Getty Images

Thursday night in San Jose’s new Avaya Stadium, the best players in Major League Soccer took the field against one of the most storied clubs in club football: Arsenal. This friendly matchup between the All-Stars and European competition has become a tradition for fans stateside with clubs like Manchester United, Bayern Munich, and Roma travelling across the pond to test their luck. Since this incarnation of the exhibition match back in 2005, the MLS All-Stars have won seven of 11, could they improve their record against the Gunners?

It wasn’t exactly a dream start for the All-Stars as a careless pass from Andrea Pirlo gave Arsenal the first chance of the match just three minutes into the match. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain jumped on the giveaway and nearly put Theo Walcott through on goal. Luckily for the hosts, Kyle Beckerman was in the right position to put the pacy winger off enough to force his shot wide.

Two minutes later, Walcott again came close to opening the scoring. His low free kick seemed to catch Andre Blake off guard for a second, but the Philadelphia Union keeper managed to readjust quick enough to smother the effort. How much longer would it be before Arsenal grabbed their deserved lead?

The quick start to the match continued in the eighth minute, and this time it was the All-Stars that were knocking on the door. Giovani dos Santos was played in by Pirlo on the right side of the penalty area, and his powerful drive forced Petr Cech into his first save of the match.

Moments later, Joel Campbell found himself going shoulder to shoulder with Laurent Ciman going into the penalty area. Ciman and Blake failed to communicate and the ensuing confusion over the errant bouncing ball in the box forced the Belgian to bring down Campbell and send the Gunners to the penalty spot. The Costa Rican stepped up for the spot kick, and hammered it past Blake with ease. Arsenal 1, MLS 0.

In the 26th minute, Blake delivered the save of the match against Mohamed Elneny. The Egyptian midfielder unleashed a thunderous strike from the outside of the penalty area, and it looked destined for the back of the net. The 25-year-old keeper had other plans, however, as he delivered an eye-catching fingertip save to tip the shot just over the bar.

For the majority of the first half, Arsenal were the dominant force, and the All-Stars were limited to half chances and wild shots. Then, in the 47th minute, Didier Drogba leveled the score. The former Chelsea striker was played in beautifully by Dos Santos, and after his first two shots were denied, he finally hammered home his third chance to send the two sides deadlocked at 1-1 for the second half.

Things got off to a quick start in the second 45 minutes with Sebastian Giovinco forcing Cech into another diving save after just three minutes of action. The All-Stars continued to press, and a new look Arsenal side looked unsure of themselves.

After about 15 minutes, the Gunners began to click, and they once again began to dominate play. Other than a missed opportunity from Chris Wondolowski (wow imagine that) in the 82nd minute, the All-Stars were lucky to get any action in Arsenal’s half of the field. In the 87th minute, the London club found a deserved winner. A smart low cross from Nacho Monreal on the left wing set up Chuba Akpom for a simple tap-in, and just like that Arsenal were up 2-1.

The 20-year-old’s goal was the final bit of action for the match, and was enough to seal the Gunner’s first victory of the preseason. It’s hard to argue that Arsenal didn’t deserve to win, and you could even say they should have won by more. Regardless, a one-goal loss to one of the best team’s in Europe isn’t something to be embarrassed about if you’re on the MLS side.


Tags: , , , ,