The 20 anniversary of the MLS All-Star game kicked off to a big crowd at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Denver against Tottenham Hotspur, but not before some pre-game pageantry. A giant MLS logo was placed on the pitch held down by worshippers while others brought in huge white balloons featuring all current MLS club logos on them to show just how big and plentiful the balls of MLS have grown. After some all-American fireworks and a stealth bomber fly-over, the game was underway.
All-Stars managed by Pablo Mastroeni: Nick Rimando (GK), Tony Beltran(D), Omar Gonzalez(D), Matt Besler (D), DeMarcus Beasley (D), Dax McCarty (M), Graham Zusi (M), Kaká (M), Gyasi Zardes (M), David Villa (F), Clint Dempsey (F)
Tottenham managed by Mauricio Pochettino: Michel Vorm (GK), Kyle Walker (D), Toby Alderweireld (D), Jan Vertonghen (D), Ben Davies (D), Eric Dier (M), Nabil Bentaleb (M), Mousa Dembélé (M), Christian Eriksen (M), Nacer Chadli (M), Harry Kane (F)
Mysteriously, the goalkeeper chosen to start for the All-Stars is one Nick Rimando who has never even won goalkeeper of the year in MLS. All of the other starters, of course, made perfect sense. The match as a whole was a battle of two sides dealing with handicaps; the All-Stars had never played with one another as a team before, and the Hotspurs played higher than they’re accustomed to. The Hotspurs were coming hot off a 1-0 pre-season victory over Sydney FC in May and the All-Stars from various shameful and glorious mid-season performances.
Early in the first half it seemed Tottenham had the upper hand with MLS struggling to connect passes and string together an offense with the defense chaotic yet effective enough like a can of raid sprayed in panic toward the general direction of a spider. However, glimmers of hope come from Zusi and Dempsey taking shots after capitalizing on defensive misplays by the Spurs. Four corners were given to Tottenham inside just the first 14 minutes, but they failed to convert from any of them. Harry Kane of Tottenham looked dangerous all half with two excellent shots from crosses blocked by the All-Star keeper, Zack Bravado (hard to remember the name of such an unknown player).
Despite the clean, gentlemanly possession by Tottenham, they fail to score first after Kaká converts on a penalty kick in the 20 minute. The penalty was awarded during the first MLS corner kick when Chadli stretched out a muscular arm to deflect the ball. This concession ignited the wheezing lungs of the Hotspurs who immediately try to counter with a beautiful cross from Davis to Kane who shot right in front of the box but was denied by none other than keeper Hank Alfonzo. All half, Tony Beltran owned the right side with great break-up plays and tackles in the back and excellent service and control in the front.
Also ignited by the goal, the All-Stars counter immediately off of this save with a delightful passing sequence from Zardes to Dempsey to Kaká to Villa who precisely deflects the ball past Michel Vorm before he can even utter a cry of anguish. Then 2-0, the All-Stars seem to finally figure it out and began to take very strong defensive and offensive shapes. The Hotspurs hadn’t had enough yet, though, and continued to play. Another strong strike from Kane is blocked by Beck Greedo in the 34 minute. Infuriated, Kane tossed a banana peel under the feet of Besler who slips under a ball directed at him. Kane jumps on the chance and rushes the goal. Not to be made a fool of thrice in a row, he shoots a great ball into the back of the net with too much pace on it for Bravado to stop this time. The first half ends 2-1 All-Stars.
The second half played out much like the first after a wholesale roster change on the part of MLS, and a four-man substitution at the half for Tottenham with six more coming on in the 63 minute. One of these six was the capricious Deandre Yedlin who impressed but did not impact. The half had less pace and action than the first with the All-Stars lacking any midfield presence and the Hotspurs struggling to great through the defensive mist of Raid.
When all was said and done it was the MLS All-Stars 2-1 Tottenham Hotspurs. Castillo and Kamara who came in for MLS impressed with speed, skill, strength, and arrogance, but failed to convert. Tottenham had a few good chances as well during the half, but could not beat Ousted who was suspected by the Hotspurs to actually be Rimando in a mask and platform shoes.b
Ah, yes, Nick Rimando. That’s who it was. Only the single greatest keeper in MLS history who has, yet again, shown his skill and confidence in and out of the net but still seems to lack some of the respect and recognition he deserves. If you can watch a replay of this match, watch Rimando rush out of the box late in the first half, chest down a ball, control it, and clear it out. Name another keeper you’ve seen perform like that. Rimando is a big reason that MLS took this victory over Tottenham. It is also suspected that Mastroeni started the match with Beltran and Rimando of Real Salt Lake because, as Sheryl Crow has taught us, the first cut is the deepest.