Behind the Scenes at the All-Star Game

Go inside the MLS team’s locker room, visit their training room and get a field-level view of Wednesday’s meeting with Chelsea in this clip from Major League Soccer:

That collision at the 3:27 mark between Sporting Kansas City defender Aurelien Collin and Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien? It left Collin with two facial fractures.

Other than that—and, for Vancouver fans, the fact that Collin’s injury pressed Jay DeMerit into 90 minutes of duty (instead of the planned 45) when he has a key league match against Real Salt Lake tonight—this was a great night for the U.S. league.

MLS All Stars 3, Chelsea 2: Highlights

As we said the other day, the MLS All-Star Game is a different animal when Alex Ferguson and mighty Man U are involved. The Red Devils manager pointed his side’s summer U.S. tour toward the game for two years running, and the results reflected that.

Enter Chelsea (or reenter; they played the ASG in 2006), the reigning UEFA Champions League titlists, who took a less single-minded approach to the event, and add a well-balanced, talented team of MLS stars, and you get an entertaining night of soccer.

Take a look:

How about Jay DeMerit’s tackle at about the 1:50 mark? He was a beast all game, and as Martin Rennie, his coach in Vancouver, said recently, “If Jay DeMerit can’t make the U.S. team, then they must be very strong indeed at centerback.” The Rise and Shine star is back in form, and he deserves a look from Jurgen Klinsmann.

DC United midfielder Chris Pontius also had a good night, scoring the tying goal and winning the game MVP award, and San Jose wingbacks Steven Beitashour and Justin Morrow—aka the $44,100-men—didn’t look the least bit out of place facing Chelsea’s millionaires.

All in all, a fun 90 minutes in Philly, and a solid night for the league. Here’s a bonus clip of Thierry Henry talking to Jimmy Conrad, postgame:

Adidas MiCoach Debuts in MLS All-Star Game Tonight

The debut of “smart soccer” is nearly upon us. In a few minutes, the MLS All Stars will kick off against reigning European champions Chelsea, and each player will be wearing data-tracking technology between his shoulder blades.

The equipment will transmit each player’s on-field metrics to his coach on the sideline, in real time.

SB Nation filed a report today on the landmark technology. Take a look:

It’s a brave new world.

As for the game, we like this MLS linuep: Wondolowski and Henry up top, trailed by a midfield of De Ro, Osvaldo Alonso, Beckham and Donovan. The backline is De Merit and Aurelien Collin in the middle and Justin Morrow and Steven Beitashour on the flanks.

Not bad. Morrow and Beitashour are not experienced, but they are both talented and on the rise. This will be a great test for them.

MLS All-Star Game Preview: How Alex Ferguson Changed the League’s Midseason Showcase

The MLS All-Star Game has historically been the most watchable midseason showcase, by far, among North American professional sports.

We made this point a couple years back, and though it still stands, the game has changed slightly in its past two editions, for one simple reason: Manchester United coach Alex Ferguson is a competitive S.O.B.

Back in 2005, when MLS started inviting European clubs to play in its All-Star Game, the sides were well-matched: A decent-to-excellent European club comes over in preseason form to play a friendly against a hastily composed team of Major League Soccer’s best players.

The European side was still  in preparation mode, and the U.S.-based side had never played together before. But both teams were motivated to win and put on a show, and the combination worked to produce a worthwhile event. It even stoked some MLS pride as the All-Stars reeled off wins against Fulham, Chelsea, Celtic, and West Ham from 2005 to ’08.

After the 2009 game versus Everton ended in a 1-1 draw, Manchester United came calling. Now it’s one thing for Fulham or even Chelsea to lose to the MLS All-Stars in a preseason exhibition, but for a global brand like Man U—and a prideful Scot like Ferguson—that just wouldn’t do. Especially as Man U’s presence alone ensured the game would have a higher profile. The scoreline had to reflect Man U’s status in the soccer universe, and therefore, the team would gear its preseason preparation toward the ASG to a far greater extent than previous European participants.

