In case you missed the announcement, Chelsea will take their talents to Philadelphia on July 25 to compete against the best in MLS at the annual All-Star game.
The two sides battled it out back in 2006 in a game that had the American super-squad come out on top one-nil. But a lot of things have changed since that historic summer day at Toyota Park. Nearly all of the players on that All-Star team are out of the league now, and Chelsea has spent millions of dollars in revamping their squad the last six years.
Plus, the MLS All-Star team has since struggled in their invented competition, losing the last two games to Chelsea-rival Manchester United by a combined score of 9-2. All signs point to another EPL victory on American soil, resulting in MLS fans across the country groaning at the league’s decision to select such a difficult opponent.
But instead of sighing about the future, let’s be optimistic about the contest and imagine the ways the All-Star Team could get back to its winning ways. It might not be as improbable as you think.
First off, let us predict the starting XI that will most likely take the field that Wednesday night for the MLS All-Stars. Remember, this first XI is fan voted, so it is more a popularity list than a legitimate All-Star lineup. Nevertheless, the team has some excellent potential:
- Forwards: Thierry Henry, Chris Wondolowski
- Midfield: Brek Shea, David Beckham, Dwayne De Rosario, Landon Donovan
- Defense: Heath Pearce, Jamison Olave, Aurelien Collin, Sean Franklin
- Goalie: Nick Rimando
Henry is an absolute lock at the top, and one would have to assume that Wondolowski would get the fans’ vote over a star like Robbie Keane or Kris Boyd. Wondolowski is also one of the best-positioned strikers in MLS, and Henry thrives with a hard-working striker by his side. To be honest, there really couldn’t be a more deadly MLS pairing.
As for the midfield, Brek Shea has established himself enough in this league to earn a starting spot on the left. Health prevailing, Donovan should complement him on the symmetrical wing, and Dwayne De Rosario and David Beckham (unless he does indeed get selected to represent GB in the Olympics) should run the middle.
Finally, the defense should boast the likes of Jamison Olave, Aurelien Collin, Sean Franklin and possibly Heath Pearce. The team will surely miss Omar Gonzalez in the middle, but Collin will fill in just fine with Olave as a partner.
Potential subs include Fredy Montero, Kenny Cooper, Robbie Keane, Brad Davis, Seb Le Toux, Rafa Marquez, Graham Zusi and Torsten Frings.
When looking at the roster from front to back, this is a very solid football team. How solid? One that could certainly finish mid-table if it were suddenly placed into the Premier League and was given time to build chemistry.
Keane, Henry and Donovan all recently showed that they have what it takes to really produce at the EPL level. And Shea, De Rosario, Beckham and Wondolowski could all lock down some EPL job if the opportunity was presented to them.
The bench would be no joke, either, with veteran stars like Torsten Frings, Rafa Marquez and Brad Davis, who all are be capable of holding their own on a field full of Chelsea players. Simply put, this year’s team is stronger than ever and very well could be the one to send a message to the rest of the world about their relativity.
Plus, it should be noted that Chelsea is expected to play a friendly against AC Milan a few days later at RFK in front of thousands of fans. Not to say that the team will not go 100 percent in the All-Star game leading up to the gigantic promotional opportunity a few days later, but expecting the full squad for 90 minutes would be foolish.
Simply put, the team Chelsea puts on the field is not going to be the same squad we see take on Barcelona at Camp Nou next week.
Finally, at a quite small PPL Park, the fans should not play as big a role as they have done in past years. In 2011, I was one of the few at Red Bull Arena actually supporting the All-Stars, who were playing in what was practically a "mini Old Trafford" considering the unbalanced fan support.
A smaller stadium, with a very patriotic and supportive fan base, may lead to a more balanced attendance structure and therefore not give Chelsea any sort “home feeling” like United had last year.
So what have we gathered here today? Well, the ideal MLS All-Star lineup would undoubtedly be the most competitive squad ever assembled for the game: a squad that front to back resembles a Villa, West Brom or even Stoke of the Premier League.
Add that enhanced roster with the fact that Chelsea will most likely be playing AC Milan a few days later and PPL Park will be a smaller, less “English” venue, and suddenly an All-Star victory doesn’t seem so outrageous anymore.
I guess the only thing we can do now is wait until the exciting matchup comes upon us. See you all on July 25!