Texto: David Barr (@daveabarr)
Fotos : Walfri Rodas
It was an exciting All Star week in the Windy city that focused on the game as it exists now and a look at the future.
First, the match:
Goals were few but the excitement was at a fever pitch as 61,000 plus saw Real Madrid pull away from the MLS All Stars on penalty kicks to win the 2017 MLS All Star Game at Soldier Field.
The Champions League and La Liga champions owned the first 45-minutes of action but could not find the back of the net against MLS goalkeeper Tim Howard. Once substitutions were made, the field opened and the action became more frantic. Marcelo and Gareth Bale entered the match and, they were not your average substitutes applying pressure on the MLS defense but yet coming up short. All of this to the delight of the capacity crowd.
As with every showcase kind of game you could tell who had worked together as a unit for more time than the other, especially on defense. Los Galaticos are wrapping up their preseason abroad and had just finished playing in the International Champions Cup around the United Sates. Their communication and feel for each other was evident. On the other hand, MLS had a couple of days to put things together.
All-Star MVP Borja Mayoral’s 59th minute goal gave Los Blancos the lead but MLS came back in dramatic fashion in the 87th thanks to Orlando City’s Dom Dwyer stuffing home a deflection off the crossbar to tie things at one a piece.
Real Madrid would go on to win the penalty kicks battle 4-2 with Marcelo sealing the MLS stars fate. There were a lot of winners on this night. Major League Soccer put its best foot forward and played with the world’s best shot for shot and, run for run.
Soccer legend and Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane had nothing but glowing remarks for MLS and its players after the match. “MLS is a really good level of soccer. We saw really good players tonight and and a good game. We played against international players tonight and the fans had a great time. That’s the most imnportant thing. I hope the growth of MLS continues.”
Before the action on the field, a very important announcement was made about the future of Major League Soccer by Commissioner Don Garber.
Major partner adidas along with league officials introduced a contract extension with the German company through 2024. The agreement is a $700 million investment and is worth $5 million to each team for the length of the contract beginning in 2018.
“Mark King, adidas North America President in a press release. “Our partnership with MLS puts adidas at the core of sport in North America, allowing us to make a positive difference in an athlete’s game and life. We believe in the power of sport and its ability to create positivity for young athletes and their world. Through our expanded youth development program, we’ll provide high-level competition and unique life experiences for athletes who want to improve their game.”
The continued investment by adidas is a strong signal of their belief in the league, its potential and the sport of soccer in North America.
“Adidas has been a major collaborator with us since the inception of MLS, and we are proud that our partnership with this globally-respected brand will continue to enhance the growth of the game in North America for many more years,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in a statement. “We will work with Adidas on innovative concepts to showcase the sport and our elite athletes, and we will intensify our mission to develop top North American soccer players for generations to come.”
To put the deal into perspective, the media deals for MLS (ESPN, FOX and Univision) total $90 million per year. This new agreement is the largest in MLS history.
Major League Soccer’s growth on the pitch was also a topic of conversation before the All Star festivities began as Garber gave the latest update on soccer legend David Beckham’s pursuit of an expansion team in Miami.
“Everything really is in place for us to do what we need to do over the next couple of weeks, perhaps 30 days, to work with them to move forward. …We’re not announcing MLS Miami today, but I’m confident we’ll be able to do that perhaps by the end of the summer.”
Beckham and investors have struggled with the project, especially regarding stadium options as it is being funded privately. The process has been ongoing since 2014. The opportunity at a reduced rate compared to other MLS expansion franchises was given to Beckham as part of his 2007 contract to play with the LA Galaxy.