There was something else, too: On July 25, 2010, three days before they would compete in the All-Star Game, Ferguson’s boys lost 2-1 to the Kansas City Wizards in front of 52,342 fans at Arrowhead Stadium. They didn’t play all of their starters, but you can bet the boss didn’t enjoy the experience, full-strength or not.

The upshot was that Man U came in to that year’s ASG in front of 70,728 fans at Houston’s Reliant Stadium raring to go. Their near in-season condition upset the balance we mentioned above: Now they had a cohesion and sharpness that the MLS All-Stars, convened just two days earlier, couldn’t match.

The result was a 5–2 romp for the visiting giants, and when they were invited back the following year, Ferguson had this to say:

“We’re delighted to have been invited to play the MLS All-Star Game for the second year running. Last year’s game was a special occasion in front of a noisy, passionate crowd.  Obviously we’ll be looking to repeat the performance and the scoreline, but it will be a great spectacle for everyone involved.”

Emphasis ours, but Ferguson’s choice of words, regarding an exhibition game, was telling. Sure enough, Man U ran off 4-0 winners in the 2011 game—even though the match was more competitive, especially in the first half, than the scoreline suggested.

So this year the league has invited Chelsea, reigning Champions League titlists, and the Blues have brought all of their big guns, from John Terry and Frank Lampard to Fernando Torres and David Luiz, along with new signings Marko Marin and Eden Hazard.

What form are they in? Well, they’ve dispatched Seattle 4-2 and tied PSG 1-1 so far on this tour, but they substituted freely in both games and some players, including Torres, have only just drifted in to join the U.S. tour. But they’ll be taking the game seriously, and coach Roberto Di Matteo told the MLS website he’ll keep the team’s core on the field for the bulk of the 90 minutes. Chelsea will also want to maintain the standard their hated Premier League rivals have set for the game.

As for the MLS team, they’ll trot out Thierry Henry, Landon Donovan, David Beckham, and Dwayne De Rosario, but they’ll have just one day of preparation with the full team.

Kickoff is at 8:55 ET tomorrow, and TV coverage begins at 8:30 on ESPN2.

Will Ferrell Meets Petr Cech, Offers Helmet Upgrade

Chelsea FC is in the midst of a preseason tour of the United States—they’ll face the MLS All Stars tomorrow night in Philadelphia—and last week they met up with Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis in a Seattle hotel.

Ferrell did not forget to bring the funny:

The Blues knocked off the Seattle Sounders 4-2 last Wednesday before heading to New York, where they tied Paris St. Germain 1-1 in the first soccer game played at the new Yankee Stadium (the old one has a long history of hosting footy, including being the home stadium for the New York Cosmos in 1971 and ’76).

After taking on the MLS side tomorrow night, the reigning European champions will head to Miami’s Sun Life Stadium for a scrimmage with AC Milan.

Prediction for that one: Plenty of heat and humidity.

Tim Cahill Headed to Red Bulls?

The New York club has not confirmed it yet, but Everton’s website is reporting that the Toffees have agreed to a transfer to MLS and the Red Bulls for veteran Australian attacker Tim Cahill.

Cahill, 32, didn’t have a great season at Everton last year, but he produced nine goals and four assists in 27 league appearances in 2010-11, and he established himself as a dangerous attacking threat in his eight seasons with the Merseyside club.

He’s also a mainstay with the Australian national team, having scored 24 goals in 55 appearances for his country.

If confirmed, the transfer would give the Red Bulls the most dangerous attacking corps in MLS. They’re already second in the league in goals per game, with Thierry Henry (10 goals, six assists), Kenny Cooper (13 goals, one assist), Sebastien Le Toux (five goals, two assists), and Joel Lindpere (three goals, four assists) leading the way.

Adding a player of Cahill’s ability to this group, which also includes Dax McCarty—who’s enjoying arguably the best season of his career—Rafa Marquez, rising youngster Connor Lade, and, when he returns from injury, experienced Finnish international Teemu Tainio, would firmly establish the Red Bulls as Eastern Conference and MLS Cup favorites.

