PORTLAND, Ore. – There was something different about this All-Star Game.
Not that MLS players haven’t taken the midsummer extravaganza seriously in the past. But according to the 23 players involved in Wednesday night’s 2-1 upset of Bayern Munich here – only the second victory by the MLS All-Stars in the past six editions vs. foreign opponents – the intensity, focus and desire to do something special against the German juggernauts was dialed up.
“For the players, we didn’t take this lightly,” New York Red Bulls star Tim Cahill told MLSsoccer.com in a jubilant Providence Park locker room. “You take games like this lightly and you can be on the end of a hiding.
“I feel that for us as players, we play on the highest level around the world, a lot of us played in World Cups and, if you want to take that momentum forward after such an amazing World Cup for America and [other] players like that, you have to take these games so seriously, and that’s the great thing.”
From the opening whistle, it was clear the MLS side had no intention of letting the two-time defending Bundesliga champs control the proceedings. Bayern struck first just eight minutes in with a world-class finish by Robert Lewandowski, but it was the MLS side that had the better build-up sequences in the first half.
Four times in the opening half-hour, the All-Stars pushed forward primarily with Thierry Henry, Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey leading the break. Then in the second half, the MLS side showed excellent interplay and understanding for a team that had worked together only for three days, as both Bradley Wright-Phillips’ equalizer and Landon Donovan’s winner came off quick-touch build-ups from the back.
“I really enjoyed working with these guys the last several days and it was great to play the game the way they did,” All-Star head coach Caleb Porter said in the postgame press conference. “People talk about the result, but for me that's secondary.
“I thought we played good football. We played out of the back. We didn't sit back or try to destroy the game. We scored two great goals and some of the sequences we put together were fantastic.”
It was arguably the biggest result ever for MLS in an All-Star Game. Bayern had a team full of German World Cup winners and other world-class superstars. And most of the conversation will likely turn to what kind of statement the All-Stars made here on Wednesday night.
But that’s not what Michael Bradley took out of the game.
“That’s for other people to decide,” the Toronto FC and US national team star told MLSsoccer.com. “There’s a pride in every guy to step on the field and to try to be sharp and to enjoy it and play for the other guys. There’s no lack of confidence or a lack of belief in this room.”
Jonah Freedman is the managing editor of MLSsoccer.com.