MLS All-Stars (Gomez 27′, Blanco, 43′, De Rosario pen. 69′) 3-2 West Ham United (Ashton 26′, 67′)
BMO Field, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Thursday 24 July 2008
Kickoff: 19:00 EST
The best players in MLS defeated English Premiership side, West Ham United, in the 13th annual MLS All-Star Game. Soccerlens live-blogged the event. Click below for the commentary.
For the fourth consecutive year, the MLS All-Stars will take on an elite European-based club that’s touring America in preparation for the upcoming European season. The MLS All-Stars are unbeaten against their three previous European opponents, Fulham, Chelsea, and Celtic, and look to continue that winning streak against the Hammers. Meanwhile, the Hammers will look to get into shape for the upcoming Premiership season, one which they hope will see them compete for a spot on the top half of the table.
There are a lot of intriguing subplots surrounding this game. David Beckham will make his very first All-Star appearance and will link up with fellow high-profile import, Cuauhtémoc Blanco. Landon Donovan will get another chance to show his European counterparts what he’s capable of.
West Ham United, meanwhile, have been surprisingly passive in the transfer market despite coming off yet another disappointing season (although they once again seemed to have Manchester United’s number – at least at home), but should get a boost if their star striker, Dean Ashton, is healthy for the whole year.
And, of course, there’s the potential for World War III to erupt in the stands between the Toronto fans, who are quickly making a name for themselves as the foremost hooligans in MLS, and the West Ham fans, who make most people look like rank amateurs when it comes to football goonery.
MLS All-Stars: Reis, Bornstein, Hejduk, Conrad (captain), Mastroeni, Beckham, Gomez, Joseph, Toja, Blanco, Cooper
Subs: Onstad, Ralston, Angel, Donovan, Brennan, De Rosario, Buddle
Very interesting… Donovan starts on the bench as the MLS Stars go with Cooper as the lone striker (although Blanco is always a threat to score). I would have thought that the MLS side would want to maximize Beckham’s time on the pitch by putting him with his teammate. I guess not. Also, Mastroeni starts over Brennan. I guess they like Mastroeni’s versatility and his ability to play in midfield. Still, you would have thought they would have given Brennan, Canada’s captain, the start. The second half will be interesting as Angel, Buddle, and Donovan are sure to figure before this match is over.
West Ham United: Green, Neill (captain), Davenport, Ferdinand, Widdowson, Faubert, Mullins, Parker, Etherington, Cole, Ashton.
Subs: Walker, Boa Morte, Stokes, Zamora, Reid, Collison, Stanislas.
West Ham goes with their usual 4-4-2 alignment. Hmm… I thought Zamora was going to Fulham. Maybe the paperwork hasn’t gone through yet. I’m surprised Bellamy isn’t starting alongside Ashton, but I guess they want to give Cole a longer run-out. On paper, West Ham’s lineup seems much weaker than the MLS lineup. Unlike MLS, West Ham lacks depth in midfield and don’t have any impact subs along the lines of Angel or Donovan. Still, they play games on the pitch rather than on paper for a reason…
0′ MLS kicks off and we’re under way!
2′ The crowd is chanting for Brennan. That didn’t take long.
3′ Parker threads it to Neill deep inside the box, but it’s too far for the West Ham captain. Goal kick to Reis.
4′ Long ball to Cole. MLS doesn’t clear it and it bounces to Ashton. Luckily for MLS, Ashton can’t handle it, and Reis gets to it first. As we’ve seen with Ashton, it doesn’t take much for him to score. Just ask Man United.
5′ Cole gets it in the box, turns, and tries to get a shot off, but he’s surrounded by 3 defenders. Ball trickles over to Etherington, but he can’t do anything with it either. Cole’s height seems to be giving MLS problems.
6′ Beckham looks for Cooper in the box. The crowd holds it breath as Becks delivers the cross, but West Ham gets to it first.
7′ Ashton gets the ball deep in the box, but shoves Hejduk to the ground, and is called for the foul. MLS dodged a bullet there. Ashton looked like he was going to score.
