The 2013 AT&T Major League Soccer All-Star Game is taking place in Kansas City on Wednesday night with the MLS All-Stars set to take on Italian side AS Roma.
Bleacher Report had the opportunity to speak with MLS All-Stars Kyle Beckerman and Chris Wondolowski, as well as MLS commentator Alexi Lalas. They spoke about the MLS All-Star Game and the United States men’s national team’s recent success at the 2013 Gold Cup while they were preparing to meet fans in Kansas City at a local AT&T store.
Bleacher Report: Kyle - Congrats on winning the Gold Cup. Everyone seemed to be really impressed with your play in the tournament—what do you attribute that to?
Kyle: “I think it was just a good, overall team performance. I think we all were really fighting for each other and we had a goal in mind, and that was to win the Gold Cup. When we all put our minds to it—when you look at the quality of players that were there—when we put all that together, it worked really well.”
B/R: Kyle - Coming off such a strong individual performance, how are you feeling about your chances to make the 2014 World Cup roster?
Kyle: “I don’t know—a year is a long time in any professional sport. A lot of things can happen, so I don’t think I can look that far ahead. I think all of us that were in the Gold Cup helped our chances to continue in the process. All we can do is keep at it, keep working hard and keep winning.”
B/R: Chris - Congratulations to you as well on winning the Gold Cup and the Golden Boot. What do you think helped you personally be so successful in front of goal this tournament?
Chris: “I think it was just a good combination—I felt very relaxed, very confident in my abilities. The players around me were unbelievable, and Kyle had a couple of assists and playing up top with Landon Donovan makes a forward’s job a little easier.”
B/R: Chris - After scoring five goals in the group stage and playing in every group-stage game and the first two knockout rounds, were you disappointed you missed out on the Gold Cup final?
Chris: “You always want to play and be a part of it and help out any way you can. But, it was amazing to win the Cup and be a part of that whole team. That’s what makes it worthwhile.”
B/R: Alexi – Obviously, the U.S. had a pretty good performance. Is there anybody in particular that really helped out their World Cup hopes?
Alexi: “I think that Chris [Wondolowski] came in and scored goals, which was important because there was a question as to whether he could do it at the international level. It remains to be seen whether he can do it consistently against better competition, but I think when you come in and score goals—as a goal scorer—that’s important. I don’t think he hurt his cause.
Obviously, a lot of people are going to talk about Landon [Donovan] and what he did. It was wonderful to see, but I certainly didn’t need a Gold Cup to prove to me that he was a good player. He was a good player before the Gold Cup.
I don’t think a lot of players, other than the ones who have already been with the full team, the “A” team, if you will, emerged that are going to be looked at as potential starters. But, I do think that the depth and the success of the team is good. It will give Jurgen Klinsmann some different options going forward. I don’t think anybody necessarily hurt their cause. Individually, being associated with the Gold Cup-winning team never hurt anybody.”
B/R: Alexi – Was there anybody you were hoping to see a little more of?
Alexi: “I think that seeing Stuart Holden back playing soccer, certainly not at the level he was at before he got injured, was great. It’s obviously devastating for him and for those of us who want to see him back playing with the injury that he had in the final.
Jack McInerney not playing at all was interesting. For a young player, it was important for him to come in and see what it’s all about because it is a very different type of existence and environment. At least he got a little exposure. You take it slowly with him and, to be quite honest, the U.S. can afford to do it because they have other players that are more productive right now. It’s a nice situation to be in to have a young player that can emerge in the future.”
B/R: Alexi – What did you think about Klinsmann’s decision to stick with [Clarence] Goodson and not play Omar Gonzalez in the semifinals or finals?
Alexi: “I think he [Klinsmann] knows what he has with Omar and I think he knows what he has with that pairing with Besler, so I think it was a strategic play to provide a little consistency and to look at a different option in terms of the back two. I still think it’s Omar’s job to lose, but certainly Goodson did a very good job playing individually and also in giving Jurgen Klinsmann the confidence to play him next to Matt. It provides pressure on Omar to keep that spot when they get back together and gives Jurgen Klinsmann something to hang his hat on if the time comes when he needs to make a change because of injury or needs to make a change because of the way the players are playing.
He will have this touchstone to be able to look and say ‘Hey, they [Besler and Goodson] were able to play together in games that meant something and be successful.”
B/R: Kyle - Switching over to the MLS All-Star Game, how are you feeling about facing off against Michael Bradley tomorrow night?
Kyle: “He’s a great player, and especially playing with AS Roma, they’re a great squad. It’s going to be a battle, but we’re looking forward to our task.”
B/R: You guys spend the whole year battling against each other in MLS. Is there anybody you guys are excited to play with tomorrow night instead of competition against?
Kyle: “Yeah, I think it’s awesome. I’m sick of having to follow around Wondo and worry about him scoring. All these guys, when you do your video session the day before the game to get ready for them, they’re all the main focus for the game the next day. It’s really cool to be able to play with guys with this much quality. Every guy in the camp has got quality.
What I’m really enjoying is getting to see some of the players that aren’t on the [U.S.] national team, like [Marco] Di Vaio and [Thierry] Henry. To get to see them day in and day out has been a lot of fun rather than playing against them. Everybody is doing a really good job.”
Chris: “As a forward, I’m looking forward to Marco Di Vaio and Thierry Henry and Camilo [Sanvezzo] because I haven’t played with them. I’m looking forward to the opportunity. I think it’s really cool to meet these guys off the field because as amazing players as they are on it, they’re even better guys off the field. That’s a cool aspect an All-Star Game can bring.”
B/R: Alexi – What are you looking forward to tomorrow for the All-Star Game?
Alexi: “There’s going to be a lot of talk about Michael Bradley, not only because he’s a great player, but his connection to MLS. He’s a player who’s lived the entire cycle and process of coming through MLS and how that relates to the league.
Here in Kansas City—I played here a long time ago—to see the change that’s happened with this organization, this brand, the sport and the community with professional soccer, it’s night and day. It’s just wonderful. And I’d like to see them [MLS] win. These All-Star Games don’t change the perception of the world, but it’s still a nice feather in the cap and still a nice little message to send out, not just domestically, but internationally, that we can beat good teams. It’s a wonderful advertisement and hopefully no one gets hurt."
B/R: Alexi – What’s your prediction?
Alexi: “I predict the MLS All-Stars will win 3-1.”
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