First-time MLS All-Star defenders marvel at gameday experience

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- There are MLS All-Star Game jitters and then there are first-time MLS All-Star Game jitters.

And on Thursday at Avaya Stadium in the 2016 AT&T MLS All-Star Game against global powerhouse Arsenal, a number of Major League Soccer players experienced the All-Star Game for the first time, including rookie defenders Keegan Rosenberry and Brandon Vincent.

“It was awesome, it was everything I could’ve imagined for sure,” Rosenberry told after the game, a 2-1 win for Arsenal. “Obviously we’re disappointed with the result but in terms of the overall performance and what we showed for the league and for the fans, I think we did pretty well.”

Rosenberry started the game for the MLS All-Stars’ backline along with another first-timer and late-addition, FC Dallas' Kellyn Acosta, who was a late addition by head coach Dominic Kinnear.

“It was pretty crazy,” Acosta told “I’m just glad that Dom gave me the opportunity to be here and it was a late addition but I’m very grateful, it’s the experience of a lifetime. I’m always going to remember it. And my first All-Star Game, hopefully the first of many. It’s just great being alongside all these guys, all these All-Stars and legends and then playing against Arsenal, it was just a great experience for me, a great learning experience and I’ll take with me the rest of my years.”

For Acosta, it wasn’t just a matter of adjusting to the emotion of playing in an MLS All-Star Game for the first time, but also shifting from his normal defensive midfield position to outside back against a team of Arsenal's caliber.

“It was definitely a challenge,” Acosta said. “I knew when I came in here with coach Dom just to be prepared to play left back and to start. So I was just kind of mentally ready and mentally focused for that. It was definitely a challenge playing against guys like [Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain] and Joel Campbell, those are powerful guys that like to dribble and like to go at players. It was definitely a challenge for me, but other than that it was a great learning experience for me playing against them and it’s a great opportunity. I’m just glad to be a part of the group.”

The All-Star Game was a homecoming of sorts for Vincent, who just eight months ago led Stanford University – a school just to the north of San Jose -- to their first ever NCAA Men’s Soccer Championship before being drafted by the Chicago Fire.

“I wasn’t expecting this at all,” Vincent said of his MLS All-Star selection. “It was a surprise. I just take it in stride and I’m really happy about it and it was a great experience for me. It was amazing. I’m just so thankful that I got the chance to be on the field with these guys and be a part of this experience. I had a lot of fun and had a great time with it.”

Vincent came into Thursday’s match in the 67th minute, while Rosenberry and Acosta played 45 and 57 minutes, respectively.

“You play against each other [in training] but when you take the field it’s a little different,” Vincent told about forming cohesion amongst the MLS All-Stars on the pitch. “At the same time, you have these legendary players that are there for a reason – they work their magic. It’s tough when you only have two training sessions to come together as a group, but at the same time I think the guys did a good job of putting together a good show.”

Nicholas Rosano contributed additional reporting to this article.