SAN JOSE, Calif. — For much of the second half of the 2016 AT&T MLS All-Star Game, it seemed like if anyone was going to keep things from going to penalty kicks immediately after 90 minutes, it would be the hosts. Sebastian Giovinco had forced a strong save just after intermission, and Chris Wondolowski missed a glorious chance in the 82nd minute.
Then Arsenal took a throw-in deep on their right wing and things began, almost imperceptibly, to unravel for the MLS side.
A series of four quick passes brought the ball across the field to Christopher Willock, stationed on the left wing. As Willock sized up MLS All-Star right back Andrew Farrell, Arsenal left back Nacho Monreal looped around the outside.
Willock took a dribble away from goal to lure Farrell and Steve Birnbaum, then cut a sharp pass to the end line for Monreal — unmarked by the MLS defense — to scoop up.
After one touch, Monreal unleashed a low, left-footed cross that split the difference between Birnbaum and goalkeeper David Bingham. It flashed in front of Birnbaum’s center-back partner, Kendall Waston, and went directly to Arsenal striker Chuba Akpom, whose right-footed, 87th-minute stab from two yards made the difference in the Gunners’ 2-1 victory Thursday.
“Obviously, when someone breaks on the flank like that, it’s a serious situation,” Bingham said. “He was able to cut it back to his guy in the box.”
Said Darlington Nagbe: “They just overloaded on the wing, got end line and crossed the ball. Once that ball comes across, it’s just whoever gets to it, and they got to it first.”
It was a disappointing outcome given that the MLS All-Stars had looked good for a game-winner themselves.
“They brought some fresh guys in late, some young guys who were looking very hungry to score,” Farrell said. “And we’re a group of really good players, but we’re kind of thrown together a couple of days ahead of time. There were obviously a few lapses here and there. I think if we had a full week of training, maybe we’d be set up better defensively.”
Akpom’s goal stole an opportunity to see Bingham in action defending spot kicks before his home fans, which would have come as a shock to the Quakes’ starter.
“I didn’t even know we would have gone to PKs,” Bingham said. “That would have been kind of cool. I just figured we would end at 1-1 and everyone would go home.”