Landon Donovan played in MLS All-Star Games when they resembled so many of the other ones played in the major sports.
Little at stake, little incentive.
That all changed once Major League Soccer revamped its format and started playing international teams.
So far, the MLS, where the quality of play is often thought of as inferior to the quality of the level overseas, has a 6-2-1 edge in the All-Star Game.
“They’re more enjoyable for us,” Donovan said. “In the past, when it was an East-West format, you didn’t take it all too seriously. The game was, in some ways fun, but it was a little bit false. It isn’t exciting for us as playing a real game.”
Chelsea of the English Premier League is back for this season’s MLS All-Star Game tonight at PPL Park, the home of the Philadelphia Union. It is located in Chester, Pa., along the Delaware River.
This is the seventh time an EPL team will play the MLS All-Stars. The MLS defeated Chelsea, 1-0, in the 2006 game. Dwayne De Rosario won that game with his goal. He’s back again, along with All-Star teammates Donovan and Thierry Henry. Last year’s game was held at Red Bull Arena in New Jersey and featured Manchester United.
Two members of Seattle Sounders FC were selected as All-Stars: midfielder Osvaldo Alonso, and forward Eddie Johnson, who is tied for 11th in MLS with eight goals.
The pair will fly back to Puget Sound on Thursday and then accompany their teammates to Colorado for a Saturday league game against the Rapids.
Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said he hopes All-Star coach Ben Olsen of D.C. United keeps the Sounders’ busy schedule in mind tonight.
“Hopefully they won’t play a ton of minutes (in the All-Star Game) because our team is a little different than the other teams,” Schmid said. “We have an Open Cup final in mid-week, we have a CONCACAF game mid-week, so we have more games than the other guys, so hopefully they’ll take that into account.”
Chelsea is in the midst of a four-game American tour that started July 18 in Seattle and also featured the first soccer match at the new Yankee Stadium against Paris Saint-Germain on Sunday.
Chelsea is using these games as a tuneup for its regular season. The Blues understand MLS has raised its quality of players and competition over its nearly 20-year existence.
“I think it’s evolved a great deal,” Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard said.
Staff writer Don Ruiz contributed to this report.