Wednesday night the MLS All-Stars took to the beautiful Avaya Stadium in San Jose to take on Arsenal.
A showcase of all of the most popular players in Major League Soccer, the match was marked as a friendly but with Arsenal in preseason, players were looking to impress head coach Arsene Wenger. The MLS All-Stars, led by San Jose Earthquakes head coach Dominic Kinnear, featured one Columbus Crew SC player in Wil Trapp who came on at halftime for Kyle Beckerman.
Before we get to Wil’s play, let’s take a look at the Arsenal team that traveled to California.
Despite star players Olivier Giroud, Alexis Sanchez, Aaron Ramsey, and Laurent Koscielny not named in the roster, the team was by no means a weak one.
Lead by former Chelsea player and Czech goalkeeper Petr Cech, the Arsenal starting XI consisted of 9 of the usual top eighteen players. Starting in the back, from left to right:
Cech; Gibbs, Bielik, Holding, Debuchy; Coquelin, Elneny; Cambell, Wilshere, The Ox; Walcott
For Arsenal fans, the highlight of the day was the first opportunity to see new signing Granit Xhaka in action. Coming in from Borussia Mönchengladbach in Germany, Xhaka, a central midfielder, is one of the most expensive signings ever for Arsenal.
For MLS fans, it was a chance to see a group of the league’s top players in action against one of Europe’s best teams. The MLS roster was as star-packed as you’d expect:
GOALKEEPERS: David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Andre Blake (Philadelphia Union)
DEFENDERS: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Matt Besler* (Sporting Kansas City), Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), Laurent Ciman (Montreal Impact), Andrew Farrell (New England Revolution), Liam Ridgewell* (Portland Timbers), Keegan Rosenberry (Philadelphia Union), Jelle Van Damme (LA Galaxy), Brandon Vincent (Chicago Fire), Kendall Waston (Vancouver Whitecaps FC)
MIDFIELDERS: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Mauro Diaz (FC Dallas), Giovani dos Santos (LA Galaxy), Jermaine Jones (Colorado Rapids), Kaká (Orlando City SC), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Andrea Pirlo (New York City FC), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC)
FORWARDS: Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Didier Drogba (Montreal Impact), Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto FC), Cyle Larin (Orlando City SC), Ignacio Piatti (Montreal Impact), David Villa (New York City FC), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)
Onto the First Half
At the start of the match, the first quality chance came on a Arsenal counterattack off of a horrendous giveaway by Andrea Pirlo. Pushing the chance just wide, Arsenal would continue to play high pressure and attack with ferocity.
Despite not having much of the ball in the opening ten minutes, the All-Stars were able to get on the end of a few quality long ball opportunities but ultimately lacked the final touch to get the early nod.
Seemingly out of nowhere, Arsenal again broke free on the counter. Joel Cambell chased down the lob pass, touching the ball over top of the on rushing Union goalkeeper, Andre Blake, only to be hacked down by Laurent Ciman inside the six.
Penalty awarded to the north London club.
What followed must be a record for the slowest run up to a penalty shot ever, this side of Zaza, Campbell, on the penalty conversion, tip toes towards the ball slotting it to the keepers left.
Arsenal 1, MLS All-Stars 0.
In stoppage time of the first half the MLS All-Stars finally got on the scoreboard. Tying the game at 1, former Chelsea legend Didier Drogba edged one over his former teammate Petr Cech.
Arsenal 1, MLS All-Stars 1.
Bragging rights go the Montreal Impact player, but, may come as a controversial one as it took three consecutive shots on goal to find the back of the net. My bets are that Drogba will not let Cech live that down regardless.
Speaking of bants - the banter was running rampant on Twitter. Here’s one of my favorites.
Second Half & Wil Trapp!
Picked by All-Star & San Jose coach Dom Kinnear for the team, Wil put on a very good display, coming on as a second half substitute. Taking home to his usual holding midfield role, Wil Trapp played in a midfield three with Sacha Kleijstan and Darlington Nagbe.
While defensively he did not seem to add much (the whole team was a mess on defense) offensively, he was the man we all know and love. Threading passes through the defense and managing tempo well, it was largely a very good showing for the Columbus Crew SC player. Praise to Wil for doing well, and representing our club, but let’s just hope he’s not too tired for Sunday’s match.
Both sides made a multitude of changes in the second half, with Columbus Crew SC midfielder Wil Trapp entering the contest. More on Trapp’s play later, but for Arsenal, we saw a good half of Granit Xhaka and a glimse of US youngster Gedion Zelalem. Zelalem, only 19, has worked his way into the senior squad at Arsenal and will certainly be on the radar for years to come for the USMNT.
The second half saw plenty of chances missed, including a Chris Wondolowski sitter fly over the crossbar which likely gave many U.S. fans flashbacks.
The second half deadlock was broken on a Arsenal overload inside the MLS 18. Coming through young striker Chuba Akpom, Arsenal scored the winning goal in the 87th minute, once again proving that their team can, in fact, win matches that don’t mater.
At the end of the day: Arsenal 2, MLS All-Stars 1, and Chuba Akpom won a tiny trophy for something.