(The following is a reprint of a match report I published following the MLS All-Star game played at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in 2007. As we celebrate the 10thanniversary of the first Rapids game played in Commerce City later this month, please enjoy part 2 of 3 in a series of my favorite moments from that inaugural season.)
MLS All-Stars All Smiles After Victory
The MLS All-Stars used last Thursday’s match against Celtic FC to show off their speed, athletic ability, and overall talent for the game. The All-Stars were led by goals from Juan Pablo Angel and Juan Toja, but it was the overall pressure of all the midfielders and forwards that dominated play. If not for some brilliant goalkeeping by Celtic keeper Artur Boruc, the score could’ve easily become much worse for the Scottish side.
Celtic FC Head Coach Gordon Strachan was complimentary of the MLS side, but was also fairly pleased with what he saw from his squad given where they are in their preparation for the Scottish Premier League opener versus Kilmarnock on Aug. 5. “(I liked) the fact that they re-organized themselves. Give a couple of goals in the first half they came back and make a game out of it. I liked the attitude when it was 2-0, my team tried to win the game, tried to get goals back. Some clubs would just try to leave it at 2-0.”
Celtic is still in their preseason, however they had already played 4 preseason games prior to their Colorado visit, and visited the Chicago Fire on Sunday, then head back to Europe for a match against Newcastle United before beginning play for real.
Angel, who was awarded the Honda MVP for the game-winner, harassed the Celtic backline as he made slashing runs off the ball all night. The Argentinian was very complimentary of his fellow All-Stars and their work rate. “First of all, it’s easy when you’re around good players,” said the Red Bulls forward. “We had the best players in the league so everything is much easier. (Dwayne) De Rosario had a great game today. Every time he got the ball he was a threat. Those types of players can change the course of a game with one plass or one play.”
“We got out there with the right attitude. We spoke before the game that there is no such thing as a ‘friendly’ game anymore and we wanted to get out there and do it right. Full credit to everyone who played tonight. We went out early and played well, were the better team, and we fully deserved to win.”
FC Dallas midfielder Ronnie O’brien played provider most of his 80 minutes on the wing. O’brien discussed what the MLS players were looking to do on the evening. “To move the ball really. We played 5 across the middle tonight. We just moved the ball from side to side trying to find holes. When you stretch the field and have Dwayne sitting in behind their midfield we just created a lot of space. I know they’re in preseason but they’re still a top-quality team. On one days training that’s not a bad result for us.”
The Irishman admitted there wasn’t a lot of tactics discussed but the players were basically instinctive. “Yesterday, (MLS Head Coach Steve Nicol) talked about what we want to do and talked a little bit before the game about how he wants us to play and just sort of leaves us to it.”
“We went through set-pieces where we were going to be, how he wants us to move the ball where he wants us to be and pretty much leave it to us. He has enough confidence in us to do what we’re told and in the end we had a great result.”
Houston Dynamo midfielder De Rosario combined with club teammate Ricardo Clark to put early pressure on the visitors as the two routinely sprayed the ball within the MLS midfield or collected from runs off the ball. “When you play a team like Celtic they’re bound to have chances, but they didn’t take their chances and we took ours,” said De Rosario who assisted on Angel’s goal.
“We knew we had great players here and it was just a matter of hard work. Guys were working hard and the rest will come into play. That’s the main thing about these games-work hard for each other, cover for each other, and it will come out eventually in the game.”
“It’s not like we’ve played (together) before, but it was just knowing when to make the pass, when to make the run, and just feeling out each other as the game goes on. I don’t think anyone has the idea to put any pressure on each other. We go out there and have fun and once you have fun things just fall into place.”
Some chemistry was already in place as many All-Stars have had time together this summer as teammates in the recent Gold Cup tournament won by the US. The starting All-Star backline of Jonathon Bornstein, Michael Parkhurst, and Jimmy Conrad were all part of that side, along with several other All-Stars in attendance.
Bornstein also admitted there wasn’t much time to prepare but the familiarity with his mates did help. “Standing back there before the game looking around and I see Michael Parkhurst and Jimmy Conrad, guys I’ve played with almost the whole summer. Then you look at the midfield and there’s a lot of solid guys. You know that if they get beat in the middle they’re going to be coming right back from the other way. Overall, it was a pretty good dynamic and we held them at bay pretty well.”
“We didn’t really scout them before the game so it wasn’t like ‘this is what the gameplan is’. We just kind of went out there and told ourselves we’re going to have to play tight. We’re only playing 3 in the back, which is something I’ve never done, but it was good. I didn’t get to go forward as much so it was more of a defensive responsibility.”
“Something they did a lot was they had a guy check in and then the other player kind of drifted into the far space. You just had to watch for it and when the ball got out there you had to get there as quick as you can. Other than that, we just tried to keep them in front of us and try to play forward when we got the ball.”
New England midfielder Shalrie Joseph credited his midfield mates with seeing the forwards move and providing from there. “I was kind of surprised they gave up that much space to players. We’ve got guys on this team with that much space will definitely create some chances. We moved the ball throughout the midfield. Once we moved it well we tried to find players’ feet where they can run at them. Angel is just great on the ball. We’re professionals so it wasn’t hard for us to gel.”
Kansas City forward Eddie Johson had his early misstep in missing a 30th minute penalty kick, but explains the goal was to put pressure on Celtic early and often so as to not let them settle in. “Nicol told us we want to go after them and make runs in behind. He told me he wanted their defenders to know they’re in for a long night and that’s what I was doing. I was tiring myself out doing it, but it wasn’t taking right away then I started to find seams and be dangerous.”
I though Dwayne and Ricard did great making runs out of the midfield and interchanging with each other really supporting us and helping us out. You get the best 18 players out on the field you can do special things and I think we put on a good show for the fans. It was fun.”
“It’s good to be out there with the guys wanting to keep the ball. It’s so simple when everyone’s knocking the ball making 1 or 2 touches. We all know we have games on Sunday so we wanted to make it easy on ourselves. We wanted to take our chances to go forward and we did and we were successful.”
Source: Blog Post