It’s an arena that hosts Superbowl LIII next February. But on August 1st, the Mercedes Benz stadium welcomes two slightly different teams in one of the summer’s most anticipated matches over the pond.
It’s not often you find fans being able to choose a section of a squad but in late June that became the case, with MLS All-Stars lining up against a star-studded Juventus side. Bar Cristiano Ronaldo that is!
Tata Martino, former Barcelona and Argentina boss, and current Atlanta United manager was then responsible for all but two of the rest of the squad. The final pair were picked by MLS commissioners to bring the final total to 26 players from 17 different nations.
The question is who is likely to be the standout players against the current Italian champions? So, let’s have a look at the best possible 11 so you can be the judge of whether they have the ability to topple Turin’s famous side.
Goalkeeper- Zack Steffen
While fans picked Brad Guzan as the man to guard the posts, the better option at the moment is a home-grown player who has risen through the ranks at astronomical speed.
Zack Steffen has competed for Columbus Crew since 2016 after a youth career at SC Freiburg and loan spell at Pittsburgh Riverhounds.
He’s also had experience in international competitions, having helped the US to a U20 World Cup knockout victory over Colombia in 2015. No surprise then, Steffen subsequently received his first call-up to the US team with a clean sheet over Paraguay. He’s subsequently made two further caps.
Defence- Laurent Ciman
In for the experience. Picked by the fans, Laurent Ciman is an obvious choice as somebody who is positionally aware and can lead from the back.
In five years at Standard Liege, he played 152 times before 85 appearances followed at Montreal Impact.
So a move to Los Angeles FC afterwards wasn’t seen as much of a risk as, although, age became a problem in regards to pace there was no doubt that Ciman could win games on his own at the back. It’s why he has to start against Juventus.
Defence- Michael Parkhurst
Michael Parkhurst has seen pretty much everything in MLS football. After attending the highly regarded Bradenton Soccer Academy he burst onto the scene in college football with his stamina and durability,
In half of the clubs that Parkhurst has played for, New England Revolution, Nordsjælland and Columbus Crew. The centre-back reached one hundred appearances on each occasion, a sign of loyalty and determination.
No doubt then, Parkhurst is a sensible starter in the MLS All-Stars match. Balance will be key against the powerful potent presence that Juventus hold and there aren’t much better to combat that than the 34-year-old.
Defence- Aaron Long
When you win an award as prestigious as the USL Defender of the Year you have to stand up and take notice.
In 2016, Aaron Long did just that when playing for the New York Red Bulls. And he’s got a proven record in key matches.
Just last month, Long scored the second goal in a 4-0 derby win over New York City in the fourth round of the 2018 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, following that with a crucial goal in a 3-0 victory over FC Dallas.
Defence- Alphonso Davies
One of the commissioners picks and my word they might have found a diamond in the rough.
Alphonso Davies is just 17 but has already cemented a starting place within the Vancouver Whitecaps set-up, and added to the international experience with the Canadian first team, he looks to be one of the country’s most prestigious prodigies.
With talk of a move to Bayern Munich, this could also be a chance for Davies to showcase his ability in front of European scouts and create a long-term career for himself.
Midfield- Jonathan dos Santos
Being as blunt as possible, too good not to start. Jonathan dos Santos’ career, unlike a fair few who earn their trade in the MLS, is well documented.
An ever-present in the Mexican team since 2009, dos Santos started out at Barcelona’s infamous youth academy La Masia de Can Planes before heading off to Villarreal to gain first-team experience.
The fact that the midfielder was chosen for the 2018 World Cup squad after missing out in previous tournaments proves that the LA Galaxy play-maker has the mindset needed against Juventus.
Midfield- Miguel Almiron
Enthusiastic to say the least, Miguel Almiron just simply never stops running.
Described as the heartbeat of the Atlanta United team, the Paraguayan has proven to be instrumental this season, netting a hat-trick against Houston Dynamo and scoring a brace against New York City.
Form like this, and the fact that he’d be playing in his home stadium, has meant that he was one of the first fan picks for midfield. It could turn out to be a masterful decision.
Midfield- Alexander Ring
A youth career in Germany, including ten years at Bayer Leverkusen, Alexander Ring is used to centre stage. And that’s not just the fact he’s used to walking down Broadway in his downtime.
The New York City midfielder is the glue for the blue team and was elected the club’s Newcomer of the Year, scoring his first goal, ironically, against Atlanta United.
Like others in the All-Stars game Ring has international experience, and proved the difference in Finland’s 1-0 2018 World Cup qualification triumph against Iceland last year.
Forward- Zlatan Ibrahimovic
If Zlatan wasn’t in this squad then Zlatan would be complaining about it, no doubt. If the MLS All-Stars team want to try and win this game then chucking the ball into the box towards the Swede may be their best option.
A record of 12 goals in just 15 games for LA Galaxy, including a 45-yard volley in stoppage time on debut, has done nothing to stop the headlines that continue to circulate when Zlatan is in town.
And of course, he played for Juventus. Sentiment, however? Not a bit of it.
Forward- Sebastian Giovinco
There could be a bit of a trend going on in the All-Stars front-line on August 1.
Between 2006 and 2015 Giovinco earned his trade in Turin but the fact that he’s actually made more appearances for Toronto FC in half the time says a lot about his game then and now.
Arguably the most famous thing to come out of Toronto since the CN Tower, Giovinco has established himself amongst Canadian football folklore.
Some 60 goals in 103 games just touch the surface but look deeper and you’ll find the Italian has won 20 individual awards in three years. Yep, 20 in three. That’s why he’s simply got to start.
Forward- Bradley Wright-Phillips
To complete the line-up we have perhaps the greatest MLS player in history.
Since 2013 Wright-Phillips has turned into one of New York’s famous sportsmen let alone football players, with 99 goals in 158 appearances.
Even at 33 his pace, alongside Giovinco on the other wing, could trouble Juventus and with Ibrahimovic leading the line, it may create a lethal combination.
We’ll just have to wait and see on August 1.