D.C. United coach Olsento lead the MLS squad
PHILADELPHIA -- The members of the MLS All-Star team naturally turn to Thierry Henry when it comes to scouting their opponent for the league's midseason showcase. But while Henry may have played against Chelsea FC countless times during his Arsenal career, these days he's happily a member of the New York Red Bulls.
"I think they're going to have to tell me stuff," Henry said. "They're going to have to help me. They know Chelsea. I don't have to say anything. I'm sure they watched their [title-winning] run in the Champions League last season and know it's going to be a tough one. I don't have to tell them much."
|MLS All-Star Game|
|MLS All-Stars vs. Chelsea FC|
|When » Wednesday, 8:30 p.m.|
|Where » PPL Park, Chester, Pa.|
|TV » ESPN2|
The unique format of the MLS All-Star Game, which pits the league's best against a big-name overseas opponent, is in its ninth iteration -- the last East vs. West game took place in 2004. But it will be new for 12 of the 19 players on the MLS roster Wednesday.
While Henry greeted Chelsea coach Roberto Di Matteo and midfielder Frank Lampard at Tuesday's news conference at the Independence Visitors Center with the smiles and laughter of an old friend, some of his MLS teammates were still getting used to their place among the league's elite.
Fourth-year Sporting Kansas City midfielder Graham Zusi was a relative unknown in his first two seasons after winning two national championships at Maryland. In the last 18 months, he's blossomed into one of MLS' elite playmakers.
"I almost don't know -- I'm not sure if it's sunk in all the way," Zusi said. "I'm still just enjoying the moments that I get, and I'm loving what I'm doing. That part hasn't changed whatsoever."
D.C. United coach Ben Olsen's ascent has been similar. Two seasons from taking over on an interim basis, Olsen has welcomed the task of playing "fantasy soccer," piecing together the most deserving players, including D.C. midfielder Chris Pontius, one of the first-time All-Stars.
"After talking to every coach and every agent, that almost becomes the toughest part of this deal -- to try and make everybody happy," Olsen said. "But I think we found a pretty good balance. It's worked out to where we can get everybody a significant amount of playing time. It's not an easy process."
It wasn't difficult to name a captain. Olsen tabbed his own reigning league MVP Dwayne De Rosario, who is the only holdover from the 2006 MLS All-Star Game. De Rosario was the MVP of that match, scoring the lone goal in a 1-0 MLS victory over Chelsea.
For his part, Henry thought the All-Stars were better than last year's 4-0 loss to Manchester United. There's always motivation to add another victory against a former English Premier League foe.
"If you're not happy to play against Chelsea," Henry said, "Then there is something wrong."