HOUSTON -- The smaller-market Kansas City Wizards found a way to sneak a little influence into this week's MLS All-Star game after all.
The Wizards felt slighted last week when no member of the club was selected for All-Star duty. But they kicked up a hornets nest around the Manchester United camp by laying a highly public lick on the global soccer heavyweights, who are currently touring North America. Even though it's just preseason for Sir
It was certainly greeted unkindly back home, where the headline writers in England sharpened their teeth and described it as "embarrassing" and as a "preseason shocker."
So, even if the fabled English giants will be something less than at full strength as they test the MLS All-Stars, they're sure to bring an extra helping of motivation into Wednesday's contest. Kickoff beneath the closed roof of Reliant Stadium is set for 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN2 and TeleFutura).
"I grew up watching Manchester United," said Rimando, who backstopped Real Salt Lake's 2009 MLS championships. "They are one of the best teams in the world, and they are some of the best players in the world, so to play against them in this game is a great opportunity."
For the sixth consecutive season and the seventh time in eight years, MLS rolls out the format that pits its A-List bunch against a high-profile foreign side. This year's game has scored a coup by landing perennial English Premiership and Champions League contender Manchester United.
However, while it's nice to have a name like United's to trumpet in the headlines, make no mistake about one thing: The bunch in the familiar red tops Wednesday will bear little resemblance to the group that soon goes hunting for English and European hardware.
The list of Red Devils not available at the moment is as impressive as it is extensive; Ferguson has provided extended recuperation time for players coming off World Cup duty. It's a concession to a grueling season ahead, one that stretches from an Aug. 16 Barclays Premier League opener through late May 2011.
An interesting sidebar revolves around a man yet to make his first appearance for Manchester United, newly signed Mexican sensation
Hernandez hopes to play Wednesday and Ferguson says he is eager to see the young striker play, so El Chicharito seems sure to make his United debut at the mammoth Reliant Stadium. The promise of a Hernandez appearance can only help to drive up attendance, which already is close being sold out.
All-Star matches in the past few years have been used to reward clubs for pushing forward on the league's important soccer-specific stadium initiative. The last five have been at Columbus' Crew Stadium, Chicago's Toyota Park, Colorado's Dick's Sporting Goods Park, Toronto's BMO Field and Real Salt Lake's Rio Tinto Stadium, all of which are smaller venues of 20,000 or so, more befitting the MLS model. League officials did consider Robertson Stadium, the Houston Dynamo's 28,000-seat home on the University of Houston campus. But when Manchester United was secured as the opponent, 70,000-seat Reliant became the only sensible option. Thus, Wednesday's crowd is sure to be the largest to witness an MLS All-Star contest since 78,416 saw the league's first midsummer contest in 1996.
Los Angeles Galaxy coach
"I think the MLS has always been successful [in this format] and the intensity level has been high, but I don't think the tackles have ever been over the top," said Houston Dynamo coach
Arena's MLS All-Stars will be at something less than full strength because of injuries and quirky scheduling. Real Salt Lake's