MLS All-Stars Fall to Italian Legends Juventus in PKs

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Josef Martinez goes for the ball to level the score at 1-1 in Atlanta. Credit: John Amis AP

The world once again turned their focus to the city of Atlanta and Mercedes Benz Stadium as the best of MLS took on Italian legends Juventus in the 2018 MLS All Star Game.

There was no shortage of hype surrounding the match, as the city of Atlanta has seemingly raised the bar in MLS whether it be on the field or in the stands smashing attendance records. The match lived up to the hype by setting a new All-Star attendance record of 72, 317 breaking the previous record set in 2010 when 70, 728 fans in Houston watched Manchester United take on the MLS All-Stars.

“I think that’s normal now here in Atlanta regarding the records with the number of people we get,” Atlanta United midfielder Miguel Almirón said. “That’s why I just want to say again how much we all appreciate the support here in Atlanta that they provide to us every single match at home.”

The thousands of fans did not have to wait long for the action to start, as Matheus Pereira crossed in a perfect ball to Andrea Favilli who headed it right by Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan which gave the Italian side a 1-0 advantage.

But, the All-Stars have Josef Martinez.

The “Venezulean Viper” (thanks Kevin Egan) is not only destroying MLS back lines with his 24 goals in 23 games, but European teams are now experiencing Atlanta’s goal-scoring-machine. After the ball bouncing around the six-yard-box Martinez forced the ball into the back of the net in the 26th minute to level the score at 1-1.

After a number of chances for the MLS side – including an Ezequiel Barco volley and a shot by Diego Valeri that was cleared off the line – the match remained tied at the end of the ninety minutes which meant one thing…. Penalties.

Both sides shot perfectly from the spot until Bradley Wright Phillips of the New York Red Bulls stepped up to take the fourth penalty for the All-Stars. The Englishmen would then send his effort off the post and give way to Mattia De Sciglio slotting home the match winner for the Italian club.

Although the result on the match did not go in the All-Stars favor (never trust a NYRB player), the rest of the world was forced to recognize the growing talent of MLS with the likes of Alphonso Davies, Ezequiel Barco, and Miguel Almirón being linked with numerous European clubs.

Joao Cancelo (20) and Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Alphonso Davies go for the ball at the 2018 MLS All-Star Game. Davies was recently transferred to Bayern Munich for a MLS record of approximately $19 million. Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

“There is a lot of quality on the field tonight in this MLS team,” Atlanta United captain Michael Parkhurst said. “All over the field it’s just one great player after the other. I think that’s why we are able to compete against one of the best teams in the world today despite only having 1-1/2 training sessions.”

MLS action resumes this weekend with Atlanta United taking on Toronto F.C. at 4 p.m. this Saturday afternoon.