I must admit, in the wake of the World Cup, I’ve become a bit of a soccer snob when it comes to watching MLS. But last nights All-Star game against Bayern Munich, in spite of the near midnight finish here on the east coast that has left me devoid of energy today, was well worth staying up for. Quite honestly, I wasn’t expecting much from the All-Stars and figured they’d be no match for even the Bayern second squad directed by Pep Guardiola.
Several World Cup players, along with the magical Thierry Henry for the All-Star group, started strong. But Bayern quickly took possession of play and jacked up the pace by several notches. It wasn’t long before newly acquired Bayern striker, Robert Lewandowski, proved his world-class status with an awe-inspiring shot that goalkeeper Nick Rimondo could do nothing about. Bayern up 1-0 by the half.
Portland Timbers and All-Star coach, Caleb Porter, replaced all 11 players for the second half. It proved to be a winning combination. In the 50th minute, New York Red Bulls star and MLS leading goal scorer Bradley Wright-Phillips showed everyone what he’s capable of. A stunning left-footed blast to rival Lewandowski’s earlier feat. All tied up, 1-1. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a game. In the 70th minute, Landon Donovan, perhaps still feeling the sting of the summer that wasn’t, found himself on the end of a long ball after his run up the middle and sent it past none other than the number one keeper in the world, (who had come on at the half), Manuel Neuer. Wow.. MLS 2, Bayern 1. (Maybe we could have used Landon at the Cup?)
To the thrill of the crowd, several winners of the World Cup entered the game for Bayern with 10 minutes remaining. Intimidating, and could spell trouble. But it appeared one or two of the all-stars were taking this game much more seriously than Pep and his boys would have liked. A couple rough challenges by the MLS side produced two yellow cards. Not appreciated by Mr. Guardiola, who was on his feet, gesticulating and livid. Bastian Schweinsteiger, the recipient of one of those challenges, simply walked off the field. The end whistle came none too soon for Bayern and Caleb Porter’s hand was left wagging in the air, rejected by Guardiola. After a few more choice words for the center ref, Pep disappeared into the tunnel.
Fortunately, the players were feeling a little more magnanimous and circled the field to the applause of fans. I however, totally lost respect for Pep Guardiola. More significantly, and much to my consternation, I found myself agreeing with Alexi Lalas’ analysis of his behavior. Yikes. If Pep thought that a group of MLS All-Stars was going to go completely soft on the Bundesliga champs, uhm
In addition, if you’re not willing to play the game, don’t come, and, do not collect that handsome paycheck. You made yourself look like a completely disrespectful, pompous ass by not shaking hands with the winning coach. It wasn’t his fault that a player went in hard on a tackle.
What a disappointment. He’s a classy dresser though, gotta give him that.