Preamble: Good evening and welcome to what promises to be an exciting evening filled with great football, intrigue and dra—what's that you say? It's a meaningless friendly? Oh. Well, then I can promise that there will at least be football. Beyond that, I don't know.
Tonight's match is coming to you from the crown jewel of MLS stadiums, Salt Lake's Rio Tinto. I had the privilege of attending last week's Salt Lake-FC Dallas match and I can assure that there's not a bad seat in the house. Unless you're Jason Kreis and getting a red card for verbally abusing the fourth official.
The MLS squad looks to remain undefeated against foreign opposition, while Everton is honestly probably just looking to get out of Salt Lake without picking up any injuries. Expect MLS to take home another victory.
This match should provide some intrigue though, as Tim Howard returns to face an all-star squad from the league where he got his start. We also get to see if Conor Casey will continue his streak of being lazy and useless against foreign opposition. He started this streak against Brazil in the group stages of the Confederations Cup.
Keller, Cameron, Conde, Marshall, Beckerman, Davis, Holden, Blanco, Casey, Ljungberg, Montero
Howard, Baines, Hibbert, Lescott, Yobo, Cahill, Neville, Osman, Rodwell, Fellaini, Saha
Prediction: I'll take 3-1 to MLS, especially if they get Blanco, Ljungberg and Donovan on the pitch at the same time.
Pregame niceties: Alexi Lalas is proclaiming his love for Tim Howard "...I love him as a man, I love him as a soccer player..." Julie Foudy looks remarkably uncomfortable. We're also treated to a bunch of David Beckham footage...sweet merciful crap. Can't that story just die already?
1 min: And we're off! Everton in white, MLS in blue. A sellout crowd in Salt Lake tonight to watch Everton hoof long balls toward their front line.
3 min: The two sides are just exchanging clearances for now. This is some great football.
5 min: I haven't seen him play too often, but Marouane Fellaini has to have the best hair in football. Puts Kyle Beckerman's white-guy dreads to shame.
6 min: Phil Neville bounces a long throw off Fellaini's cushioned afro, but nothing comes of it. An unpolished start to tonight's match.
8 min: The first shot of the evening is a Tim Cahill half-volley right into the waiting arms of Keller. The crowd got a little quiet for that one, he had way too much time on the ball.
10 min: Afro heads to dreadlocks, offside to MLS.
11 min: An Everton turnover leads to a great chance for MLS, but Conor Casey is whistled for a handball, blowing the best opportunity of the match so far. He did everything right except for, you know, trapping the ball.
13 min: GOOOOOOAAAALLLLLL!!!! Louis "Frosted Tips" Saha takes advantage of a poor turnover by Stuart "Fauxhawk" Holden and fires a shot past Kasey Keller from six yards out. No chance for Keller there, and Holden hangs his head in shame like a dog who's just peed on the carpet.
16 min: An attempt at a through-ball to Casey ends poorly, but it was never really a good idea to ask him to run in the first place. It will be interesting to see how MLS responds to this early deficit.
17 min: Leon Osman with a menacing cross, cleared out for a corner by Wilman Conde. Fellaini's touch on the set piece is far too casual, and Keller takes a goal kick.
18 min: Blanco—who appears to be 57 years old—with a decent through-ball towards Casey. I don't need to tell you how that turns out though.
20 min: A through-ball by Ljungberg to Casey results in a corner kick, even though replay shows that to be the wrong call. Brad Davis to take it, but Yobo heads well clear.
21 min: Loads of fancy passing and possession by the MLS All-Stars results in a blast from distance by White Bob Marley, it deflects off the referee and out for a corner. Looks like MLS has finally figured out this whole possession thing though.
24 min: Keller fires a long punt toward Casey, who lays it off to Montero. Montero tries to chip in a cross, and its deflected out to Blanco who quite surprisingly loses possession. These guys just aren't quite in sync yet.
26 min: Ljungberg takes MLS' first decent shot, low and right to Howard's hands. Still, it had a bit of zip on it.
