MLS All-Stars Face Off with Preseason Arsenal

It’s about that time of year, again. We’re at the halfway point of the Major League Soccer season, and you know what that means: All-Star Game. The opposition for this year’s match: Arsenal. Even though this isn’t really a “competitive” game, per se, but don’t it’s a chance for some of the best players in the U.S. to test their skills against one of the most storied clubs in Europe. Will the All-Stars be able to capitalize on their midseason fitness and overtake a preseason Arsenal side?

I don’t care if this seems a biased, but the player that I’m focusing on defensively for the MLS is Andrew Farrell. One of my first posts for The Center Circle was an interview with the New England Revolution defender, and he’s probably my favorite player in the league (no offense, Brad Davis). The 24-year-old has been a constant fixture in the Revolution’s defense, and has appeared in over 100 matches since getting drafted back in 2013. Sadly, he won’t be able to go up against the first choice Arsenal attackers as Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez don’t look like they’re going to be involved Thursday night. Regardless, I think that Farrell will shine, and if he scores I’ll forego my Manchester United jersey purchase this year for a Revolution jersey.

Leading the All-Stars from the sidelines will be San Jose Earthquakes manager Dominic Kinnear. The Scotsman is no stranger to success, with two MLS titles in his trophy case from his days at Houston, but his time in San Jose hasn’t exactly gone to plan. Last year, his side narrowly missed out on a playoff berth by four points. This season, it’s starting to look like more of the same as San Jose sit two spots, and four points behind Portland for a spot in the postseason. Despite the less than stellar campaign, Kinnear has made it clear that he’s going to go for the win against the Gunners. In the build up the match, he told reporters, “…we’re trying to win the game. That’s my intention and I’ll pass it on to the players.”

Moving on to the Gunners, the player that I’m going to be focusing on is going to be the one, and only big name signing that they’ve made this summer: Granit Xhaka. I doubt that he’ll play the full 90 minutes, after being involved in the Euros earlier this summer with Switzerland, but the team suggested he’ll make his debut on Thursday night. Xhaka was one of the best midfielders in the Bundesliga last season, and fans at the Emirates will be thrilled to have a player of his quality line-up alongside Mesut Özil. Unfortunately, the bug-eyed magician won’t be taking part in the all-star festivities, so Xhaka and the fans will have to wait a little bit longer to strike up the partnership. How will he fare in his first match under Arsene Wenger’s tutelage?

Another potential debutant for the Gunners will be former Bolton defender Rob Holding. The 20-year-old probably won’t get the lion’s share of playing time this campaign, so he’ll need to use the preseason to try and impress his new boss as much as possible. With the injury to Per Mertesacker potentially forcing the BFG out for up to five months, Holding may have more of a chance to get some Premier League action than first expected. He’ll be competing with Calum Chambers to earn the honor of being called up off the bench should Laurent Koscielny or Gabriel suffer an injury during the season. Right now, Chambers has to be considered the favorite, but a strong performance from Holding during the preseason and cup matches may boost him above the former Southampton defender.

As an American, and as a Manchester United fan, I cannot pick Arsenal to win this match. The Gunners have played just one match so far this preseason (a 1-1 draw against Lens), and will be introducing new players into the lineup. The MLS All-Stars, while still integrating a group of players for the first time, are in the heart of their season and are at peak fitness levels. Oh yeah, and this match probably means more to them than it does to the stars of Arsenal. Final score: MLS 2-1 Arsenal with Farrell scoring the winner.

 

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About the author: Collin Carpio

 

I am currently a senior at the University of Missouri in the Journalism School. I have been an avid follower of Manchester United since 2006 and of course I support the Stars and Stripes. Due to my St. Louis high school allegiances, I am a big supporter of Brad Davis and Sporting KC in MLS.

 

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