HOUSTON -- Just as thunder claps filled the air and heavy rain began pouring from the skies, a handful of MLS stars dumped the final bag of mulch around the base of some brand-new monkey bars, signaling the completion of a playground at the Golden Acres Elementary School in Pasadena, Texas.
The players joined volunteers from the Home Depot and KaBOOM! to collaborate in yet another playground build. The structure on the school grounds was completed in one single day, thanks to volunteers and MLS players such as Pat Onstad, Kevin Alston, Nick Rimando, Javier Morales, Ike Opara and Alejandro Moreno.
"It's great thing for us to be involved in and it's something that we're very proud of," Moreno said. "I've done it before, but the weather in the past has been a little bit better than it was today. But I think that just shows the kind of commitment these people have."
The playground serves as a lasting legacy to this year's MLS All-Star Game, said MLS commissioner Don Garber.
"We've being doing it at every one of our events," Garber said. "We've got a great partnership with Home Depot and KaBOOM!, which is an organization that goes and raises money to build playgrounds in communities that need it. There's nothing better."
"I get to do the ceremonial board cut, but our guys, our players and the volunteers have been out here all day building this playground at no cost to this elementary school, and we're really proud of it."
The commissioner did indeed participate in the ceremonial board cut—a bit like snipping the ribbon, but with a hand saw—but also helping out was Manchester United legend-turned-executive, Sir Bobby Charlton.
Charlton's Manchester United are involved in similar projects in England, and attending this playground build was something that the 1966 World Cup hero wanted to be a part of.
"What you've done here is one of the most fantastic things," Charlton told the crew of builders, volunteers and MLS players. "What it does is…it brings people together, and when you bring people together it's a powerful force. This must be one of the most fantastic efforts you've ever done. I think it's just brilliant."
The playground was completed in just five hours, and it began life Tuesday morning as a swath of dirt in the school's back yard. However, the crew of 250 volunteers quickly turned it into a jumble of monkey bars, slides and swings.
Houston Dynamo COO Chris Canetti said the playground was a way to give something back to the community that has embraced and supported his team since it arrived in Houston in 2006. However, for one Dynamo player, defender Bobby Boswell, it was also a chance to have some fun and get dirty.
"Anytime you come out to do something involving building or construction, I think you have to expect to get somewhat dirty," said Boswell, who was spattered from head to toe in mud. "Being in Houston, you've got some rain coming, and look at all these people out here working. It's a lot of fun."