The first All-Star selection of Sporting Kansas City midfielder Benny Feilhaber’s career was made official on July 13, and within a matter of hours, that spawned eager anticipation of a competitive, hard-fought match against an English Premier League team.
Or so he hopes.
Granted, there’s no “This time it counts” slogan slapped onto the MLS All-Star Game, which will pit some of the league’s stars against EPL’s Tottenham Hotspur at 8 p.m. Wednesday in Commerce City, Colo., but for a league that continues to strive for respect worldwide, a chance to play against an EPL team offers more than a fan exhibition.
It offers opportunity.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
“I’m sure the mentality is to win,” Feilhaber said. “Obviously nobody wants to get hurt, and we want to save our legs for the regular season, but it’s a game we want to show well in, and everybody wants to win.”
Feilhaber, of course, didn’t need look far for confirmation of his expectations. He will be joined in the festivities by two teammates — Graham Zusi and Matt Besler — who are each set to make their fourth All-Star appearance.
Besler has played a combined 104 minutes over his previous three trips.
“I take the All-Star Game very seriously,” Besler said. “We’ve been able to get some decent results in the last few years. I’m looking forward to teaming up with the guys and seeing if we can do it again this year.”
The MLS side has won four of seven matches against EPL teams in All-Star Game history. The league All-Stars pulled out a 2-1 victory against Bayern Munich last summer in a match that featured more than a hint of intensity.
With three representatives Wednesday, Sporting KC could factor into the 2015 result — unless a recent span of three matches in seven days limits their availability.
While Zusi was with the U.S. national team this month — and played somewhat sparingly in his stint there — Feilhaber and Besler completed the three-match stretch Friday in Real Salt Lake, with Feilhaber sitting out the first half to rest his legs.
The playing-time decisions Wednesday will be left to Colorado Rapids head coach Pablo Mastroeni, who will lead the MLS group.
“I was in that position as well. I think every coach understands that you’re trying to get everybody a half, if you can,” said Vermes, who coached the league’s All-Stars in the 2013 match at Sporting Park. “... I trust Pablo in that regard. I think he understands everybody has games on the weekend.”