9′ Beckham delivers a corner into the box. It is deflected out to the edge of the box, and goes right to a wide open Hejduk. Hejduk swings and misses, though, and West Ham goes on the counter. MLS gets back well, though, otherwise that could have been a great chance for the Hammers. After a break in action, Cole once again gets loose in the box after Neill finds him. Mastroeni deflects it out of bounds, and we have a corner for West Ham.
10′ As is standard, Toronto fans litter the corner taker with streamers before he takes it. Nice. At least until someone slips on one and tears his ACL. I think it goes without saying that it would be a very bad idea to encourage English crowds to throw things onto the field during a Premiership match. Nothing doing on the corner.
11′ Cooper tries a long-distance shot, but it’s well wide of the mark. Supposedly, Cooper is on his way to Rosenborg. Another MLS player heads to Europe.
13 Toja with a nifty back-heel to Bornstein on the left wing. It’s too far for Bornstein, though, and he runs out of room. Goal kick to West Ham.
14′ Blanco sends it to Beckham, but Beckham with the poor touch and turns it over. I want my $25 million back, Becks!
15′ Meanwhile, Beckham with a nice pass inside to Cooper, who tries to turn and shoot, but West Ham is there to clear it away. Joseph and Cole mix it up, but it’s a lot of posing and not much else.
16′ Gomez tries to spring Hejduk down the right flank, but not even the speedy Hejduk can get to it. By the way, the crowd really wants Brennan. Unfortunately, JP and John Harkes think they’re saying “We Want Landon!” Wishful thinking, guys.
18′ Gomez with a nice overhead lob to Cooper, who turns and tries the shot. It’s over the bar, and it looks like Cooper might have been obstructed there. Maybe he should have taken a page out of Adebayor’s book and taken the dive.
20′ Corner for MLS, and Beckham sends in a nice one that Conrad gets on the end of. Green is there to make the save, though.
21′ Back the other way for West Ham, Neill tries to thread one to Cole, but he catches him going the wrong way, and it’s out for a goal kick. Cole is shooting daggers at his captain, since he had good position between Mastroeni and Conrad.
23′ Blanco gives it away to Faubert who gives it to Ashton. Ashton tries the long-range shot, but it’s well over the bar. Blanco’s been quiet so far.
24′ Cole on the attack and sends it to Ashton. Ashton can’t get to it, but Faubert is wide open down the left flank. Faubert crosses it back, and Etherington tries to slot it to Ashton, but it’s too long. Goal kick.
26′ GOAL! Blanco tries to send in a cross, but it’s well wide of everyone. Poor effort. Back the other way, Green with the goal kick that Cole flicks to an unmarked Ashton. Ashton easily beats Reis for the goal. Terrible defending by MLS.
27′ GOAL! Wow! How’s that for a response? Beckham sends it to Blanco, who delivers a nice back-heel to Gomez, who unleashes a nice strike that beats Green. Game on! Two goals in two minutes? When did this turn into the Euros?
29′ Ashton gets on the edge of the box and looks to go around Mastroeni. The American is there to make the tackle, though, otherwise Ashton might have had another good chance.
32′ Beckham gets a scoring opportunity, but it’s deflected out for a corner. Beckham tries to find Cooper, but it’s deflected back to Beckham. Beckham then finds Gomez wide open on the edge of the box. Gomez shanks it, though. Otherwise, it might have been goal #2.
33′ Free kick to West Ham, that Cole heads on goal. Reis is there, though, and it’s nothing doing.
34′ Blanco with a beautiful cross into the box for Cooper. Cooper can’t head it on target, though, and it goes out. Great pass from Blanco, who seems to be awake now.
35′ Parker and Beckham go after the 50-50 ball, and Parker backs off and lets Becks have it. Unlike during Beckham’s debut against Chelsea, West Ham just conceded the ball to Becks. I guess Parker didn’t want to damage the $250 million investment. That shows the difference between West Ham and Chelsea.
39′ Blanco is fouled outside the box, and Becks has an interesting free-kick opportunity. He gets it over the wall, but Davenport heads it away before it gets to Green. Nice diving ball, though.
40′ Back out to Beckham, and he tries the long-range strike that’s wide right.
43′ GOAL! Blanco gets the pass from Toja. Blanco cuts to the right, shakes Parker, and lets loose with a beautiful strike that hits the top-right hand corner.
