills to America.
The captain for the World side will be D.C. United's long-time playmaker Marco Etcheverry. He spent his entire eight-year MLS career with the Black-and-Red, leading the squad to three MLS Cups, a U.S. Open Cup title, the Inter-American Cup, and the CONCACAF Champions Cup.
"I'm so happy to be here playing in my old stadium," said Etcheverry. "I'm happy to play against players like Peter [Nowak] and Marcelo [Balboa] again. I still love soccer. My situation not playing anymore professionally is a little different for me, but I still love soccer."
Former Chicago Fire and Kansas City Wiz stalwart Frank Klopas spoke of the novelty of bringing together the '94 team, which captured the fancy of the nation on its surprising run to the round-of-16, where it lost to Brazil.
"It's a great feeling," he said. "I'm still in touch with some of the guys but I don't get to see everyone very often. When you come to something like this you see how time flies and how important it is to stay in touch. I'm really looking forward to the game."
Marcelo Balboa, who racked up 128 caps for the U.S. national team and 152 MLS appearances is set to anchor the backline for the USA Legends, though don't be surprised to see him inching towards goal, as he was known to do in his playing days. But when it comes to seeing a replay of his famous bicycle kick (as he nearly hit the back of the net in the '94 World Cup against Colombia), don't hold your breath.
"I'd say there's about an 80 percent chance that it might not happen," joked Balboa. "My job for tomorrow is to not get hurt and have a good time. If the opportunity comes, I won't say no, but I might miss!"
Jonathan Nierman is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.