Major League Soccer’s 2016 All-Star Game was a party 15 years in the making for the San Jose Earthquakes. Thursday afternoon at Avaya Stadium marked the first time since 2001 that San Jose has hosted the MLS All-Star Game.
And with the eyes of MLS and of northern London on San Jose, the Quakes showed they could still put on a soccer party.
It was a party that didn’t have a storybook ending for MLS, though. With the scored tied at 1-1 in the 87th minute, Arsenal’s Nacho Monreal got to the end line and found Chuba Akpom who tapped the ball home for the game-winning goal.
But the 18,000 fans got a show during the week of MLS All-Star festivities that surely left San Jose, the Bay Area and MLS feeling like winners.
Arsenal got on the board first in the 11th minute following a long ball into the box that Laurent Ciman and Andre Blake couldn’t negotiate. Their confusion led to a foul and a Joel Campbell penalty kick the midfielder executed flawlessly for the 1-0 lead.
The MLS All-Stars got the majority of its offense from vintage Andrea Pirlo long balls and runs on the left flank by his teammate, David Villa. They left the pitch together with a pending game on Saturday limiting their minutes on the field.
But not all offense was lost. Two minutes into stoppage time, Sasha Klijestan found Giovanni Dos Santos in the box. He calmly laid off to Didier Drogba who was denied once by Petr Cech, another time by Mathieu Debuchy but then delivered the second rebound into the net to equalize for the All-Stars.
In the second half, Arsenal’s best chance, before Akpom’s goal, was thwarted by San Jose Earthquakes goalkeeper David Bingham. A corner kick and header in the 85th minute missed the MLS frame by inches.
MLS’ best opportunity in the second came courtesy of some individual skill by Sebastian Giovinco.
Man of the Match: Akpom picked up the MLS All-Star game MVP thanks in large part to his 87th minute goal. Akpom played on loan for Hull City last season in the Premier League where he scored three goals in 35 appearances.
Halftime overhaul: Kinnear went into his All-Star bench at halftime bringing in David Bingham, Darlington Nagbe, Mauro Diaz, Wil Trapp and Sebastian Giovinco to start the second half.
Former Stanford Cardinal turned Chicago Fire defender Brandon Vincent saw All-Star game action beginning in the 58th minute.
Quakes report: Bingham played the entire second half in his first All-Star Game appearance. In 45 minutes of play, he made a great save in the 69th minute on a shot from about 30 yards out -- that was one of his two saves.
Chris Wondolowski made his 2016 MLS All-Star debut in the 73rd minute to the biggest ovation of the afternoon for a player. He took a shot on goal in the 82th minute but missed high over the crossbar from just outside the 18-yard box. It was his only shot of the match.
Injury report: To the delight of MLS and Arsenal, there were no exhibition injuries to grimace about.
Attendance: Reported attendance for the second All-Star game hosted in San Jose was 18,000. In 2001, 23,512 watched MLS East versus West at Spartan Stadium.
Up next: MLS league soccer action resumes on Saturday with New York City FC versus Colorado Rapids. The San Jose Earthquakes are on the road to start the second half of the season. They visit the Houston Dynamo.