They are the best of the best for a reason.
When the MLS elite suit up side by side on July 25 in the 17th installment of the Major League Soccer All-Star Game, they will do so in anticipation of facing English giants Chelsea FC – 2011-12 UEFA Champions League and FA Cup winners – to PPL Park in Chester, Pa.
Despite its “friendly” moniker, for players involved, a game is still a game. Pride and bragging rights are on the line, and with the opportunity for MLS’ best to showcase their talents against some of the world’s most prestigious clubs, there is plenty to captivate both supporters and players alike.
When All-Star voting opens tomorrow, fans will have their chance to select some of the players they want to take on the Blues. Remember to cast your vote, as we highlight the top three MLS All-Star games from years past.
1. 1997: East 5, West 4
Once upon a time, the MLS All-Stars battled internally for conference supremacy.
And, oh, what a battle it was.
The East erased a 2-0 halftime deficit by scoring five second-half goals behind game MVP Carlos Valderrama. The Colombian legend – whose style and grace was almost as fluid as his hair – paved the way with a goal and an assist.
With the score tied at four apiece, Brian McBride sealed the comeback for the East with his 88th-minute strike off an assist from Giuseppe Galderisi.
2. 2006: MLS 1, Chelsea 0
HIGHLIGHTS: MLS 1, Chelsea 0
Roberto Di Matteo’s side may be tops in Europe in 2012, but the Blues were no match for the MLS All-Stars in 2006.
Although RDM was not the man in charge back then – current Real Madrid head coach José Mourinho was at the helm – many of his players were on display at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill., and are no strangers to the best MLS has to offer.
Game MVP Dwayne De Rosario tallied the lone goal in the 70th minute when he unleashed a right-footed strike from the edge of the 18-yard-box. The victory marked the third win in as many tries for the MLS against foreign competition in the All-Star game, after disposing of CD Guadalajara of Mexico 3-1 in 2003 and Chelsea's West London rivals Fulham 4-1 in 2005.
3. 2009: MLS 1, Everton 1 (Everton win 4-3 on PKs)
It was quite the homecoming for Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard.
In his third season with the Merseyside club, the American faced his first MLS opposition since his departure from the then-MetroStars in 2003.
After an early miscue from Stuart Holden led to a Louis Saha goal, Holden found redemption in the 26th minute when a clever pass to Brad Davis in front of net supplied the equalizer for the Americans. When the game ended in a 1-1 draw, it went directly into penalty kicks.
Howard went to work and stopped three of the six penalties he faced, earning MVP honors along the way. The American international paced Everton to the first win for a foreign squad over the MLS All-Stars in six tries (Manchester United have since succeeded twice, knocking off MLS in both 2010 and 2011).