Photo by Michael Janosz/ISIphotos.com
By MIKE DONOVAN
PORTLAND, Ore. — In an entertaining and well-played match in front of a raucous crowd, the MLS All-Stars defeated Bundesliga champion Bayern Munich, 2-1, behind second-half goals from Bradley Wright-Phillips and Landon Donovan. Robert Lewandowski had an early strike for Bayern, but the All-Stars came out on top after a sublime second-half performance.
While Bayern was the stronger side in the first half, the second-half substitutes provided a lift for the MLS side and took the lead for good in the 70th minute when Landon Donovan outmuscled a Bayern defender and slotted the ball past Manuel Neuer. Diego Valeri’s long cross found Donovan, who played six matches with Bayern Munich in 2009, and the LA Galaxy player was not to be denied.
Donovan, who has been selected to 14 consecutive MLS All-Star games, was named the match’s MVP. It is second All-Star MVP trophy, having won it before in his first All-Star match in 2001. And while the match is only a friendly, Donovan took some satisfaction in both his performance and the victory.
“I’m proud to be part of this league. And for many years, those of us in this league, were sort of looked down upon for staying here and playing here. This was a big moment for our league,” Donovan said.
Donovan’s strike earned him MVP honors despite playing just 25 minutes. With a league match on Friday, LA Galaxy manager Bruce Arena asked MLS manager Caleb Porter to try his best to not overplay Donovan. The substitution directly after the goal gave Donovan the opportunity to receive a round of applause from the Portland fans.
And Donovan wasn’t the only MLS sub to provide a spark as Wright-Phillips wasted little time in putting his stamp on the match. Just five minutes into the second half, the MLS’s goalscoring leader tied the match with a monstrous left-footed shot that left Tom Starke little chance. Erick Torres’ flicked a header into space to the streaking RBNY striker and after just one-touch, Wright-Phillips provided his wonder strike.
“Obviously my left foot is not that good, I just try to get a clean strike and today it went in,” Wright-Phillips said. “Usually they go over the bar.”
The second-half comeback was almost overshadowed by the scene after the match when multiple Bayern Munich assistant coaches refused to shake Porter’s hand. Pep Guardiola also didn’t shake Porter’s hand, though he later said that he didn’t see him.
While Bayern might not have appreciated some challenges by MLS players such as yellow card recipients Osvaldo Alonso and Will Johnson, most MLS players felt like that was just part of the match.
“It was a real game. There was no two ways about it, it was a real soccer game,” Donovan said. “And it was fun to be a part of.”
Michael Bradley, who started and played the first half, also thought that there was nothing out-of-the-ordinary with how the match was played.
“Two guys are going for a ball and at times, somebody ends up on the field. At times, a guy gets a piece of another guy.” the Toronto FC midfielder said. “In friendlies you try to avoid that at much as possible but there are still going to be plays like that throughout the game.”
The post-game fireworks came long after Bayern Munich took an early lead behind Lewandowski. The Polish International created space for himself by beating Aurelien Collin before directing it past Nick Rimando and into the back of the net. His goal came moments after Lewandowski was denied by a Rimando kick save.
Clint Dempsey almost put the MLS on the board in the 30th minute when his off-the-volley effort from a tough angle denied at the near post by Tom Starke. Dempsey found an opening in the Bayern defense after a pinpoint long ball from Thierry Henry. Later in the first half, Henry collected a clearance with two touches before his long-range dipping shot went inches over the goal.
Nick Rimando showed why he is considered one of the best goalkeepers in MLS when he got his hand on a Xherdan Shaqiri close-range attempt in the waning moments of the first half. The jump-save was one of Rimando’s five saves on the night.
“Whenever you can contribute to your team in a game like this, it feels good,” the Real Salt Lake goalkeeper said. “You try to save as many as you can, they snuck one by me, but the way we responded and the way these guys came out in the second half, it feels good to be apart of this team and league.”
Rimando made way for Bill Hamid, who was not forced into nearly as much action as Rimando, had three saves for the evening. Hamid did, however, preserve the 2-1 scoreline when he denied Juan Bernat’s left-footed volley in the 79th minute.
Save for Thierry Henry, who was subbed off moments after the send half restart for Donovan, the MLS played with two completely different lineups, one for each half.
Bayern Munich’s contingent of World Cup Champions made second half appearances in the match after flying into Portland earlier in the afternoon. Manuel Neuer led the brigade into the match when he was brought on in the 62nd minute while the remainder of Bayern’s German World Cup players entered 11 minutes before the final whistle.
Also coming off the bench for Bayern was American International Julian Green, who played 45 minutes after coming in for Claudio Pizarro in the first half.
The sellout crowd of 21,733 was sharply divided as the Bundesliga champs had thousands of vocal supporters at the match. And while the majority of MLS players were cheered during introductions by most fans, boos serenaded Seattle’s Clint Dempsey when he was shown on the jumbotron pre-game.
“It shows the passion the fans have, the support they have for their local team,” Dempsey said. “I think that Seattle and Portland fans are tough to beat in terms of their passion and the atmosphere they create in their respective stadiums.”
Despite being managed by Porter, none of the three Portland representatives started the match for the MLS with Valeri, Johnson, and Liam Ridgewell all entering the match for the beginning of the second half. Valeri, who said he had never played in a match like the one on Wednesday, delivered the pass to set up Donovan’s winner.
The Portland Designated Player was the first MLS player to have a goal or assist on his home ground in an All-Star match since Houston’s Brian Ching had a goal and an assist in Man United’s 5-2 victory over MLS All-Stars in 2010.
“It was awesome. It was amazing I don’t have words to explain that,” Valeri said. “I really enjoyed it and these people deserved that.”
With the victory, the MLS All-Stars now have seven wins in 11 matches all-time against an international opponent.