My idea is to play these games in early- or mid-February, sort of as a kickoff for the year in MLS. I’m sorry, I just can’t get into mid-year All-Star Games. I’m an Eeyore.
Here are three things we… well, we didn’t learn ‘em, but we had them enforced, let’s say, by Roma’s 3-1 thumping of the MLS All-Stars:
1. A team beats 11 talented individuals
Even if that team is only midway through their preseason, some movements that came from repetition and daily practice just can’t be duplicated by any sort of All-Star group. It’s why Roma, who were clearly rusty fitness-wise, were able to break so effectively while the All-Stars were left slowing the ball down and looking for the next pass instead of immediately hitting it.
It’s also why lots of people argue – and I’m not sure they’re correct, but they’ll argue it – that the best soccer is played in the UEFA Champions League and Copa Libertadores rather than at the World Cup. Even when you have a month, or six weeks together with your country, you can’t put together the same day-to-day comfort and cohesion you get at your club.
I still take the World Cup over anything. But there’s a good argument for the club tourneys instead.
2. The diamond-4 midfield doesn’t just happen
Jason Kreis will explain, if you ask him, exactly what his team’s patented formation gives him as an advantage, and what it takes off the table.
“You have to give up something,” he said to me last year, “and for us, for years, we say ‘Beat us from wide.’”
The All-Stars made that dare in the first 30 minutes and got carved open from – you guessed it – out wide (yeah, I know the goal came from up the gut, but that was the exception. Look at Roma's completed first half passes above – almost nothing up the middle or in the box. All out wide).
That’s a big reason the diamond-4 midfield has disappeared over the last 15 years, and why RSL are really the only team in the league to play it. You give up a lot, and it takes a complicated system of rotations to make up for the open spaces attacking teams can find against.
Can’t learn that in the span of one rushed pre-All-Star practice.
3. Modern playmakers exist primarily out wide
I beat this one to death in "Between the Lines" a while back. I’m just going to post the video, and let’s think a bit about where Francesco Totti went to work in this one: