The 12th meeting between the MLS All-Stars and a team from Europe will commence on Thursday evening, with the 2016 all-star side set to face Arsenal of the English Premier League at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, California.
The match represents the 21st all-time all-star showcase put on by North America’s premier soccer league, with all matches since 2005 played in the “All-Stars vs. European Guest” format. The MLS All-Stars are 7-4 in these matches, defeating Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 last year in Colorado.
This year’s roster features two representatives from FC Dallas, with midfielders Kellyn Acosta and Mauro Diaz part of the 26-man roster. Acosta is listed as a defender for the match with jersey number #95, while Diaz is in his usual midfield role wearing the number #29.
Joining Acosta in the defense for the all-stars will be Laurent Ciman of Montreal and Keegan Rosenberry of Philadelphia, both named to the team via fan voting. United States international Steve Birnbaum of D.C. United and Belgian Jelle Van Damme of the Los Angeles Galaxy also help comprise the eight defenders on the roster.
A star-studded litany of names will be in the midfield alongside Diaz, with Orlando City’s Kaka, New York City FC’s Andrea Pirlo and the Los Angeles Galaxy’s Giovani Dos Santos just some of the big names. Three members of the United States Men’s National Team have also been selected for the MLS All-Star midfield: Jermaine Jones of Colorado, Kyle Beckerman of Real Salt Lake and Portland’s Darlington Nagbe.
Perhaps the most important part of the MLS roster though is the group of seven forwards selected for the match, led by league-leading scorer David Villa (13 goals) from NYCFC. Former English Premier League stars Clint Dempsey (Seattle) and Didier Drogba (Montreal) will be well-versed in tonight’s opponents Arsenal, having frequently played against the London club during their time at Fulham/Tottenham and Chelsea respectively.
Drogba’s strike partner from Montreal Ignacio Piatti will join the Ivorian up top, while Sebastian Giovinco is the lone representative from Toronto FC. Chris Wondolowski will look to provide a spark as a selection from the hometown Earthquakes.
Goalkeeping for the all-stars will be left to the devices of Philadelphia’s Andre Blake and San Jose’s David Bingham, both very capable choices.
The all-stars will be coached by the manager of the host city’s team, in this case Dominic Kinnear of San Jose.
The Arsenal roster currently on a tour of California is a relatively full-strength unit put out by Frenchman Arsene Wenger. Both Petr Cech and David Ospina are available to start in goal for the Gunners, while names like Mathieu Debuchy, Nacho Monreal, Calum Chambers and Kieran Gibbs are listed as defenders up for selection.
Summer signing Granit Xhaka from Borussia Monchengladbach is one of nine midfielders that Wenger has named to his touring side, along with Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and the promising young American Gedion Zelalem.
Youth is the defining theme for the four forwards on Arsenal’s roster, with 20 year-olds Alex Iwobi and Chuba Akpom the youngest of the group. Costa Rican Joel Campbell and England’s Theo Walcott round out the attacking options for the North Londoners.
The 2016 MLS All-Star Game will be broadcast live on ESPN at 7 p.m. CST with a pre-match program beginning at 6:30 p.m. CST.