The MLS All-Stars take on storied Spanish club Real Madrid in Chicago at Soldier Field. Atlanta United’s Miguel Almiron, Greg Garza, and Michael Parkhurst will take the field against the current European champions.
Almiron and Garza were voted into the team via fan voting, while Parkhurst was added by All-Star coach Veljko Paunovic. Only the host Chicago Fire have more players in the All-Star team, with four Fire players making the squad. Atlanta joins Dallas and Toronto with three selections.
While Real Madrid is without Cristiano Ronaldo on their current American tour, the rest of the roster will present a formidable test for the MLS All-Stars. With just two days of light training to prepare for the game, it will be tough for team tactics to develop for the All-Stars. It will be down to individuals to shine tonight.
For Miguel Almiron, it is an opportunity to establish himself as a top player in this league. His importance to the Five Stripes is well known locally, but he is only starting to get whispers of consideration in the MVP race. A strong performance tonight against a powerhouse like Real Madrid will go a long way to opening eyes among the national media. His eight goals and nine assists so far this season show how vital he is to the Atlanta attack. His work defensively, dropping deep into midfield to cut off passing lanes and start counterattacks, is also vital to Tata Martino’s pressing system of play.
Greg Garza, who has made it clear in recent interviews that he wants to stay in Atlanta long-term, is making the most of his loan spell. After recovering from a hip injury, Garza has displayed the form that has him in the U.S. national team pool at left back. His attacking style is perfectly suited to Martino’s system and his excellent season has not gone unnoticed by the fans around MLS, who voted him into tonight’s match.
Captain Michael Parkhurst was a coach’s selection for the squad and will be making his fifth MLS All-Star appearance. His veteran leadership has been essential for a brand new team and he has helped hold a young backline together all season. While the attacking signings have generated much praise for Atlanta’s front office, the acquisition of Parkhurst ahead of this season could be one of those under-the-radar moves that makes this club a contender.
Almiron, Garza, and Parkhurst will rejoin the Five Stripes Thursday as they finish preparing for Sunday’s match against Western Conference leaders Sporting Kansas City. Kickoff is at 8 p.m. Sunday night and we’ll have the call for you here on 92-9 The Game.