45′ West Ham tries to respond as Ashton tries to cross it into the box towards Parker. It’s long and Joseph heads it safely back to Reis.
45′ +1 Blanco draws another foul and Beckham’s free kick strikes Parker in the arm. Parker gets a yellow, even though it was clearly unintentional. Beckham gets another kick and he nearly finds Cooper in the box. West Ham clears it, though, and there’s the whistle.
It was an entertaining first half and the MLS All Stars deservedly have a 2-1 lead. MLS generated more quality chances and, if it hadn’t been for an ill-timed defensive breakdown, could be up 2-nil right now. Anyway, we should be seeing a lot of subs in the second half. Expect Donovan and Angel to pair up, and MLS would be wise to bring in Brennan, otherwise there could be a riot in Toronto. West Ham were outplayed, but they’re still in this game. Cole was having his way early in the match and, as we’ve seen, all it takes is one shot from Ashton and we’re all square.
Estelle performs at halftime. You know what that means! Time for me to go to the bathroom!
45′ As expected, Donovan and Angel are on for Cooper and Blanco. Blanco’s the Man of the Match so far. For West Ham, Boa Morte is on and Etherington is off.
47′ Good play from Mastroeni as he steps into the lane and cuts off a pass intended for Ashton. I always thought Mastroeni was a good player. I wonder why he never got a chance in Europe.
48′ Toja wins the corner and it’s time for Beckham once again. It’s deflected out to Bornstein, and Beckham gets it back. Cross into the box, but Cole knocks it out for the throw-in.
49′ Long pass to Angel, who’s called off-sides. Angel begs to differ, though, and even throws in a wag of the finger. Stephen Colbert would be proud.
50′ The Toronto fans really want Brennan, in case you’ve forgotten.
52′ Hejduk with a hard open-field tackle on Parker. After the free kick, Faubert gets loose in the box and he’s obstructed by Bornstein and it’s a card?! What’s going on with this ref? Anyway, free kick on the edge of the box, and it’s a good chance for West Ham. Boa Morte takes the kick and it’s deflected towards goal. Reis makes the save, though.
54′ Beckham finds Donovan, and he makes a nice run towards the box. His shot is deflected, though, and Green catches it easily.
56′ Bornstein with a nice cross into the box, but somehow, it eludes Donovan and Angel. Donovan gets a nice pass in the box from Angel, but Donovan tries to send it back, but Angel can’t handle it and West Ham have it. Donovan should have shot it. He was one-on-one with the keeper. Meanwhile, Hejduk gets carded for a foul on Mullins.
58′ West Ham on the break and Faubert with the hard shot on the edge of the box. Reis saves it, but can’t hold on and it’s a corner. Nothing doing on the corner, but then Ashton gets it and lets loose with a rocket that Reis somehow saves. Wait, it wouldn’t have counted anyway. Ashton was off-sides. Still, a great save from Reis.
59′ The place is about to explode as Brennan comes on for Toja and De Rosario comes on for Gomez.
60′ MLS on the break as Bornstein makes a great run down the left. He sends it out to a wide-open Beckham. Beckham gets cute and tries to bend it in. It’s wide, though. Look Becks, just because you had a movie named after you, you don’t have to bend it all the time. A regular strike is fine.
61′ Cole with a strike that’s just wide of the mark. Steve Nash is in the house. He thinks soccer is catching on in America because his teammates will see him watching a game and, instead of ignoring it, they’ll ask him who’s playing. I guess that’s progress.
62′ Careless giveaway from MLS and Boa Morte takes it. He sends it to Cole and he has an opportunity again. Reis saves, though.
63′ Beckham with a free kick opportunity outside the box, and here come the flashbulbs. It’s a good strike from Beckham, but just over the post. Like all the fans, Green just watched that one sail wide.
65′ Another sub for West Ham as Collison comes in for Mullins.
66′ Intriguing cross from Beckham that Green has to punch away.
67′ GOAL! West Ham on the attack and Ashton launches one from well outside the box. It takes a wicked deflection off Conrad and Reis has no chance. Lucky shot for Ashton, but once again, we see him make a difference. I’d score it as a goal for Ashton, but we’ll have to wait for the official word.
