PORTLAND — Michael Bradley paused for a second, gathering his thoughts before laying out the conundrum of All-Star Games everywhere.
“Unfortunately, if you win and play well, it probably doesn’t matter very much,” the Toronto FC midfielder said ahead of Wednesday night’s Major League Soccer All-Star Game at Providence Park in Portland.
“If you lose, it probably matters a little bit more.”
Other professional sports leagues have added wrinkles to their games try to raise the stakes.
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Major League Baseball uses its All-Star Game to decide home-field advantage for the World Series while the NFL last year installed a schoolyard-style draft to its contest.
The MLS brings in powerhouse foreign clubs to compete against its All-Stars.
This year’s opponent is Bayern Munich, the 2013 European champions and a team stocked with many of the German players who just won the World Cup.
For forward Obafemi Martins, one of five Sounders on the MLS All-Star roster, Wednesday will be a throwback to his European career.
He spent multiple seasons in the UEFA Champions League with Inter Milan, his goal in the 2003 quarterfinals locking up a berth to the semifinals against eventual champions AC Milan.
He scored in that game, too.
Martins faced off against Bayern in the German league during his year with Wolfsburg.
“It’s a fun game, but you’re playing against Bayern Munich,” Martins said.
“Everybody wants to play against them. You want to show yourself. A lot of teams want to win against Bayern Munich.”
Julian Green has made just one appearance for Bayern’s senior team, but you wouldn’t know it from the sound of the crowd during Tuesday’s open practice.
The 19-year-old roared onto the World Cup stage in early July as a member of the United States national team, scoring less than two minutes into his first appearance in the game against Belgium.
The cheers that greeted his touches on Tuesday sometimes exceeded those for his international superstar teammates.
For Green, the friendly is another opportunity to prove himself to his club.
“I grew up near Munich,” Green said.
“Bayern Munich has always been my club. It’s an honor to play for them, for a chance to play with these players.”
Landon Donovan will be participating in his 14th MLS All-Star game.
He played in the East vs. West goal-fests of the early 2000s and the back-to-back Manchester United beatdowns in 2010 and 2011, when the MLS lost by a combined score of 9-2.
Donovan has been an ambassador for the MLS nearly his entire career.
For him, it’s about representing the league.
“I’m very proud of (MLS),” Donovan said.
“I think most guys are, too. I would hope all of them are. Guys that play here are very proud of this league. There’s a reason why you want to come here and play here.”
Every player has his reason for enjoying the occasion on All-Star night, testing himself against some of the world’s best players in front of what promises to be a full house.
There may be little at stake. But nobody wants to lose.
|Five Sounders were named to the All-Star Game roster:|