Messi’s arrival has given MLS hope it can become a top league but Arsenal proves the US league has a way to go

BARRIO (DailyMail) – With the arrivals of Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba in America, it’s hard not to dream of MLS becoming a top league.

The current reality is much harsher. 

Wednesday’s All-Star Game against Arsenal showed just how steep the gap is between the American competition and Europe’s elite, as the Gunners won 5-0 in front of a packed crowd at Audi Field.

And while it was a celebratory week for a league entering an exciting new era, few – if any – of its All-Stars came out of the contest with their stock raised.

While MLS’ attackers largely failed to find a cutting edge, it was the league’s defenders who looked most out of their depth.

Cincinnati’s Alvaro Barreal was terrorized on the right flank by Bukayo Saka, getting caught out of position in tracking back the England star before he laid it off to Gabriel Jesus for a wonderfully chipped first goal.

Center back Walker Zimmerman – who acquitted himself fairly well vs. the Three Lions in the World Cup – was also nutmegged by Saka on the play, which keeper Roman Burki will want to forget too.

Barreal’s half didn’t get any better from there, as he hacked down Saka for a yellow card in the 18th minute before the winger again got the best of him five minutes later, skipping by him before supplying Leandro Trossard for the second goal.

MLS ended the first half with four yellow cards, and the play in the first 45 wasn’t wildly cohesive in the final third either.

Hany Mukhtar had a couple of wasteful passes, Christian Benteke had one particularly clumsy touch in front of goal in the 11th minute and Denis Bouanga was mostly quiet outside of a few decent bursts of speed.

Those three were all taken off during a 33rd-minute hydration break, as were Riqui Puig, Jose Martinez and Burki.

Those changes were surely made by All-Star coach Wayne Rooney in the spirit of giving others playing time in the exhibition match, though there would have been few complaints on sporting grounds either.

The second half got off on the same sour note for the hosts, as Arsenal was awarded a penalty just seconds after the restart following a Tim Parker handball.

Jorginho had no qualms about making it three and putting Arsenal firmly in the driver’s seat for this preseason tune-up.

Gabriel Martinelli later put Arsenal up four with a cool finish on the break, before Kai Havertz scored the fifth and final goal of the game.

MLS’ All-Stars, ultimately, didn’t give its fans much to cheer about, though most of the spectators in attendance wouldn’t have minded that.

The loudest cheer of the night came when Declan Rice was subbed on for his debut – such was the sea of red that took over the stadium.

Ultimately, this wasn’t a surprising result, but one that an-ever competitive Rooney still won’t have been pleased by.

He’s early in his coaching career, but even the most seasoned of managers would have struggled to get a result against this strong Arsenal side. 

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