69′ GOAL! Angel with the nice turn and he sends it into the box for De Rosario. Neill brings him down and it’s a penalty. Wow! On the replay, it looked like a foul as Neill didn’t touch the ball. De Rosario takes the penalty and it hits the cross bar, but bounces over the line. Kind of like Zidane’s penalty kick during the World Cup. Well, MLS knows how to respond.
70′ MLS makes another change as Reis is off and Onstad is the new keeper.
71′ De Rosario tries to return the favor and gives it to Angel on the attack. Angel finds the back of the net, but he’s called off-sides.
72′ Great cross from Beckham that forces a save from Green. It’s out for a corner. Becks sends a nice corner that bounces enticingly in the box before it’s deflected out for a corner. Cole is down and looks like he’s hurt. Nothing doing on the ensuing corner.
74′ Another good cross from Beckham, but it eludes Hejduk. Well, Beckham’s service seems to be good tonight. His teammates don’t seem to be up to it though.
75′ Great opportunity for MLS as Bornstein makes a great run down the left and sends a cross back towards an unmarked Angel. It’s wide, though, and Angel can’t make it 4-2.
76′ West Ham brings on Stanislas for Faubert.
77′ Donovan sends it to Angel, who’s just outside the box. Angel with the strike, but it’s off the mark.
79′ De Rosario makes a nice run into the box and seems confused about whether to pass it or shoot. We know what happens when you can’t make up your mind. West Ham clears it away from danger.
80′ Ashton is off for Reid. Ashton played well tonight. If he stays healthy this year, he should be a force in the Premiership and for England.
81′ Boa Morte makes a run on the edge of the box and Conrad takes him down. No foul, though.
82′ Another yellow as Conrad fouls Boa Morte.
84′ Donovan with a run into the box and he gives it away. Well, looks like Landon isn’t going to be impressing anyone in Europe tonight.
85′ Widdowson gets open deep on the left and sends it back. Mastroeni intercepts it, though, and MLS are on the attack. The pass to Donovan is long, though. Well, that one wasn’t Donovan’s fault.
86′ Mastroeni fouls Parker just outside the box and West Ham has a good opportunity here. It’s deflected to Boa Morte, who heads it towards goal. Onstad makes the save, though.
88′ MLS empties the bench as Bornstein and Hejduk are off and Ralston and Buddle are on.
90′ Beckham springs Ralston down the right. Ralston’s cross is cleared by West Ham, who go on the counterattack. Parker with a great pass to Boa Morte, who’s all alone deep on the left edge of the box. His shot is wide, though. That would have been a great goal since the angle was so tough.
90′ +1 Cole comes off for West Ham and Stokes is on.
90′ +2 Donovan gets fouled by Neill, and Beckham will have another opportunity to pose for pictures before sending in the free kick. No, it’s Donovan with a powerful strike that is deflected just wide of the goal. Beckham has a corner, but it’s nothing doing.
90′ +4 There’s the whistle, and MLS is still undefeated in All Star Games against foreign opponents in preseason mode.
It was an entertaining match that went about as well as possible for MLS. The All-Stars controlled the action and really dominated the match, despite the 3-2 score. Beckham went the distance and played well, spraying crosses all over the field and coming close on a free kick. Blanco had a great game and will probably win the MVP trophy. The non-designated players acquitted themselves well, particularly Mastroeni, De Rosario, Gomez, and Bornstein. All in all, MLS definitely showed that their elite players can certainly play against top competition, preseason or not.
As for West Ham, it was a perfectly acceptable effort. They played hard and definitely tried to win. They didn’t get many chances, though, and really got pushed around in midfield. Still, they got what they wanted. A hard-fought tune-up game that helped their players get into shape and helped spread the brand name to North America.
Man of the Match:
No brainer for MLS. Blanco was named MVP of the match and I can’t disagree. Blanco set up Gomez’s goal with a nice pass and then showed his great touch right before the second half. Not bad for 45 minutes of work. Maybe if Beckham had scored a goal, then he could have laid claim to the trophy (why didn’t he take that penalty instead of De Rosario?), but you can’t argue with Blanco as the Man of the Match.