SBD/July 26, 2012/Events and Attractions

MLS ASG Showcases PPL Park, Philly Fans While Boosting League Credibility

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Both sides "played to win" yesterday, with the MLS All-Stars emerging victorious.
The "excitement and pageantry MLS presented Wednesday night -- the pregame festivities, the halftime fireworks, the weeklong buzz -- was capped by an equally intense showing from its All-Stars,” according to Kerith Gabriel of the PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS. The game was a “win-win for a Union franchise and for PPL Park.” Union MF Michael Farfan said, “I think it shows that we have a great atmosphere and great fans here. If anything having this here really benefited our team” (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 7/26). In Philadelphia, Tyler Jett notes 19,236 fans attended the exhibition against EPL club Chelsea, "more than any other" game at the three-year-old facility. Fans “camped out in the parking lot across from the stadium” and on the “edge of the stadium’s entrance, company representatives shouted for the attention of jersey-clad fans, trying desperately to pull the soccer supporters to their tents.” Jett writes, “The atmosphere felt corporate. It felt like that other brand of football” (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 7/26). In DC, Thomas Floyd writes the MLS ASG in recent years had “become, in some regards, a sore subject.” Envisioned as a “spotlight for the league’s top talent, the midsummer spectacle instead developed into an arbitrary symbol for how far soccer in the U.S. still has to go.” However, the MLS All-Stars “gave the league’s reputation a boost it may not have needed but surely will embrace.” The All-Stars’ “triumph featured an electric environment, highlighted by supporters singing in full voice as they accepted many league rivals as one of their own -- for the day, at least” (WASHINGTON TIMES, 7/26).

GETTING A BOOST:
ESPN.com’s James Tyler wrote, “Make no mistake that the league will take full advantage of the bragging rights and self-confidence boost that come in victory. After all, it's not very often you can stand tall against the European champions and beat them.” The crowd got “everything it could have asked for: neat goals scored and plenty of class from the MLS elect.” But “full credit to the MLS elite in defeating Chelsea, its sixth win against overseas competition since the All-Star Game's format switch in 2003.” A win “in front of the entire nation is never a bad thing” (ESPN.com, 7/25). In Philadelphia, John Smallwood writes, “Typically all-star games are more exhibition than an actual competition.” The MLS ASG saw soccer “actually played at PPL Park, and both sides played to win.” Chelsea was not “treating this lightly either,” because the game is “also about brand recognition.” Chelsea is a “worldwide club, and it wants to establish its name in the USA” (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 7/26).

TAKE IT FOR WHAT IT IS:
SPORTING NEWS’ Brian Straus writes as “tempting as it may be to assign meaning or historical significance” to the MLS victory, “such reverie represents a slippery slope.” Galaxy F Landon Donovan said, “It’s all in context. We understand the game.” Straus  notes, “Even if the victory over a rather raw Chelsea teams says little about the league’s strength compared to top European circuits, it did mean something special for the individuals who wore MLS jerseys” (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 7/26). SI.com’s Avi Creditor wrote the MLS ASG format is in need of “one final major overhaul.” That is not to say the format has “been a failure,” as box-office numbers “indicate a success.” Creditor: “At its core, what is an All-Star Game ultimately about? A celebration of the sport in North America.” MLS "doesn't come close to reaching its potential in that regard, and the lack of local buzz and fervor surrounding the 2012 showcase is rather conspicuous.” The game “hardly accentuates how far the league has come, though, and what it has done for soccer growth on this continent.” After gaining a foothold on the int'l stage, "the time has come for MLS and U.S. Soccer to step out of Europe's shadow and for the various elements that make up the sport in this country to stand strong on a united front. On their own” (SI.com, 7/25).

GOOD AMBASSADOR: SI.com’s Creditor writes perhaps no MLS All-Star “did more to earn a collective thumbs up Wednesday than the original Designated Player,” Galaxy MF David Beckham. What Beckham “means to his country at a nationalistic time like the Olympics is acceptably more valuable than his place in an All-Star contest, but for him to commute to and from London only to show up and live up to his end of the bargain speaks volumes about his make-up as an individual and his commitment to the league after some years when that was not always so clear cut” (SI.com, 7/26).
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