MLS All-Stars, overreaction and reaction

Hysterical overreaction is as much a part of the Internet as inappropriate photos and conspiracy theories.

Given that, I’m a little surprised I haven’t heard today from the dude who kept Tweeting at me last week about MLS “fixing” games by playing reserves in the second half … of friendlies. Oh no, it couldn’t be a prudent decision to rest starters and give reserves some experience in a game that won’t count in the standings. It’s a crime.

The Internet is noisy. After any event that draws hype, many people will sound off. And just as the UFC survives to fight another day when a main event is disappointing, so too will MLS survive a round of friendlies in which European elites have basically wiped the field with indifferent, inexperienced or inferior teams.

All that said, MLS fans and the blogopundits are well within their rights to look at last night’s game and ask whether the league has any players capable of hitting the broad side of a barn from the penalty spot.

The league has already set a record for scoreless ties, and it’s not even August, as Steve Davis laments in a sound analysis. Then last night, the MLS All-Stars laid a goose egg.

Yes, Manchester United is one of the world’s best teams, and yes, they’re clearly taking this U.S. tour more seriously than many teams have taken it in the past. Their attacking flair was brilliant last night, and it’s hard to begrudge an All-Star team that never practices together the four goals it conceded to Rooney, Berbatov et al.

Yet United gave the All-Stars plenty of space, appropriately enough for a friendly. No one’s getting “stuck in” on a challenge in a game like this. (Jamison Olave left with an injury, but it wasn’t caused by contact.) The All-Stars, though unfamiliar with each other, completed 86% of their passes and managed 13 shots, two more than a well-oiled Man U machine. Goals? Zero. And it’s not as if Man U’s two keepers had to dig deep to keep the All-Stars at bay.

Can we prove anything from one game? No. Is it one more sad piece of evidence to the well-supported theory that MLS players can knock the ball around all day, just as they do in those ubiquitous possession drills, but can’t put the ball in the net? Certainly looks that way.

And fans have every right to say, while supporting the league in near-record numbers, that GMs should be looking for goal-scorers and coaches should be devoting a bit more time to finishing drills rather than possession exercises.

That’s not an overreaction to one game. The All-Star Game isn’t even the last straw. It’s just a well-publicized example of a legitimate problem. The result — Manchester United winning — doesn’t matter. Overreacting to the game is silly. Reacting is not.

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