New England coach excited for All-Star game
TORONTO -- With David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Cuauhtemoc Blanco at his disposal, New England Revolution coach Steve Nicol loves considering his attacking options for Thursday's Major League Soccer All-Star game.
"They're all pretty tasty, to be honest," Nicol said Monday in a conference call. "All you're going to get is quality. For me, it's fantastic."
Nicol is still debating how to best use his offensive-minded lineup when the MLS All-Stars face English Premier League team West Ham at Toronto's BMO Field.
This is the fifth time in six years that the MLS All-Stars will face a foreign squad; they're unbeaten in the previous four games and haven't allowed a goal the past two years, edging Chelsea 1-0 in 2006 and beating Scottish side Celtic 2-0 last summer.
Both Nicol and Donovan said it's important for MLS to keep the streak alive.
"We want to show people what we're made of and this is the perfect way to do it," Nicol said.
With only four defenders on the 18-man All-Star team, Los Angeles Galaxy forward Donovan said keeping West Ham in check won't be easy.
"Guys understand this is a big opportunity to show we're good enough," Donovan said. "If anyone comes in and thinks this is a walk in the park, I'm going to let them know."
West Ham finished 10th in the Premier League last year, a five-place improvement over the previous season. Led by England striker Dean Ashton, Swedish midfielder Freddie Ljungberg and American defender Jonathan Spector, the Hammers beat the Columbus Crew 3-1 Sunday in an exhibition match marred by crowd violence.
Donovan, who leads the MLS with 12 goals and seven assists this season, is making his eighth consecutive All-Star appearance. He expects a high level of competition because West Ham's fringe players will be trying to earn regular places once the English season begins in August.
"They're going to be a very good team and they're going to be difficult to play against," Donovan said. "I think they'll be as prepared as any team we've ever played in an All-Star game."
A target of good-natured abuse from fans on previous trips to Toronto, Donovan said he's looking forward to being on the home side for once. He called on Toronto's rowdy fans to give the MLS All-Stars an edge.
"It feels like a real game," he said of the atmosphere at BMO Field. "It feels like some of the games we play in Europe. I hope they're in full voice and make the night special."
Donovan's Galaxy teammate Beckham will be making his first All-Star appearance, as is Chicago Fire midfielder Blanco. The MLS team will also have New York Red Bulls forward Juan Pablo Angel and Galaxy forward Edson Buddle, second in the league with 11 goals this season.