26 min: GOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAALLLLLL!!!!! Brad Davis equalizes thanks to some great ball control by Conor Casey. He crosses in front of Howard, his cross is flicked on by Stu Holden—making up for his earlier snafu—and the ball falls to Davis in front of a wide open net. Best sequence of the night so far for MLS.
30 min: Blanco is a joy to watch. He's so sure with the ball and is just so damn clever with everything he does. Just as I type that, he tries a ridiculous chip of Tim Howard from 20 yards out, which earns a Dikembe Mutombo finger-wag from the keeper. Priceless.
33 min: Casey is actually making it pretty difficult for me to keep hating him. He's a huge target for the MLS midfielders/defenders, and has shown a pretty decent touch when he hasn't been asked to run. He's like a balder, huskier Adebayor.
34 min: MLS free kick from 35 yards out, with Blanco standing over it. He backs up to midfield to boot it. Shot is on target, but not quick enough to beat T-Ho.
36 min: Conor Casey is whistled for a foul after attempting to bludgeon the Everton defense into submission. Even a CONCACAF ref will call that. Unless somebody does it to an American player.
38 min: Stuart Holden continues to atone for his early sin with a great cross to Conor Casey. Casey does everything right, even hitting it in the opposite direction that Howard was moving, but Howard was good enough to get back and make the save. Great on all counts.
41 min: Another set piece for MLS. Brad Davis takes it, but it's too low. Cleared easily, but another good opportunity. MLS is starting to figure Everton out.
42 min: A great dipping shot toward the far post by Montero forces another great save by Howard. Corner kick to MLS, but Blanco drives it through everybody.
44 min: Everton building now through a series of overlaps and cutbacks, but the final ball lacks the touch of the buildup. Goal kick for Keller.
45 min: Lescott almost rifles in a shot...on his own goal. Geoff Cameron played a great cross in front of the Everton net, and Lescott clears it just over the crossbar.
45+1 min: Cameron is all up in Saha's business. Some great defense there, beating the former Man United player to a pass with some physicality. That's the end of the first half, folks. We're tied at one.
This has actually been a pretty entertaining match. Both teams are playing some great football. The fans are being treated to very accurate passing and some creative play at both ends of the pitch. True to form, the MLS squad is on pace to continue its unbeaten streak.
One element of the match that I didn't cover in the preamble is the altitude. Salt Lake City is almost a mile above sea level, and Everton won't be used to that.
Meanwhile, the MLS squad is stocked with players who have spent time in Salt Lake, Colorado, and played at the Azteca. Guess which side is going to tire first?
Don Garber is the halftime interview, sticking up for David Beckham. I don't get it—how can a player who has put up with so much verbal abuse from fans throughout his career suddenly get such thin skin?
Rob Stone poses the big question—salary cap. Garber gives an answer that really isn't an answer at all. If players were as good on the ball as Garber is at avoiding questions, this league would be the best in the world.
46 min: Some halftime subs for MLS. Thornton, Soumare, Johnson and Donovan on, Keller, Beckerman, Marshall, Montero off. Everton as well, with Yobo making way for Vaughan.
48 min: Holden with a long shot as the MLS side enjoys a 4-on-3 break. Deflects off a defender, but the ball falls to Donovan who keeps the ball alive. It eventually falls to Ljungberg, who whips a shot just wide of the post. I told you Donovan would figure into this match if he was out there with Blanco and Ljungberg.
51 min: A man behind the Everton goal is holding up a sign that says "MLS Refs Worst In The World." Bravo sir, bravo.
53 min: Switching over to justin.tv for the rest of this one because the family would rather watch the Daily Show. Don't they understand the importance of this match?
56 min: Moyes looks to attack, removing Fellaini and his glorious hair in favor of Jo. This game just lost its luster.
57 min: Dangerous set piece for Everton. A cross is whipped in and only just misses being directed in at the back post. That shot had Thornton beat.
59 min: Ljungberg is fouled 30 yards from goal. Brad Davis takes the free kick, and gets his shot over the wall and over the crossbar. That's three points in American football, just a goal kick here.
60 min: Zack Thornton appears to have twisted a knee or an ankle or something important that helps him, um, stand. He's down on one knee and motioning for a sub.
