The 2018 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target is upon us, and as with every edition, there are several spotlight players and stories to follow when seven-time defending Serie A champion Juventus invade Atlanta to tackle our league's best on Wednesday night (7:30 pm ET | ESPN, UniMás; TSN, TVAS in Canada).
We shall see All-Stars holding history with Juventus and away players with All-Star Game history. And all of them have been talking like they want to put a personal stamp on this year's challenge showdown.
Back on the winning track?
Let's cut straight to the result chase. After beating Tottenham in the summer of 2015, the MLS All-Stars had taken two straight, and three of four to hold a sterling 7-2 record during the match's current MLS vs. Europe phase.
Following last August's shootout defeat against Real Madrid, the home side has now dropped two straight for the first time since the Old World first stepped up to put forth the regular foe in 2005. There is only one way for this year's collection of All-Stars to halt that losing skid: with a first ever victory over Italian opposition.
Youth is served
The MLS All-Star Game squad often leans heavily toward familiar veteran names. Often, but not always.
New Bayern Munich catch Alphonso Davies is the headline attraction, with dizzying attack mates Ezequiel Barco and Alberth Elis also on board. RB Leipzig target Tyler Adams was added to the midfield stable, joining Red Bulls teammate Michael Amir Murillo who is fresh from representing Panama in the country's first-ever World Cup.
The old hand
Toronto FC ace Sebastian Giovinco stands as the only man in the MLS All-Star Game squad to have suited up for the Bianconeri once upon a time. In fact, Giovinco came up through the Juventus youth ranks to score 20 times in 132 total outings for his hometown side.
In Serie A play, Giovinco really only enjoyed one fine full season, but he celebrated two Scudettos with the Old Lady and was a bit of a Coppa Italia killer. He also fared very well playing against Juventus while out on loan to Parma, scoring four times in as many meetings with his then-parent club.
Giovinco will be making his fourth All-Star Game appearance, and has yet to grab a goal. Maybe, just maybe, battling his boyhood club is the perfect motivational occasion for opening that account.
The former derby rival
Atlanta United goal shark Josef Martinez is the only other player on the All-Star Game gameday roster with experience facing Juventus. However, Martinez may feel he hasn't had his proper shot at them just yet. In two-and-a-half seasons with their local rivals Torino, he only managed 37 minutes across a pair of derbies.
Buckle up, Old Lady. The ostinato cello is cueing up.
The familiar ASG foes
Another pair of Juventus players could participate in their second All-Star Game, having each shined for AS Roma in a 2013 edition won by the visitors.
Midfield engine Miralem Pjanic enjoyed an evening of shredding through central park in tandem with then-Giallorossi man Michael Bradley, with each man picking up an assist in the 3-1 victory.
Mehdi Benatia also was victorious that day, going the distance in the heart of Roma's defense. With Bradley working in front of him, the Morocco defender helped keep Landon Donovan, Thierry Henry, Chris Wondolowski and Marco Di Vaio off the board.
Pjanic was one of two Juventus players at the introductory press conference, so he should see some time on Wednesday, and Benatia's preseason trajectory following Morocco's three-and-out World Cup indicates he could start. Should both play, they would join an esteemed group of overseas stars — try Petr Cech, Michael Essien, Frank Lampard, John Obi Mikel, Arjen Robben and John Terry — to have taken part as visitors in multiple All-Star Games.
Which other Juve stars will play?
The most notable name on Juventus' U.S. tour roster is veteran center back Giorgio Chiellini, who is also their new skipper. Reputed MLS target Claudio Marchisio will likely start on the bench.
Furthermore, some players whose countries stumbled at the group stage hurdle in Russia have already made preseason debuts, so the likes of Germany midfield traffic director Sami Khedira and Poland netminder Wojciech Szczesny may also see action on Wednesday.
Double the pleasure, double the fun for BWP?
BWP is the only MLS player who comes into this year's showcase game sitting on an All-Star goal. You may recall that in 2014, Wright-Phillips fired the equalizer in the MLS crew's 2-1 victory over Bayern Munich in Portland. Believe it or not, but the Red Bulls hit man has not appeared at this annual event since.
If he can put one past Juventus, Wright-Phillips can become just the second guy to strike in multiple All-Star Games against European opposition, joining Dwayne De Rosario (who hit against the EPL trio Chelsea, Manchester United and West Ham).