HOUSTON - After Philadelphia had Manchester United on the ropes and Kansas City defeated the Red Devils on Sunday, there is real hope the MLS All-Stars can defeat the perennial EPL contenders in Wednesday night's All-Star Game.
Add the fact that Manchester United is finishing up preseason training and that their back line has not exactly proven a defensive fortress, and it leads to the belief that a special result is possible at Reliant.
However, with both Landon Donovan and Edson Buddle going 90 minutes last night in the CONCACAF Champions League, it looks like the All-Stars will not be relying on pace up top to expose the English club’s relative defensive weakness.
Brian Ching, Guillermo Barros Schelotto and Dwayne De Rosario are not known for their speed. Meanwhile, Juan Pablo Angel is still nursing an ankle injury.
Possession and set pieces will be the way for the MLS All-Stars to make life difficult for Manchester United. With players like Javier Morales, David Ferreira, Marco Pappa and Schelotto, the All-Stars have enough technical quality to knock the ball around and draw fouls in dangerous positions.
These same players, along with De Rosario, are capable of delivering dangerous set pieces that can capitalize on the aerial skills of Chad Marshall, Omar Gonzalez, Jamison Olave and Ching.
While the MLS attacking mission is clear, the defensive keys are three in particular:
(1) Sliding over to help left back Heath Pearce and left winger Brad Davis, who will have plenty to deal with facing Gabriel Obertan and the overlaps of Rafael
(2) Shalrie Joseph cannot allow Manchester United's Paul Scholes to have time on the ball to pick out players in attack
(3) MLS defenders need to stay tight on the likes of Dimitar Berbatov, Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck in order not to allow them to turn and use their speed and vision
An MLS victory is very possible because if there exists players who have the experience and skill to execute a game plan, it’s the group of stars available to Bruce Arena.
Predicted MLS All-Star lineup [subs in brackets]: Donovan Ricketts [Nick Rimando] – Heath Pearce, Wilman Conde [Chad Marshall], Omar Gonzalez [Jamison Olave], Kevin Alston – Brad Davis [Landon Donovan], Shalrie Joseph [Jeff Larentowicz], Javier Morales [David Ferreira], Marco Pappa [Sebastien Le Toux] – Guillermo Barros Schelotto [Jaime Moreno], Brian Ching [Edson Buddle and Juan Pablo Angel]