Might a similar environment await at MNUFC’s state-of-the-art home on Wednesday evening, when the MLS All-Stars welcome the Liga MX All-Stars in the 2022 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target (8:30 | ESPN, UniMas in United States; TSN4, TVA Sports in Canada)?
“We played Everton a couple weeks ago and after the game the one thing they said was, ‘The gameday experience was fantastic,’” Heath said on The Call Up’s live episode Monday. “And I think we're going to get a full house again. Our supporters turn up and they're going to get behind this group on Wednesday.”
The MLS All-Stars could make it two-for-two, beating their southern neighbors for the second-straight year after winning on penalty kicks in 2021’s match held at LAFC’s Banc of California Stadium.
The tricky part, though, is Heath figuring out how to best deploy an attack-heavy roster – with the Englishman even admiring a Seattle Sounders talisman who, for once, isn’t trying to score on the Loons.
“As I said to the players this morning: It's going to be difficult picking the team because we've got 10 number 10s,” Heath told co-hosts Jillian Sakovits and Susannah Collins.
“We've got so many forwards and I've got to work out who's playing where. But I think the forward players in the league, I'm looking across there and [Raul] Ruidiaz who's got his back to me, every time that we play them, he seems to come up with a goal from nothing.”
Overseeing two days of training with the All-Stars, Heath noted he’s gotten an increased appreciation for the talent and off-field qualities many of the MLS All-Stars bring. He singled out LA Galaxy striker Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez in particular, with Mexico’s all-time scorer set to captain MLS’s best against the league he debuted in with Chivas.
“You see these guys from afar, you shake hands after the game and say well done, but just to get to know them a little bit better, scratch the surface a little bit,” Heath said.
“I was just sitting with Chicharito over there and you think you know people, but the kid's so bright and he's answering questions in three different languages, super smart. The one thing that came through is his competitive nature. He's really looking forward to this. And I think the fact that it's Liga MX as well, added another little bit for him.”
With Week 25 games right around the corner, players are balancing an Audi MLS Cup Playoffs push with enjoying the festivities throughout the Twin Cities. It also introduces some predicaments for Heath, deciding how long to play everyone on the 26-man roster.
“I think I owe it to everybody who's turned up to give them some time, to let them feel as though they're a part of what we're trying to do,” Heath said. “Plus, the fact that I've got every coach going, 'Do not play my guy for more than 30 minutes.’
“I told Gary Smith I'm going to play the two Nashville players for an hour. And if it goes to extra time, bring them back on, because we've got them next Saturday.”