Few players will see more familiar faces on the field at Wednesday’s MLS All-Star game than Sporting Kansas City’s Matt Besler and Graham Zusi.
Not all of those faces are ones they would like to remember, though, as six members of Germany’s World Cup championship team are suiting up for Bayern Munich, the opponent for the MLS All-Star team at 8:30 tonight. Bayern Munich is the two-time defending German champions and current holders of the FIFA Club World Cup title.
Besler and Zusi are joined on the MLS team by Sporting Kansas City teammates Aurelien Collin and Dom Dwyer. Besler and Zusi are part of a starting lineup that also includes national team cohorts Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Nick Rimando and DeAndre Yedlin.
On the other side of the field, 19-year-old American Julian Green — who scored the only U.S. goal in the 2-1 knockout stage loss to Belgium in the World Cup — will be in uniform for Bayern.
Besler and Zusi faced all six of Bayern’s German national team players during group play in the World Cup, when Germany earned a 1-0 win on June 26 behind a goal from Bayern forward Thomas Müller. In addition to well-known German names like Manuel Neuer, Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger, Bayern is littered with other international superstars such as Arjen Robben of the Netherlands, France’s Franck Ribéry and Poland’s Robert Lewandowski.
Beating Bayern will be a tall task for the MLS club, given its limited time together and important league matches looming this weekend.
A 45-minute public training session Tuesday afternoon at Providence Park drew a few thousand fans as the All-Stars ran through a handful of drills before ending with a short 11-on-11 scrimmage. That’s about all the time the team has had to come together on the field.
“You can’t take this too seriously,” said Zusi, acknowledging that Sunday’s MLS match in Vancouver is of greater concern to him and his Sporting KC teammates. “I think (coach) Caleb Porter will be smart about minutes and everyone will play similar time so we’re ready for the weekend.”
Substitutions will be unlimited for the game, allowing all players to be used for a significant period of time to help conserve energy and prevent injuries.
Besler stressed the difficulties in coming together as a team in such a short time, but feels that a familiarity with many of his teammates could help bridge the gap. Because of the limitations, he doesn’t feel that a bad result for the MLS team would reflect poorly on a league that’s fighting for international respect.
“It would be great if we win, but I don’t think a lot of people will be complaining if we don’t because they understand the situation,” Besler said. “We want to go out and put on a good show for the fans and represent our club teams and the league well.”
Representing his club is a key factor for Besler, who penned an open letter to Kansas City fans two weeks ago reiterating his desire to stay with Sporting KC in the wake of potential interest from European clubs and signing a contract extension.
“I take a lot of pride in that and I think everyone can see it,” he said. “I always try to represent KC wherever I go and in whatever I do, and this game’s no different.”