SAN JOSE, Calif. – The AT&T MLS All-Star Game has been a mostly competitive affair in recent years and the 2016 edition was no different, as Arsenal pulled out a 2-1 win over the MLS All-Stars thanks to an 87th minute winner.
Even though the result of the game had no effect on either team’s long-term prognosis, considering the game’s status as an exhibition, it was clear to see that the loss still stung for some of the All-Stars, whether they were seasoned veterans or playing in their first All-Star Game.
“[It stung] for sure,” FC Dallas defender Kellyn Acosta told MLSsoccer.com after the game. It was definitely tough and we want to win. No one wants to be a loser at the end of the day.”
The star-studded All-Star lineup gave Arsenal plenty to think about, consistently creating dangerous opportunities even after the Gunners took an early lead from the penalty spot, but were ultimately undone late on as Arsenal found the winner from a late tap-in not long after good chances at the other end for Chris Wondolowski and Sebastian Giovinco went begging.
Given the tight nature of the match, did the All-Stars deserve a better result?
“Maybe,” Philadelphia Unioin defender Keegan Rosenberry told MLSsoccer.com. “I think we had some good chances in the second half if you watch pretty closely with Seba and Cyle and that layoff to Wondo. We created chances and at the end of the day that’s what you look at, how productive we were.”
All-Star goalscorer Didier Drogba also expressed his unhappiness with the result in his postgame remarks, while a few other All-Stars weren’t so sure that their team deserved to lose on the balance of play.
“It was a good game,” Giovinco told reporters after the game. “We didn’t deserve to lose. But it was a good effort by everyone. So it’s good.”
Rosenberry and Real Salt Lake midfielder Kyle Beckerman – an old hand when it comes to these All-Star Games – also alluded to the strong effort made by the All-Stars, despite the outcome.
“I think whenever you get together, this kind of talent, this kind of group, I think you want to play well, you want to get the result and you want to put on a show for the league, the fans and for everybody watching,” Rosenberry said. “But result aside, I hope we did do that. Again that’s always the goal when you’re playing.”
Said Beckerman: “Well, I think the biggest thing, and Dom expressed this – it’s about having fun, it’s about being competitive and going home healthy, and I think we checked all those boxes. We’re going out, we’re trying to win of course, but I think the biggest thing is let’s be competitive and put on a good show for the fans. Let’s put up a good fight, because we know the scoreline’s going to go around the world.”
But not all the All-Stars were as caught up in the result of the game, or what it meant to observers around the world.
“It’s still just a friendly to us,” New York Red Bulls midfielder Sacha Kljestan said after the game. “I think most of us as players would rather just play an East vs. West game.
“We don’t have to show off to try to beat a European team and prove where we are at as a league. I think we have enough superstars and great players that the fans will come out and watch and it would more fun, a little bit more relaxed for us, some more goals. I think it’d be a little bit more entertaining.”