Akpom lifts Arsenal over MLS All-Stars
SAN JOSE, Calif. — Didier Drogba hardly felt like celebrating his goal given the MLS All-Stars missed multiple late scoring chances that cost them their all-star game against Premier League power Arsenal.
Chuba Akpom scored the deciding goal in the 87th minute from close range on a nice cross from the left side by Nacho Monreal, and Arsenal topped the MLS All-Stars 2-1 in the Major League Soccer All-Star Game on Thursday.
Once Arsenal's young substitutes got going after entering midway through the second half, the opportunities came.
Moments before halftime, Montreal's Drogba scored on his third try following two deflections in one quick sequence for MLS to notch it at 1.
"The goal that I score and we lose, it doesn't count. ... It's a bit disappointing for me," Drogba said. "Once again, I hate losing."
Drogba's first attempt ricocheted off goalkeeper Petr Cech then the next off Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain before he converted with a shot to the right upper corner of the net in the second minute of stoppage time in the first half. Giovani dos Santos jumped on Drogba's back afterward.
Joel Campbell scored on a penalty kick in the 11th minute for Arsenal following Jelle Van Damme's yellow card.
Campbell converted the penalty kick with his left-footed shot to the left of a diving Andre Blake of the Philadelphia Union.
There was a scare for the MLS team in the 22nd minute, when Dallas star Kellyn Acosta collided with Francis Coquelin. A trainer came out as Acosta grabbed at his right ankle but he got to his feet and stayed in the game.
Blake stopped a free kick in the sixth minute for the MLS group, which regularly pushed into its offensive half.
San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski received a roaring ovation when he entered to play on his home field in Avaya Stadium in the 73rd minute, when Seattle Sounders star Clint Dempsey also came into the match.
"This is the most talented MLS team we've put together," said MLS coach Dominic Kinnear, also the Earthquakes coach. "I would have loved to have won the game and made this experience a little more positive."
Wondolowski had a shot soar over the crossbar from just inside the 18-yard box in the 82nd minute.
Landon Donovan, a 14-time MLS All-Star and former San Jose great, was on hand and posed for photos with MLS Commissioner Don Garber.
State-of-the-art Avaya Stadium, in its second season, is an 18,000-seat soccer-specific stadium boasting the largest outdoor bar in North America behind one goal — a huge hit before the game with fans clad in Arsenal gear.
Arsenal, managed by Arsene Wenger and preparing for the English Premier League season following a second-place finish last season, had huge sections of fans among the sellout crowd of 18,000 on a hot Bay Area day.
"I believe what is important for us in this kind of event is to analyze what aspect of our game we do well," said Wenger, who liked how his team applied what it has worked on in training and balanced its runs and maintaining possession early. "For me it is a good opportunity as well to see many young players."
One of those is new defender Rob Holding, who made his Arsenal debut.
Five MLS players were back from the 2015 All-Star team.
MLS teams are 9-4-1 and have outscored opponents 25-23 in the league's summer showcase event, including a 2-1 win against Tottenham Hotspur last year in Colorado.
"I would say overall it's less aggressive," Wenger said of the All-Star Game. "These players come for a show, they're happy to be together. It's not life or death. ... The contacts are less strong. It's a more friendly game."
The privately funded, $100 million stadium broke ground in October 2012 and is known for its technological capabilities and other unique elements such as food truck options for concessions with an expansive grassy area for kids to play or watch a game on the huge video board.
The seats are also three different shades of blue with a few red ones mixed in to honor the colors of past Bay Area soccer teams. The steep seating provides an increased noise level and keeps fans closer to the action. There is also an all-standing section behind one goal.