MLS All-Stars leave Juventus impressed with physical, technical quality

ATLANTA – Wednesday evening’s 2018 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target left a strong impression on the visiting Juventus players and coaching staff, and not just because of the atmosphere created by the 70,000-plus fans packed into Mercedes-Benz Stadium, but also because of the quality of opposition they faced.

The MLS All-Stars held their own against Juventus, the seven-time defending Serie A champions and one of Europe’s most successful clubs, playing them to a 1-1 draw in regulation before falling, 5-3, in a penalty shootout. The All-Stars created plenty of quality scoring chances, forcing Juventus starting golakeeper Wojciech Szczesny into a couple of quality saves in the first half and forcing a clearance off the line of a Diego Valeri shot in the second. Afterwards, the Juventus players asked were very complimentary of their opposition.

“I think there’s quite a lot of good players,” said Juventus midfielder Emre Can after the game. “As a team they were just good and you could see in the game that they are in good shape. It was a good game.”

Juventus head coach Massimiliano Allegri also came away impressed with the quality of his team’s opponents, even with the constantly rotating substitutions providing him only a brief glimpse of the opposition players.

“It’s hard to say, only seeing most of them for 30 minutes, but I’ve seen some very good players, some very fast ones, very technically well prepared,” Allegri told reporters when asked which players had impressed him. “I think that they can have a future in Europe.”

All-Star goalscorer and MVP Josef Martinez, formerly of Juve’s city rivals Torino, left a lasting impression despite playing just under a half-hour in the game, showing off the tenacity and hunger to score that has made him the runaway Golden Boot leader and left him poised to shatter MLS single-season scoring records.

“He played 20 minutes, but within 20 minutes he showed that he is very good, Martinez,” said Juve’s Dutch youth international Leandro Fernandes. “I think [Alphonso] Davies is a good player. All are good, but especially those two for me.”