MLS All-Stars vs. Chelsea: 6 Bold Predictions
It's mid-July, and that can only mean one thing for MLS.
The time has come once again when they assemble the All-Star team for one of the most fun All-Star games in America.
Unlike so many other sports, where these meaningless games find an amassed group of talent with no worthy adversary, MLS is never starved for quality opponents.
On a yearly basis, the timing of their All-Star game coincides with preseason tours of some of the finest squads in the world.
This season, the soccer gods have seen fit to lure in Chelsea, still freshly minted from being crowned as slightly miraculous Champions League winners.
And regardless of the manner of their victory, Chelsea have been busy all summer, adding and subtracting players.
What remains for the Londoners is a stacked lineup.
For MLS, it will be another amazing opportunity to showcase the league and its finest players.
For the fans, it should be fun to watch. Here are some predictions for the upcoming clash.
An MLS Defender Will Score
As much as MLS is an All-Star team, they're also likely to be heavy underdogs.
Possession will probably flow mostly Chelsea's way, and as such, opportunities for goals will be few for the home side.
With that in mind, it may come to a set piece for MLS. And on set pieces, defenders are sometimes the best targets for crosses.
There is no shortage of possible candidates in these situations. Jay Demerit, likely to start, is experienced in playing against an English opponent (albeit lower leagues).
And Aurelien Collin, who hasn't scored this season but has collected two goals a season for as long as I can remember, might get off the mark on this big occasion.
Eden Hazard Will Hit the Post for Chelsea
I know it seems like a bizarre prediction, but something like this is bound to happen, and it might as well be the new guy.
Hazard, the two time League 1 Player of the Year, will be making one of his first appearances for Chelsea since his summer switch from Lille.
And while the immensely talented Belgian can score from almost any situation, I'm banking on him coming as close to scoring without actually scoring.
Chelsea will be dominant, but forcing a breakthrough might be tougher than they suppose, and Hazard will play a role in this by cracking the woodwork.
David Beckham Will Get a Card
MLS fans are aware that Beckham hasn't exactly been on his best behavior of late, earning a dubious one-game suspension for petulantly drilling multiple San Jose Earthquakes players with the ball before the whistle for a free kick had gone.
And also there's the matter of his Team GB snub, which has left the veteran celebrity-turned-soccer star smarting.
He hasn't seemed to be in the best of moods lately, and that could continue against Chelsea.
Of course, it doesn't hurt that he'll be playing a team that was a rival of his old mates in Manchester.
Frank Lampard Will Also Get a Card
When people think of Frank Lampard, they see an actual Englishman with some style.
He's always been not merely a playmaker, but a prolific midfield goal scorer.
That said, Lampard is also prone to Beckham-esque shortages of temper.
MLS is not quite as combative a league as the EPL, yet the MLS All-Stars know that the pride of their league is at stake in this competition.
They will not simply roll over, and as a result, the game might not have the demeanor of a typical preseason friendly where Chelsea's opponent is just "happy to be there."
Lamps could get caught up in this, and he could be a mistimed tackle away from a card.
The Game Will Come Down to Penalties
Chelsea will undoubtedly be the stronger side, but I think MLS will put up a solid fight.
They will make it a protracted battle, and Chelsea, immersed as they are in preseason training, might not have the legs to separate themselves.
This means penalties in the end, the cruelest of tie-breakers that coincidentally is one of the most exciting for the fans.
(And yes, I know the above picture is of Ashley Cole kicking that penalty. Sorry, England fans, I couldn't resist. I know he's supposed to be "good" at penalties, but I was never more confident that a player would miss than when "Cashley" stepped up for his. But I digress.)
Romelu Lukaku Will Hit the Winning Penalty
The often overlooked Belgian youngster was a largely forgotten man last season at Stamford Bridge.
No one doubts his potential, though, and preseason tours like this are usually great showcases for future stars (which I believe Lukaku is).
It doesn't take too much talent to hit a penalty, but I think he'll be in the game at that point, and Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo will want to test him with the fifth penalty to see what he's made of.
The teenager will come through in style and nail it, gifting Chelsea a narrow victory over MLS.
It should be a fantastic game, I can't wait!