Arena: Experience more valuable than score
Manchester United thoroughly outplayed the MLS All-Stars on Wednesday night, looking little like a team in preseason as Federico Macheda & co. punished their hosts’ mistakes and ran out of Reliant Stadium 5-2 winners.
But All-Star head coach Bruce Arena saw a lot of positives from his side despite the lopsided result, especially in being able to give all his players a run-out against arguably the best club in the world.
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“I don’t think we necessarily came into this game to try to steal a result as much as we wanted to give all players an opportunity to play against Manchester United and try to put on a good game,” Arena said in the postgame press conference. “For us to be able to play those 22 players that we did tonight, it was good, and so were our young players, who are going to walk away from this experience and benefit from it.”
Arena in particular singled out the play of defenders Kevin Alston and Omar Gonzalez. Even though both second-year pros each were directly responsible for giving up goals to Manchester United, Arena praised their poise in putting in mostly quality performances against a tough opponent.
“It’s a fabulous experience for them, and it’s the first time they’ve been in these kinds of environments,” Arena said of the former U.S. youth national team players. “It’s only going to be a plus for them as they move forward professionally.”
Still, Manchester United handed the MLS squad its worst defeat since the league switched to the current All-Star Game format, and Wednesday night’s scoreline was also the Red Devils’ best result of their North American tour.
The Kansas City Wizards shocked Sir Alex Ferguson’s men last weekend at Arrowhead Stadium, surprising them 2-1. Arena said he expected a rededicated Manchester United, who clearly looked motivated to save face against the league’s best on Wednesday.
“You have to remember a team is going to have an advantage over a collection of players you throw together on an evening,” Arena said. “I think a team with the quality of Manchester United certainly is going to have to an advantage over an All-Star team as opposed to even another team in MLS, because we’re not necessarily playing the players in their right spots, [and] we aren’t able to complement each other in this kind of format.”