MLS All-Stars face Bayern Munich at Providence Park
Portland, OR (SportsNetwork.com) - Major League Soccer's best and brightest will take on legendary German club Bayern Munich at Providence Park on Wednesday in the latest installment of the MLS All-Star Game.
It will be the 10th successive All-Star Game in which the cream of the crop in MLS will take on an international club team. But not only is Bayern the first German club to compete in the mid-summer classic, but it joins AS Roma - last year's opponent - in the distinction of being the only two European teams from outside Great Britain to participate.
The league has produced a 5-4-0 record in the All-Star Game since MLS reverted back to the format that pitted the All-Stars against an international club, but league has managed just one win since its 3-2 defeat of West Ham United in 2008.
Many have questioned the motivation of the players involved in such a match, but Red Bull New York midfielder and MLS All-Star Tim Cahill underlined the team's desire to stay competitive against some of the world's best players.
"I think it's very important, purely because of the fact of giving back to the fans, and at the same time testing out the quality of the league," Cahill told reporters on Monday. "I feel if you want to grow as a league, you really have to represent it on an international level playing against one of the best teams in the world and great caliber. For me, it's all about playing football against the best and this is the opportunity."
Roma cruised to a 3-1 defeat of the All-Stars last year, and things will not get much easier against a Bayern side that is littered with Germany internationals on the back of a triumphant display at this summer's World Cup.
Not only will the likes of Manuel Neuer, Jerome Boateng, Mario Gotze, Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thomas Muller and Arjen Robben return to action from an extended break following World Cup action, but the reigning Bundesliga champions will fill out the All-Star Game roster with an embarrassment of riches.
Franck Ribery missed France's World Cup campaign with a back injury, so the 31-year-old will be looking to work his way back to full fitness in preparation for the new season. Ribery's status in the professional ranks was cemented by MLS All-Star Thierry Henry, who heaped praise on his compatriot in a press conference on Monday.
"Nowadays I find it to be annoying sometimes that people don't give a lot of credit to guys that are unselfish," Henry said about his former France teammate. "For me Franck represents that. He's very unselfish on the field and tries to play for his team. Whenever he can pass the ball even when he can score he'll try to pass it.
"Last year, for me, (Ribery) should've won the Golden Ball, basically because he won everything with Bayern and he was dominant. He's a team player and most of the time in our game we reward guys who are individual and that guy is not."
Bayern boss Pep Guardiola will have a great opportunity to integrate some new players during the All-Star Game.
Polish striker Robert Lewandowski joined the German champions from Borussia Dortmund this summer and figures to be the club's main striker with Mario Mandzukic departing for Atletico Madrid.
Guardiola also has Spanish newcomer Juan Bernat at his disposal. The 21-year- old operates on the left flank either as a winger or left-back but could work in tandem with established defender David Alaba.
The All-Star Game is also a homecoming of sorts for Julian Green.
The 19-year-old winger, who was born in Tampa, FL., is a budding star and has been tabbed as the next great American talent. The world caught a glimpse of Green's abilities in the World Cup when he sliced a brilliant first-time volley into the back of the net in the United States' loss to Belgium in the knockout round, and with the youngster aiming to earn some first-team minutes with Bayern this season, a strong showing in the All-Star Game would certainly aid that goal.
To combat the five-time Champions League winners, the MLS All-Star roster boasts a host of familiar names like Cahill, Henry, Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley, but it also features some up-and-coming players hoping to enhance their reputations.
In addition to Dempsey and Bradley, the MLS All-Star roster includes four other United States internationals that traveled to Brazil for the World Cup.
Matt Besler and Graham Zusi will represent Sporting Kansas City at Providence Park on Wednesday while Real Salt Lake's Nick Rimando figures to be the starting goalkeeper.
Then there is DeAndre Yedlin. The Seattle Sounders defender was one of the breakout stars of the World Cup and has garnered the attention of several top European teams. The MLS All-Star Game will put the 21-year-old in the shop window once more, but it could be one of his final appearances stateside as rumors of a potential move to Roma persist.
The All-Star team will have plenty of attacking players in its arsenal as Bradley Wright-Phillips of Red Bull New York cannot seem to stop scoring. The Englishman leads MLS in scoring with 18 goals but also added some tallies in recent friendly matches.
Just behind Wright-Phillips are Sporting's Dom Dwyer and Chivas USA's Erick Torres, who enter the All-Star Game level in the scoring chart with 14 goals apiece. Dwyer, a late add to the roster, is a tireless worker that could offer a change of pace as a substitute, while Torres, a selection by MLS Commissioner Don Garber, is a strong technical player with close control that could cause Bayern a few problems.
Putting all the puzzle pieces together will be MLS All-Star coach Caleb Porter, but the Portland Timbers boss realizes that getting a positive result in the contest isn't the most important objective.
"You asked ... how you get a team together in a couple of days, and you don't. The best thing you can do is keep it simple." Porter said at his Monday press conference. "I want these players to go back to their clubs healthy."
Aside from escaping the match with no serious injuries, Porter seems poised to employ a proactive strategy similar to the style of play he has championed with the Timbers.
"It's a celebration of these players, their careers," Porter added. "Hopefully we can make it a competitive game and try to make it exciting with a lot of good attacking players, and we're going to attack and make it an exciting game."
08/05 16:00:08 ET