It has been a big week for MLS and it only gets bigger with tonight’s All Star game versus Tottenham Hotspur and DeAndre Yedlin at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado.
1) Drogba Joins Montreal
Chelsea and Ivory Coast legend Didier Drogba chose French speaking Montreal over Chicago, making this the second consecutive year that the Fire has failed to close the deal on a big name signing.
Last year Chicago missed out on Jermaine Jones to the New England Revolution via the mysterious blind draw, this year the lure of Montreal was too much for French speaking Drogba to pass up.
Chicago had Drogba’s MLS rights through the league’s allocation system, so they did not come away empty handed.
The Fire reportedly received $250,000 in Targeted Allocation money and regular allocation money, some of which they used to acquire Brazilian attacker Gilberto. Gilberto was crowded out of Toronto in a DP buying spree and is a good player who should help Chicago.
2) Ciao Pirlo!
32,000 plus New York City FC fans welcomed Italy’s legendary midfield maestro Andrea Pirlo to Yankee Stadium last Sunday with open arms and the former Juventus and AC Milan star paid them back with a 34 minute masterclass in, well class.
The crowd had been chanting his name for most of the game and was in a near frenzy when Pirlo finally trotted onto the Stadium’s narrow pitch to replace Mehdi Ballouchy.
Stars such as Kaka, Pirlo’s teammate at AC Milan, and David Villa were overshadowed by the bearded marvel. Even Orlando’s Rookie of the League shoe-in, Cyle Larin and his hat trick took a back seat on Sunday to the imperious Pirlo, who looked entirely comfortable orchestrating the NYC attack after training with the club for just four days.
NYCFC won the game 5-3, with an inspired David Villa scoring two goals, Larin accounting for all three goals for New York’s expansion rivals, and young New York players Poku (three assists) and Tommy McNamara (one goal, one assist) also shining.
Saturday the third member of NYC’s big name trio, Frank Lampard is expected to make his MLS debut at Yankee Stadium against Montreal, his old Chelsea teammate Didier Drogba’s new club.
It’s extremely doubtful that Drogba could play versus New York, but it might be the only way to match last Sunday’s atmosphere.
3) MLS Homegrown Stars Lose on PK’s to Club America
MLS hears a lot of Retirement League cracks, and in fairness signing 37 year old players like Drogba will leave you open to sucks jibes.
You hear less though about all the young players that the league gives a chance to, and that is what Tuesday night’s Homegrown Game versus Club America’s U20 side was all about.
And it is not just young American players who get a chance to earn first team minutes in MLS. Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Russell Teibert is a senior Canadian international and starting goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez from FC Dallas, led a group of five Mexico U20 players to rep MLS last night.
Last night’s MLS stars were Gonzalez, who kept the MLS is the game with some big saves and goalscorer Tommy Thompson, San Jose Earthquakes 19 year old midfielder/forward and a U.S. U20 international.
4) All Star Game
Tonight the league’s best take on the challenge of Tottenham Hotspurs. Every year since 2005 MLS has invited a foreign barnstorming guest to go against the league’s All Stars.
The game is best enjoyed as a showcase, rather than some sort of measuring stick. The All Stars won the first five of these encounters, besting the likes of Fulham, Celtic and even Chelsea.
Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United team stopped all that, showing up the his hosts by 5-2 and 4-0 scorelines in 2010 and 2011.
MLS recovered from those shellackings to win the last three over Chelsea (3-2), Roma (3-1) and even Bayern Munich (2-1).
By all accounts Tottenham are taking this game seriously, and have brought the majority of their first team, for what is for them, like all the previous MLS opponents, a pre-season match.
So, enjoy the game tonight, but don’t read too much into it.
5) Whither DeAndre?
Last summer DeAndre Yedlin went from shock World Cup selection to U.S. supersub, and then to Tottenham Hotspurs signee. It was all something of a whirlwind for the Seattle Sounders speedy fullback/winger. That whirlwind slowed considerably when Yedlin landed in London in January, where he spent the rest of the season watching, learning and training, and barely playing.
With Tottenham in Colorado for the All Star game Spurs coach Mauricio Pochettino has not surprisingly been asked about the Yedlin, and the Spurs plans for the American international.
Spurs look solid at right fullback with England international Scott Walker and recent pickup Kieran Trippier. Jurgen Klinsmann seems to have given up on Yedlin as a fullback, preferring to play him as a wing midfielder recently.
Yedlin has been rumored to be headed out on loan, but Pochettino said that was not necessarily the case. What did the Spurs coach say? Basically, Pochettino said that if Yedlin plays well enough to make the team then he will make the team.
In other words, it’s up to you DeAndre.