Harry Kane got on the scorer's sheet, but a team of MLS All-Stars minus Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Robbie Keane, and MIchael Bradley did enough damage in the first half to see off Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 in the 2015 MLS All-Star Match at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Denver.
Spurs opted for a very strong starting lineup, possibly close to the first choice 11, to start the match. Harry Kane started up top with Nabil Bentaleb paired with converted CB Eric Dier in the pivot. Nacer Chadli, Christian Eriksen (playing centrally) and Mousa Dembele made up the rest of the front line, while Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld, Kyle Walker, and Ben Davies slotted in at the back. Michel Vorm started in goal.
The match started out lively for MLS and they had a couple of quick chances in the opening two minutes. Jan Vertonghen had a muffed pass that led to a MLS shot that went just wide, and another chance just 90 seconds later. But the match settled down within a few minutes and Spurs began to dominate possession and scoring opportunities.
That didn't mean much in the 20th minute after Nacer Chadli was flagged for a hand ball in the box. Kaká slotted home the penalty and MLS was up 1-0.
Two minutes later, former La Liga superstar David Villa doubled MLS's lead off of a nice passing combination from Kaká. It was a great pass in and a great one touch goal, almost vintage Villa, and MLS were up 2-0.
Harry Kane played well during the match and should've had a hat trick but for two outstanding saves from Nick Rimando. Nevertheless, Kane got on the scoreboard midway through the first half after a Matt Besler slip put Kane through on goal. He put in a blasted shot into the upper left hand corner to cut the All-Star's lead in half, and that's the way the first half ended with the score at 2-1.
In typical All-Star Game fashion, MLS manager Pablo Mastroeni opted to replace his entire side at the break, subbing out all 11 players. Mauricio Pochettino brought in new signing Kevin Wimmer, Dele Alli, Tom Carroll, and Kieran Trippier at the break, and eventually subbed all of the starters off, with Luke McGee, Harry Winks, DeAndre Yedlin, Federico Fazio, Josh Onomah, and Danny Rose all getting playing time.
The second half was similarly dominated by Tottenham in possession but Spurs were not able to get the equalizer despite late chances from Josh Onomah and Harry Kane. MLS also had a few chances with one shot in particular cleared off the line by Kieran Trippier.
Neither side were able to break through in the second half, and the friendly ended with a 2-1 MLS victory.
- It's difficult to take a whole lot away from a friendly where one team changes the entire side at halftime and the other team gradually ends up with a team of development players, but overall this was a fun match to watch with plenty of positives despite the loss. MLS may have won the match, but Spurs really outplayed them for much of the match, even when the kids were in, as illustrated by Michael Caley's xG model.
xG map for the MLS All-Star Game. Still shaking off some offseason rust here. Sorry. pic.twitter.com/wsqoeI8mer— Michael Caley (@MC_of_A) July 30, 2015
- Nacer Chadli... whoof. Dumb handball in the box, and didn't really look all that impressive in the first half. Not impressed by our Belgian dolphin.
- Harry Kane was dominant tonight. If not for Nick Rimando's heroics he could've had a hat trick tonight. Any worries that he might have lost something from last season to this season should be dispelled. His finish in the 37th minute off of the Gerrard-esque slip from Matt Besler was vintage Kane.
- I've been purposefully trying to slow my roll when it comes to Dele Alli, as I didn't want to saddle him with overwhelming expectations when he's basically skipped a division to go from League 1 to the Premier League. But this kid is GOOD and maybe should be starting. Wow. He pretty much blew me away.
- Eric Dier started the match at DM and wasn't terrible at it. That said, he wasn't particularly great at it either. His positional awareness was good, but he looked more like a CB LARPing as a DM than an actual DM. We still need a better option in the pivot beside Nabil Bentaleb. Maybe that's Alli, but I'd much rather we sign someone who can step in immediately.
- Mousa Dembele started the match, but he played wide in Erik Lamela's place and wasn't great. I'd still like to see him in his more customary defensive #10 or even in the pivot beside Bentaleb. Not ready to give up on him yet.
- When Kieran Trippier came in for the second half, he showed exactly why he was considered to be one of the best crossing fullbacks in the EPL when he was at Burnley. Really solid outing from Trippier, and based on this game he should give Kyle Walker a run for his money.
- Based on this match, I really don't see where DeAndre Yedlin fits into this Tottenham side this year. He wasn't bad in midfield by any means, but I don't see him getting many minutes ahead of Lamela or the other wide midfield options. Time to get him a good EPL loan and let him earn his spurs.
- Danny Rose, by contrast, maybe should've started this match. He looked as good as he did for most of last season, putting in timely tackles and incisive runs. The left back position is still his to lose.
- I thought Nabil Bentaleb looked decent early but faded late in the half. I still think he's going to be a key performer for this Tottenham side and it probably wasn't helped by the fact that he no longer has a clear partner in the pivot, but he wasn't as good as I was hoping.
- Kevin Wimmer is a tank and I want to see more of him.
- Of the rest of the youth, Harry Winks didn't look spectacular. Josh Onomah looked lively but not first-team ready. Shaq Coulthirst had a good chance on goal but skied his shot well over the bar. There's a lot of talent there, but aside from Alli I'm not sure we should be pinning our hopes on any of the youth to contribute major minutes in the league this season.
- It's just a friendly. Yes, Spurs lost, but they were playing a pretty good in-form MLS team at altitude. The MLS 'MERICA meatheads may crow about it, but it doesn't matter. Still some things to work out and some holes to fill, but overall it was a promising outing. But there's a lot to be done to be able to hang with United at Old Trafford.