MLS All-Stars get chance to make state­ment with Real

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

The best team in the world fac­ing off against the lo­cal lads sounds like a recipe for disas­ter - just not when it takes place in the MLS All-Star Game. Then, it’s a show­case. For the 13th straight year, North Amer­ica’s best take on a top in­ter­na­tional team, this time glam­our-boys Real Madrid later at sold-out Sol­dier Field. The game caps a three-day, MLS-styled cel­e­bra­tion of the sport - from matches on the sand at Oak Street beach to star-stud­ded en­dorse­ments of the town’s deep-dish pizza - that had fans in the City of Big Shoul­ders fol­low­ing along with their feet.

The pay­off for those in­side the ven­er­a­ble 61,000-seat sta­dium, co­in­ci­den­tally the site of the in­au­gu­ral match of the 1994 World Cup, will be an em­bar­rass­ment of soc­cer riches. Real’s Cris­tiano Ron­aldo won’t be on hand for what amounts to an­other pre­sea­son friendly, but Ser­gio Ramos, Gareth Bale, Isco, Luka Mo­dric and nearly all the front-lin­ers who helped every im­por­tant club cham­pi­onship in sight, will. They’ll en­counter some fa­mil­iar, if ag­ing, faces across the pitch.

They range from World Cup win­ner, for­mer Ger­man na­tional team and cur­rent Chicago Fire mid­fielder Bas­tian Sch­we­in­steiger, to one-time Real team­mate and Or­lando City play­maker Kaka, as well for­mer Atletico Madrid ri­val and New York City FC striker David Villa. Also fa­mil­iar will be a hand­ful of Amer­i­cans who logged con­sid­er­able time with the U.S. na­tional team and Euro­pean clubs, among them Toronto’s Michael Bradley and Jozy Alti­dore, Hous­ton’s DaMar­cus Beasley and Seat­tle goal­keeper Tim Howard.

Ex­pect a com­pet­i­tive match, even though Real man­ager Zine­dine Zi­dane is ex­pected to reach deep into his bench af­ter the starters played the open­ing 60 min­utes against Barcelona in Mi­ami last Satur­day as part of their pre­sea­son tour. The MLS team has won seven of the pre­vi­ous matches.

“I do not know how the game will go,” said Kaka, “but we have a great team to play a very even match with Real Madrid.” MLS fans chafe at the per­cep­tion the league lags well be­hind their top­tier coun­ter­parts in Europe and want their team to show up once again with some­thing to prove.

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