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.

Highlights: Davies’ First Intrasquad Scrimmage with D.C.

U.S. striker Charlie Davies played all 60 minutes of D.C. United’s Red vs Black training-camp scrimmage today. He made a mark early, helping to set up the Red team’s first goal by pressuring keeper Steve Cronin into a poor clearance that Brandon Barklage pounded home for a 1-0 lead.

Davies later crossed nicely for Chinese international Yang Men, whose header was kept out by Cronin.

Highlights here:

After the session, D.C. coach Ben Olsen was predictably guarded regarding Davies, saying, “We need to see more. This was a good first day, but we will continue to look at [Davies] over the next week.”

United has two preseason friendlies scheduled for Monday. They’ll play the Canada U-20 national team in the morning, and Florida International University in the afternoon.

Good things Come in … Fives: Weekend Trackback

Yeah, we fell down a hole over the Thanksgiving Day weekend. A combination of Pinot noir and tryptophan made us a little groggy, and we never saw it.

But we’ve climbed out, and we’re ready to play catch-up.

For our take on the busy first week of the MLS offseason, including the Expansion Draft, the multiple trades, and the massive occasion coming up on Thursday, check out our column at the league website, right here.

(It was up on the site Monday morning as usual but, like we said, we were in a predicament like this the past few days.)

We’re happy to announce that we’ll continue writing over there through the offseason, so please keep checking it, maybe Facebook-liking it, etc., etc.

All right, let’s jump back in, starting with a side trip out of our jurisdiction: Barcelona’s 5-0 demolition of mighty Real Madrid yesterday.

It’s probably not a stretch to say that this was a display of historic proportions. Barcelona scored their first goal after stringing more than 30 consecutive passes together, and their second following a 21-pass sequence. Against Real Madrid, the most expensive team in the world—not Malaga or Getafe, or Seattle Sounders FC. (No offense to those three, but…you get the point.)

Here are the highlights, but isolated replays—like words—do not do this game justice. You had to see the way Barcelona knocked it around for those stunningly long stretches to really appreciate this one. The phrase The Beautiful Game was coined for displays like yesterday’s:

There was another five-goal outburst produced in the past few days, by a single player—Manchester United’s Dimitar Berbatov.

The lanky Bulgarian joined Alan Shearer, Andy Cole, and Jermain Defoe as the only players ever to score five in a Premier League game, pulling off the feat in the Red Devils’s 7-1 romp over Blackburn on Saturday.

He struck his first just 72 seconds into the game, and found the net again in the 27th, 47th, 61st, and 69th minutes. He would’ve added a sixth if not for a great save by Blackburn keeper Paul Robinson.

The win put Man U in first place for the first time all season as Chelsea tied Newcastle 1-1 to fall off the pace, and continue a recent dip in form.

Arsenal thumped Brad Friedel and Aston Villa 4-2 to pull even with the Blues, two points behind Man U.

Back in MLS, DC United stripped the ‘interim’ tag from Ben Olsen’s job title, and made him the youngest head coach in league history at 33. The former Black and Red midfielder hopes to turn around the team with the worst record in the league in 2010.

Finally, former President Bill Clinton, the Honorary Chairman for the U.S. 2022 World Cup bid, lays out the case for bringing the tournament back to the States. Click here to read.

The 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosting duties will be awarded on Thursday morning (Fox Soccer Channel, 9:30, EST).

Onalfo out at D.C. United

D.C. United dismissed coach Curt Onalfo on Tuesday, replacing him with assistant Ben Olsen, who takes the top job on an interim basis.

The Red and Black—who have never before dismissed a coach during a season—have the league’s worst record at 3-12-3.

For Onalfo’s comments on the move to the Washington Post, click here.

Reaction from team president Kevin Payne, Olsen, and D.C. attackers Santino Quaranta and Jaime Moreno below:

Bye Bye Benny

Twelve years and nine ankle surgeries were enough for the D.C. United midfielder.

Ben Olsen held a presser in D.C. yesterday to make his retirement official. Backpost remembers when Olsen went to Nottingham Forest back in the day, on a loan deal from D.C. He excelled immediately, became a fan favorite, and appeared well on his way to bigger and better things in Europe. But then an ankle fracture (after an ankle injury in DC that had caused him to miss much of the second half of that MLS season) derailed his European Vacation.

He was still in his early 20s, so you wouldn’t necessarily have guessed that ankle injuries would dog him for the rest of his career. Unfortunately, they did, but he produced a fine career nonetheless, transforming himself from a speedy, tricky winger into an intelligent, tenacious central midfielder who was also United’s team leader. Olsen was the minister (he’s licensed for it) at former DC and current RSL goalkeeping hero Nick Rimando’s wedding, and teammate Santino Quaranta has credited Olsen with helping him during his  battles with drug addiction.

Olsen was MLS Rookie of the Year in 1997, MLS Cup MVP in ’99, and a Best XI selection in 2007. He earned 37 caps for the U.S., and was a member of the 2000 Olympic team as well as the 2006 World Cup team.