Bayern Munich vs. MLS All-Stars: What Pep Guardiola Learned in Portland
Bayern Munich were dealt their first defeat of the 2014-15 preseason on Thursday in what was their final match before next week's DFL-Superpokal clash with Borussia Dortmund. The German giants saw an early lead over the MLS All-Stars overturned in the second half as the American selection claimed the spoils of their friendly match in Portland, Oregon, with a 2-1 victory.
Pep Guardiola welcomed back many of Bayern's World Cup stars, including Thomas Muller, Mario Gotze, Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger. The aforementioned and more rejoined the team in the hours leading up to kick-off and several played, although Schweinsteiger was forced off early due to an injury.
The vice-captain's injury and result of the match will have had a sobering effect on Bayern after what was an otherwise strong preseason campaign. Click "Begin Slideshow" for a closer look at the most important talking points from the match.
Bayern's World Cup Stars Face a Struggle for Fitness Before Season Begins
Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Manuel Neuer, Mario Gotze, Thomas Muller, Jerome Boateng, Arjen Robben and Dante rejoined the Bayern squad on Wednesday, just hours before kickoff. The octet of World Cup stars missed nearly all of the preseason on extended vacation following international duty in Brazil.
Dante and Neuer came on for the last 28 minutes; Gotze, Muller, Lahm and Schweinsteiger for just the final 11. All were, as could be expected, well short of any semblance of fitness required to play competitive football.
Bayern's first competitive match of the 2014-15 season, the DFL-Superpokal, is just seven days away; less than that considering their flight to Munich will put them nine hours ahead in addition to the actual length of the flight. Factor in the inevitable jet lag, and Bayern will only have a few days of normal training before the Superpokal kicks off.
The lack of minute by Bayern's starters will come as welcome news to the likes of Tom Starke and other Bayern players who have been trying to make an appeal for more playing time. But for Guardiola, it means only an abbreviated squad.
Natural Center-Backs May Be Useful
Bayern weren't exactly under constant bombardment on Thursday, but they conceded two goals that could have been avoided.
Guardiola used a three-man defense that from the start included no natural center-backs: It consisted of a left-back (David Alaba), a right-back (Rafinha) and a holding midfielder (Javi Martinez). Later, natural center-back Dante came in to play at the back with Martinez moving higher up the pitch.
For the All-Stars' equalizer, Bradley Wright-Philipps found space between Alaba and Rafinha after Martinez had been drawn forward to contend for a header he lost. For the winner, Landon Donovan simply found space behind Rafinha and shrugged off his opponent's weak challenge before finishing.
Both goals were avoidable had stronger, more physically imposing and more positionally savvy, natural center-backs been used. Guardiola's anti-center-back plan was badly exposed.
Using Players Without Any Training Can Have Catastrophic Consequences
Guardiola refused to shake hands with any member of the All-Stars after the game, presumably in protest of an ankle injury Schweinsteiger sustained due to a harsh challenge.
In fairness, the Bayern coach only has himself to blame. He didn't have to declare Schweinsteiger or any of his returning Germany, Brazil or Netherlands stars fit for the bench, much less healthy enough to play a part in Thursday's game.
Schweinsteiger landed in Portland just hours before kick-off and hadn't played football for nearly a month. To use him at all was to tempt fate. Guardiola can now only hope the mistake of using his vice-captain will not cost the player much playing time this season.