By our north American correspondent: Florian
Those who expected America to be the country of all the possibilities will be sadly disappointed. That’s because when you have a job you must go to work. If you don’t do that, the employer says you stop going there for good, and that’s a real bad thing because you don’t get to earn the money you would have needed to go see Arsenal playing.
They really don’t seem to like Arsenal up here for some reason – maybe they read too much into the Media reports. And those who expect people to have vacation, think again. You can only have vacation after you worked long enough – it’s not like you can get hired and go to see Arsenal the very next day. I told you people up here don’t know what’s good.
Maybe that’s why they placed the Arsenal matches far down in California. It’s not like that state is the richest in the whole U.S., with a reported 131 billionaires and thousands of millionaires in Silicon Valley alone, not to count the movie stars down in LA. No, they want to make it as hard for the people to get there as possible.
California can be typically reached via plane. Driving is half a day proposition at least, from the closest places like Las Vegas, places which typically don’t give a toss about the real football – as they have their own version of rugby, which they strangely called football, although handballs and hacking your opponent down are extremely frequent events. Next time, we’ll suggest bringing Stoke City, those guys will blend right in.
But back to Arsenal. It’s the first time in their history that they land in the land of Apple, Google, Facebook, and countless tech startups – whereas Sunday they will get to meet the second most popular team in Mexico, at a place near Hollywood (more on that some other time).
The closest they came was almost exactly two years ago, on July 26th 2014, when they crossed the Atlantic to New York to play the Red Bulls, at a time when Thierry Henry was still in their roster. Today is different though, as the MLS invited Arsenal to be counterparts to what is a regular annual event in all the other mainstream American sports – rugby (sorry, football) has it, baseball has it, basketball has it, heck, even hockey has it. The US Soccer Federation had to come up with something, and here it is. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present you the MLS All Star Game.
I mentioned Apple, Google, Facebook and there could be quite a few more companies worth noting. That doesn’t mean Arsenal will play those guys – no, as I said, America is not quite the land of all the possibilities. Arsenal will play true footballers, as before them did in order: the Tiny Totts in 2015, Bayern Munich in 2014, AS Roma in 2013, Chelsea in 2012, United in 2011 and 2010, Everton in 2009, West Ham United in 2008 (no State Aid back then yet), Celtic in 2007, Chelsea again in 2006, and Fulham in 2005. Since in America the most recent experience is the one that matters, I expect Arsenal to win. Losing will mean our squad is no good, half the players must be sold, and Arsene Wenger is no longer running for President.
MLS has got talent. They demonstrated it last year when they beat the Tinies 2-1. The immigrants were a big issue for TH, both goals coming from players that were born far away from the U.S. soil – David Villa and Kaká. Both will play this year’s game too, along with a few other familiar faces, like Andrea Pirlo, Giovanni Dos Santos, Clint Dempsey, Sebastian Giovinco and, yes, Didier Drogba. Walter will also remember Sacha Kljestan from his days at Anderlecht.
We don’t know yet who their manager is. Here is the whole roster, courtesy of Wikipedia (numbers are a surprise):
|United States||GK||David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes)|
|Jamaica||GK||Andre Blake (Philadelphia Union)|
|United States||DF||Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City)|
|United States||DF||Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United)|
|Belgium||DF||Laurent Ciman (Montreal Impact)|
|United States||DF||Andrew Farrell (New England Revolution)|
|England||DF||Liam Ridgewell (Portland Timbers)|
|United States||DF||Keegan Rosenberry (Philadelphia Union)|
|United States||DF||Brandon Vincent (Chicago Fire)|
|Costa Rica||DF||Kendall Waston (Vancouver Whitecaps FC)|
|United States||MF||Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake)|
|Argentina||MF||Mauro Diaz (FC Dallas)|
|Mexico||MF||Giovanni Dos Santos (LA Galaxy)|
|United States||MF||Jermaine Jones (Colorado Rapids)|
|Brazil||MF||Kaká (Orlando City SC)|
|United States||MF||Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls)|
|United States||MF||Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers)|
|Italy||MF||Andrea Pirlo (New York City FC)|
|United States||MF||Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC)|
|United States||FW||Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC)|
|Ivory Coast||FW||Didier Drogba (Montreal Impact)|
|Italy||FW||Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto FC)|
|Canada||FW||Cyle Larin (Orlando City SC)|
|Argentina||FW||Ignacio Piatti (Montreal Impact)|
|Spain||FW||David Villa (New York City FC)|
|United States||FW||Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)|
On our side, things look really serious. Per is out, which means our defence is a no-show, as Kos is on vacation, and Gabriel cannot be relied upon. Mesut and Alexis are also missing, which means we don’t have midfield and attack either. That’s what a lot of experts here say. Check their Facebook comments to the Media posts if you don’t believe me. The rest of our squad is (this time most of them with numbers):
|28||Costa Rica||FW||Joel Campbell|
|33||Czech Republic||GK||Petr Čech|
|United States||MF||Gedion Zelalem|
The arena, Avaya Stadium, has 18,000 places, all seaters, and belongs to San Jose Earthquakes, the only MLS club in the area. The story around it says the Earthquakes were playing on too small a stadium, and they needed to compete with the big boys (Sounders, Timbers, Red Bulls and a few others), so they decided to build a larger place. In an effort to expand to a wide variety of audiences, they built the largest outdoor bar in North America so close to it that they had to build stands only on three sides, leaving the fourth side open. The double sided video scoreboard covers the missing stands somewhat. The good part is that the club built the stadium with their own money – the City of San Jose didn’t provide one cent.
The experts here are actually quite unimaginative. Most of them repost Media articles on Arsenal America’s Facebook page, and a lot of other experts comment about the squad needing two centre backs, Lacazette, Mahrez and “striker”. Strangely those words are never mentioned when they get face to face with Arsène Wenger. All they can say is “Thank you”. On the other hand, anyone having a positive opinion, for instance suggesting that the transfer window is still weeks away from closing, is being held hostage in discussions that last for days and end in penguin chess style. Yes, there is AAA here too.
But in a strange and borderline magic way, everyone, AKB or AAA, who survived the lottery put in place by the US Soccer Federation to distribute the match tickets, and found a way to squeeze in a few days of vacation (apparently having worked hard and long enough to warrant it, unlike the undersigned), is or has been packing their gear and taking it to San Jose, in their quest for seeing Arsenal playing in front of their eyes, being all supporters for a few days, forgetting about the differences of opinion, and enjoying the California Sun. As for me, I will enjoy the gorgeous Seattle summer (no, it’s not raining here these days), hoping that my DVR records the match correctly so I can watch it when I get back home.
Possible line up (provided by Untold Office back in Blighty.
Cech / Ospina (Martinez)
Debuchy Coquelin Monreal Gibbs (Chambers, Holding, Bellerin)
Wilshere Granit (Bielik, Elneny)
Iwobi, Reine-Adelaide, Oxlade-Chamberlain (Santi Cazolra?, Zelalem, Campbell, Willock)