63 min: Kasey Keller is coming back into the match. It's an exhibition folks, don't freak out. More MLS subs: Arnaud, Morales on, Holden, Blanco off.
67 min: Davis fouled on the wing about 35 yards out, and another good chance for MLS. Ljungberg plays a cross out to the wing, and the resulting shot goes off Howard's fingertips for a corner.
69 min: The match has slowed down a bit, and I for one am terribly disappointed by Blanco's substitution. He's so much fun to watch and probably would have created a second goal for the MLS.
70 min: Morales draws a free kick for the MLS 20 yards from goal. This should be dangerous for Everton. Davis and Morales over the ball...
71 min: Morales takes the shot, but once again, nothing comes of an MLS set piece. I bet Blanco would have made something happen.
74 min: Howard scoops up another MLS cross. He's looked really solid between the sticks tonight, a world-class keeper.
75 min: DONOVAN! A gorgeous cross by Ljungberg finds Donovan one-on-one against Howard. Donovan beats his compatriot, but can't beat the post. That was almost a great moment.
77 min: Everton sub: Baxter in, Saha out.
79 min: Conor Casey continues to show decent touch for a big man, sort of like a slightly shorter, notably fatter Peter Crouch.
80 min: Now we've got our first booking of the match, as Rodwell is shown yellow for taking down Ljungberg from behind.
82 min: Everton with a free kick on the left wing. Jo meets the cross with a diving header, but puts it over the bar. Great effort, but not great enough.
83 min: Brad Davis with a good chipped ball to Davy Arnaud, but Lescott clears for a corner. Davis to kick.
84 min: The ball falls to Casey's feet, and he puts it on net. Howard is beaten, but Baxter is there to clear off the line. Great play from the youngster.
86 min: Ljungberg is taken down once again. He's been quite dangerous tonight. We've got four minutes plus stoppage time to go, and then penalties if necessary. I sincerely hope that they aren't.
88 min: Javier Morales has picked up a limp. Perhaps Conor Casey tried to eat his leg.
89 min: Baxter is scythed down just 30 yards from goal. Everton could snag a late winner here, but they probably won't. Quick restart, but Keller is up to the task.
90 min: Three minutes of stoppage time. Nobody wants penalties. Nobody.
90+2 min: Davis with a gorgeous lofted cross to Davy Arnaud, who dives to make contact with his head. Howard with yet another fantastic save to keep the MLS side at bay. Just a minute left.
Full time: And we've got penalties! Conor Casey had a chance there at the end with an Everton defender draped all over him, but his touch wasn't great. Howard was quick to pick the ball up off Casey's feet.
Is it too late to change my prediction?
PK round one: MLS should sign Bruce Grobbelaar to a 20-minute contract so they can win this thing.
James Vaughan steps up for Everton. High, wide and not at all handsome. Not even close, etc.
Donovan tucks his shot neatly into the lower corner. 1-0 to MLS.
PK round two: I've never seen anybody miss as badly as Vaughan.
Jo for Everton. Saved by Keller! This is bad for Everton.
Brad Davis—my Man of the Match—for the MLS. Saved by Howard! Still 1-0 to the US.
PK round three: Two great saves in that last round.
Leighton Baines for Everton. Freezes Keller, and puts his shot into the top of the net.
Davy Arnaud is up next for MLS. Saved by Howard! We're tied at 1-1 here.
PK round four: Howard looks great here.
Phil Neville is up for Everton. Keller gets his hands to it, but Neville's shot is too strong and ends up in the side netting.
Johnson steps up, and wrongfoots Howard. We're even at two apiece.
PK round five: Tense, very tense.
Lescott for Everton with Keller going the wrong way.
It's all on Conor Casey. He must score, and he does! Casey takes it quickly, and Howard guesses right but it's too close to the post for Howard to reach.
PK round six
Rodwell sticks his shot in on the post.
Ljungberg in a must-score situation, and Howard saves it!
Ljungberg opted for placement over power, and Howard made him pay. There's your Man of the Match right there, and the MLS streak comes to an end.
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