If their backline can stay healthy and consistent, the Red Bulls could finally acquire something for their heretofore empty trophy case.

Is this the Best Goal Thierry Henry Has Ever Scored for New York?

Backpost reader and prolific yellow card collector RefBaiter says no way, but we are giving the Frenchman’s strike in yesterday’s 1-0 win over Chicago some serious consideration. The first touch off the chest that creates space for the shot, the clutch factor (it was a game-winner) and the incredible volley in off the far post. Take a look:

That’s a pretty damn good goal. We can think of a few others that rival it in Henry’s short MLS career, and have included them below. Let us know in the comments if you think any of them is better than yesterday’s strike.

September 11, 2010, vs Colorado. The set-up is what makes this one brilliant. He backheels the ball to Joel Lindpere to keep the play alive, then lulls Colorado defender Kosuke Kimura before baiting him into a lunge and absolutely exploding by him on the give-and-go. Magic:

July 23, 2011, vs FC Dallas. A great piece of individual skill that was also clutch: It lifted to New York into a tie in the waning moments:

October 1, 2011, vs Toronto FC. The touch to turn away from TFC defender Andy Iro = so skillful. The finish = deadly. Also: an 88th-minute equalizer = clutch:

Those were the Henry golazos we could recall. Did we miss one? Which do you think is the best? Let us know in the comments.

And whatever you think, one thing is clear: Henry may have had some discipline issues in his Red Bulls career, but he has delivered the goods as a player.

Vancouver 2, Los Angeles 2: Galaxy’s 18-Year-Old American Jose Villareal Rips Dramatic Late Equalizer

The Whitecaps and the Galaxy staged a thriller last night in front of a sold-out crowd at BC Place in Vancouver. Galaxy Homegrown Player Jose Villareal struck a sweet goal in the 87th minute to lift his side into a 2-2 draw after they’d trailed 2-0 for 80 minutes.

David Beckham started the comeback in the 81st minute, taking a layoff from Landon Donovan and punching a shot that deflected past Vancouver keeper Joe Cannon to make it 2-1.

Vancouver’s 20-year-old Ghanian midfielder Gershon Koffie opened the scoring in the 18th minute, on a play that began with a Beckham turnover. Koffie finished the counterattack by sidestepping a defender and rolling a left-footer past Josh Saunders from 18 yards.

Scottish international Barry Robson made it 2-0 in the 27th minute, heading in Y.P. Lee’s cross for the first goal of his MLS career. He would come very close to scoring again on two other occasions as the teams went full tilt down the stretch.

Highlights right here:

The rally kept fifth-place LA within four points of fourth-place Vancouver in the Western Conference standings.

Terrence Boyd Gets Ready for the New Season with Two Audacious Bicycle Kicks

The U.S. international striker signed with Rapid Vienna during the offseason, and the change appears to have done him good.

Here he is firing not one but two bicycle kicks just seconds apart against Roma (and fellow U.S. international and recent transferee Michael Bradley) in a preseason friendly yesterday:

Well, that was pretty gnarly. (The fact that the two attempts came so close together probably explains Boyd‘s celebration on the goal, which would have been a little excessive if it had been just the one bike in a preseason friendly and all.)

Vienna won the game 2-1.

MLS Goal of the Week Candidates

Variety was the name of the MLS goal-scoring game this week, as the golazos came in several forms.

Are you a fan of slick, one-touch passing? Check out the build-up to Toronto rookie Luis Silva’s finish against New England (that’s Reggie Lambe and Danny Koevermans with the combination play there).

How about gravity-defying vertical leaps? Vancouver’s Darren Mattocks, also a rookie, has you covered with a Spud Webb–like leap to connect with Jordan Harvey’s cross against Toronto earlier in the week.

Or maybe you enjoy deadly, looping, long-range accuracy? The first of David Beckham’s two goals against Portland showcased those qualities—and we have a feeling the goal-of-the-week voters will appreciate them. (The “bend” in “bend it like Beckham,” by the way, is as much up-and-down as it is side-to-side.)

Here are all five:

For our recap of all the Week 19 action, click here.