Most every big Major League Soccer event in the last 18 months has had a distinct Kansas City flavor to it, and Wednesday’s MLS All-Star game in Portland is no exception.
The MLS All-Stars will play two-time defending Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich at 8:30 p.m. Central time at Providence Park in Portland, Ore. The game will be televised by ESPN2.
The local flavor comes courtesy Sporting Kansas City’s four All-Stars: Matt Besler, Aurelien Collin, Graham Zusi and Dom Dwyer. Seattle Sounders FC, which is second in points only to Sporting KC, is the only other MLS Club with four representatives.
The challenge is a stiff one. Bayern Munich locked up its second consecutive Bundesliga title with six weeks remaining in the season, and the first-team roster is a smorgasbord of international talent.
“I think over the past two or three years, Bayern’s made a strong case as the very best team in the world,” Besler said. “It’s not every day you get that opportunity to play against one of the best teams in the world. Us as players, we’re excited individually. You always enjoy playing against world-class players, and you learn something from every experience and every player you play against.”
“Whether it’s the way they move off the ball or the way they think two or three passes before, or the way they can get off a shot in just a second. Every player offers different challenges, and you look forward to playing against them.”
Bayern Munich is a seasoned club that spends a vast majority of the calendar playing together. The MLS All-Stars, meanwhile, had roughly 72 hours to prepare for the friendly match.
Zusi and Besler will be joined by four teammates from the 2014 U.S. World Cup, which should help ease some of transition.
“We’ve all formed a bond through the experience of Brazil,” Besler said. “We spent a lot of time together this summer and now we’re back on the field. It feels like we just left Brazil. We’ve been playing a few weeks back with our clubs, but really the time has flown by. It’s nice to be back with the guys.”
The MLS’s version of a midsummer classic is becoming a yearly stop for Collin, Besler and Zusi, all of whom are making their third all-star appearance.
This is Dwyer’s first appearance, however. Dwyer was added to the roster on Sunday, replacing injured Toronto FC forward Jermain Defoe.
The numbers suggest Dwyer should’ve been on the roster all along. His 14 goals rank second in MLS this season, and is already the third-highest total in club history.
“It was very much a target of mine this year. It’s something I’m very honored and pleased to be a part of,” Dwyer said. “I’ve worked very hard this year, and all the guys I’ve talked to have said congrats. That’s a good feeling. I feel very welcome, very much a part of the team, and I feel like I belong.”
Many goals require many celebrations, and Dwyer earned notoriety (and a yellow card) for snapping a post-goal selfie in a game earlier this season.
He wouldn’t divulge his plans if fortune were to smile upon him tonight. In the meantime, Dwyer is drinking in as much of the atmosphere as he can.
“I want to play at the highest possible standard I can, and playing against one of the best teams in the world, it’s been a whirlwind and a bit crazy,” Dwyer said. “But I’m trying to take it all in and enjoy it.”