HARRISON, N.J. — A year ago, the MLS All-Stars took some lumps before a sold-out Reliant Stadium crowd when Manchester United beat them 5-2 in soccer’s midsummer classic.
It was a bad performance from the All-Stars, as they made a series of fundamental mistakes that United punished — lax marking on set-pieces, giveaways in the back, blown offside traps — exactly the kind of play that you’d expect a team of All-Stars to avoid.
To compound the situation, the All-Stars weren’t as dangerous as they had been in previous All-Star Games against foreign club competition, and the resulting loss left a bad taste in their mouth.
“Losing 5-2 is not the best situation,” Houston midfielder and All-Star Brad Davis told MLSsoccer.com. “We have a different team this year. We can make up for that result.”
The All-Stars convened Monday morning at Red Bull Arena to do some fitness work and get acquainted with each other. On Tuesday morning, they held a training session that lasted about an hour and involved a heavy share of tactical work. There was also a film session that featured footage of Manchester United’s previous three matches on their American preseason tour.
All this work is part of an effort to get a result on Wednesday night against the English Premier League champions.
“It isn’t something we’ve talked about, but I think we all know that the last game was not reflective of how well we played or can play, losing 5-2,” San Jose midfielder/defender and All-Star Bobby Convey said. “But I think we have a deeper squad this year. I think we can do better, we should do better.”
The loss last year isn’t something the players discuss and won’t be a talking point in the MLS locker room. There is no bulletin-board material from last July’s loss to the same Manchester United side. Instead, just a quiet determination from the team and the All-Star side has no plans to mention last year’s result.
“No, nothing,” said All-Star head coach Hans Backe, when asked by MLSsoccer.com if he’s using last year’s loss to fuel the team. “I haven’t done that.”
Convey noted that unlike last year when players were still flying in after their only training session the day before the match, the MLS All-Stars have largely been together since Sunday and had time to get acclimated with each other. The group is also being bolstered by the additions of David Beckham, who missed last year due to injury, and league-leading scorer Thierry Henry.
Henry joined the Red Bulls in the middle of July last year and he declined to participate in the All-Star Game ahead of players who had earned the right through their play last season. And with Henry and his 11 goals, the MLS side is looking to do better against Manchester United and represent their league on Wednesday night.
“Whenever you add talent like Beckham and Henry in the mix, your talent level is going to go up,” Davis said.
Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer