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Aug 6, 2014

Three Points: MLS All-Stars vs. Bayern

2014 MLS All-Star Game: MLS All-Stars 2-1 Bayern Munich

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Three quick thoughts after the MLS All-Stars' 2-1 win over Bayern Munich at Providence Park on Wednesday night:

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1. It's a nice moment for MLS

And we're not just talking about the result. Coming off the heels of a World Cup that captivated the nation like never before, this was a week to celebrate the growth of the sport in the United States. Portland was the perfect host. It's a soccer city, pure and simple, and the MLS All-Stars' matchup with mighty Bayern was the talk of the town in the lead-up to the contest. The only question was whether the home team would be up for the challenge. MLS has had its share of victories in these showpiece matches, but it's been embarrassed at times, too -- most recently in last summer's one-sided loss to Roma, a team that doesn't have the stature of the German champions.

Bayern dominated early, and when Robert Lewandowski gave the visitors the lead eight minutes in, MLS fans feared the worst. But the hosts managed to claw back into the game in the second half with goals from New York Red Bulls forward Bradley Wright-Phillips -- the league's leading scorer -- and Landon Donovan, who was famously left off the U.S. World Cup squad in May. The former Bayern loanee sent Diego Valeri's feed past Manuel Neuer to seal the 2-1 win. The victory doesn't mean anything in the standings, it's true. But beating a team like Bayern Munich is never meaningless.

Robert Lewandowski scored an early goal that showed why he's considered one of the best strikers in the world.

2. Lewandowski may be the best striker in the world

The Polish forward arrived on a free transfer from Borussia Dortmund this summer, but there probably isn't a more valuable player in the world right now. Lewandowski had been in brilliant form for Bayern during all preseason, and he was again right from the start against the best in the MLS. The 25-year-old forced a fine save from Nick Rimando seven minutes into the match, and moments later he showed his class by skipping over defender Aurelien Collin and ripping a swerving 18-yard bomb past Rimando. (Perhaps the Real Salt Lake keeper misplayed the shot slightly, but there probably wasn't much he could have done to stop it, anyway.)

Later, Lewandowski thrilled the crowd with some fancy footwork, and his combination play and movement off the ball was also sublime. He's probably the best target striker anywhere right now, but that label doesn't do him justice. What makes Lewandowski so dangerous is his versatility. With size, guile and the outrageous skill on display here, there is no shortage of ways he can win a match. Now, with an all-world supporting cast around him, we could simply be calling him the game's best striker, period, by the end of the season.

Thierry Henry's effortless style and unmatched vision on the pitch are still intact.

3. Thierry Henry is still world-class

As good as Lewandowski was on Wednesday, the best player on the field for either team in the first half may have been 36-year-old living legend Thierry Henry. The French icon, who turns 37 on Aug. 17, combined superbly with front-runners Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins early on, and after he nearly scored on an audacious long-range half-volley in the 41st minute, he proceeded to chew out referee Jair Marrufo for not awarding a corner kick off the deflected shot. That combination of skill and fire has helped Henry win every major title in world soccer during his sterling 20-year career.

There has been plenty of recent speculation that Henry will retire at the end of this season, when the 4½-year contract he signed with the New York Red Bulls in 2010 expires. And when MLS coach Caleb Porter subbed for him three minutes into the second half (Henry was the only member of the starting XI not to be yanked at the break) so he could receive a lengthy ovation, it sure felt like the end of something. In some ways, it would be a shame. Henry's earned the right to go out on his own terms, of course. But there's no doubt the man can still play.

Doug McIntyre

Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine. He has watched or attended almost every U.S. men's national team game since Paul Caligiuri's "shot heard 'round the world" and has covered the Yanks for The Mag since 2005. Follow him on Twitter @DougMacESPN.

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