MLS All-Stars Ready for Action
SAN DIEGO (AP) _ Western Conference coach Glenn Myernick has the right attitude for the Major League Soccer All-Star game.
Play hard. Have fun. Not necessarily in that order.
``In the true tradition of what the All-Star game is all about, I talked to my team this morning and said: `Please follow my philosophy as your leader. I will have two Coronas,‴ Myernick said Friday afternoon, not long after leading his team through its one and only practice.
The All-Star game atmosphere will be vastly different than the last big soccer match in Southern California, when the U.S. women battled China through 120 tense, scoreless minutes before winning the World Cup title on Brandi Chastain’s penalty kick a week ago at the Rose Bowl.
It’s practically guaranteed there won’t be a 0-0 tie at Qualcomm Stadium on Saturday.
``I pulled Zach Thornton and Matt Jordan, our goalkeepers, aside this morning and offered them two very philosophical words of coaching wisdom, and they were: `Be Brave.′ I’m sure it’s going to be a very entertaining game,″ said Myernick, who coaches the Colorado Rapids.
Last year’s format featured American stars against their international counterparts, and the Americans, coming off a disappointing World Cup showing, saved some face with a 6-1 victory.
This year, it’s back to East versus West. What probably won’t change is the amount of scoring. The first three All-Star games averaged seven goals. By comparison, the league average last regular season was 3.56, and this year it’s closer to 3.
``Let’s face it, this is fun,″ said Colorado defender Marcelo Balboa, a starter for the West. ``This is for the fans. We’re going to go out and we’re going to have a good time. You’ll see us playing defense, there’s no doubt. Nobody wants to lose. But are you going to see it like you see in the MLS? No chance.″
There will be a chance that Kansas City defender Alexi Lalas will go forward. ``We might even send Zach forward on a corner kick, you know, just for the heck of it,″ Balboa said. ``The people come to see from the midfielders forward do all their things. And we run around chasing everybody else.″
Said Lalas: ``I was chosen as a starting defender, and I’m real proud of that but that’s in name only. I’m going forward. I am going full-on forward.″
The East is dominated by seven D.C. United players, six voted to start plus midfielder Richie Williams, who replaced injured Tab Ramos of the New York-New Jersey MetroStars.
The other D.C. United starters are midfielder Marco Etcheverry, the league’s 1998 MVP; Tom Presthus in goal; defenders Eddie Pope and Jeff Agoos; midfielder Ben Olsen and forward Roy Lassiter.
There’s been some grumbling about the presence of so many players from D.C. United, which has played in all three MLS championship games, winning the first two. Three reserves are from D.C. United, and its coach, Thomas Rongen, will lead the East.
``Three finalists, two champions. It speaks for itself,″ Etcheverry said. ``It’s not because of luck. There’s a lot of merit involved in it.″
Five members of the defending MLS champion Chicago Fire were selected to the Western Conference team. They are Thornton, forward Roman Kosecki, midfielders Chris Armas and Peter Nowak, and defender Lubos Kubik.
The All-Star game will be followed by an exhibition between Chivas of Mexico and Universidad Catolica of Chile.
This is the second straight All-Star game to be played in a non-MLS city.
MLS wants to have a team in San Diego by 2002, the year the Padres are scheduled to vacate Qualcomm for a downtown ballpark. However, the league is interested in perhaps finding another site to play because crowds would be swallowed up in the 70,000-seat stadium.
MLS officials said they’d be happy if they sold 30,000 tickets. By late in the week, they’d sold about 22,000.