The MLS All-Star team is already making history with a diverse roster that includes six Atlanta United players.
The All-Star game takes place at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 1 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium and has the MLS All-Star team competing against Juventus FC, the most decorated club in Italy. Juventus FC has more Serie A and Coppa Italia titles than any other Italian club.
The team recently signed star Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo, who played in the 2018 World Cup on the Portuguese national team, but ESPN reports he will not play for Juventus in the Major League Soccer All-Star Game.
The MLS All- Star team selected by Atlanta United head coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino includes 24 players representing a record-breaking 17 countries. The players from various MLS teams hail from countries such as Belgium, Argentina, Mexico, England, Spain, Sweden, Peru, Italy, Finland, Venezuela and Uruguay. Martino didn’t spend “any more time than necessary” choosing the players but instead focused on a diverse roster.
“I just tried to pick the team according to my personal taste of players and tried to spread players among different teams in the league just so there’s not a lot of guys from the same league,” Martino says.
The original roster included six Atlanta United players voted to the MLS All-Star Game FAN XI presented by Target.
Now that midfielder Darlington Nagbe is out for two to three months due to a right adductor injury, five Atlanta United players are participating in the match.
The roster includes goalkeeper Brad Guzan, team captain Michael Parkhurst, 19-year-old Ezequiel Barco, MLS score leader Miguel Almiron and MLS Golden Boot frontrunner Josef Martinez.
Barco was recently benched for disciplinary reasons, according to news reports, but is expected to play in the All Star Game – which will be his first. He says they’re going to do everything they can to prepare for the match.
“It’s really important to play against a top team like Juventus,” Barco says. “I’m happy, and it’s a unique experience to play against players of that level. The fans always fill the stadium, but we think it’s important for us to try and win the game.”
The energy should be similar to that of the home games, says Guzan, who thinks it will be a week to showcase Atlanta and the club.
MLS has a week’s worth of events planned for fans, including a concert headlined by Atlanta rap artist 2 Chainz, a Homegrown Game, A Men in Blazers event and more. The game is an opportunity for the MLS to bring its best players together for the match, and Guzan, a two-time U.S. MNT World Cup goalkeeper, says he is looking forward to the event.
“You have players from around the league that come together for a couple days and ultimately play a game against a well-known opponent,” Guzan says. “It should be exciting to interact with them, see them for a few days and play in a pretty big game.”
When rounding out the team, Martino focused on a core group of players who are fan favorites.
Canadian national team player Alphonso Davies of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC and two-time MLS Golden Boot winner Bradley Wright-Phillips of the New York Red Bulls are both All-Star Game honorees chosen by MLS Commissioner Don Garber.
Other MLS star players include former Juventus star and Toronto FC midfielder Sebastian Giovinco, L.A. Galaxy midfielder Jonathan dos Santos, Orlando City SC midfielder Yoshimar Yotún and 23-year-old goal Columbus Crew goalkeeper Zack Steffen.
The team, which has a strong midfield corps and several MLS-leading strikers, is a tough squad, but Martino doesn’t know if they can defeat Juventus FC.
“We’ll see. The important thing is to conserve the spirit of the All-Star Game,” Martino says.