HARRISON, N.J. — The MLS All-Star Game provides a challenge for players who must become a cohesive unit over the course of two training sessions and about 48 hours together.
It can also prove to be quite a head-scratcher for their head coach, who is trying to implement his style and figure out his starting lineup during this brief period.
Now in his second year in MLS, All-Stars head coach Hans Backe is facing the unique challenge of creating a starting XI that has never before played together. The MLS All-Stars met together for the first time on Monday morning for a regenerative session and then discussed tactics on Tuesday morning ahead of the match against English Premier League champions Manchester United.
“It’s almost like being involved in a national team,” Backe said on Tuesday. “You get the same, short preparation. One or two sessions before you play and you just have to think, what’s your priority? To work with the tactical defending, attacking — you have just two sessions.”
The MLS All-Stars' starting lineup for Wednesday night will have never played together as a unit, meaning that they must gel during this brief two-day period. Backe’s main concern, however, is trying to put together the best team possible to face one of the top teams in the world, a side which had defeated three MLS sides in the lead-up to the All-Star Game.
“Hopefully we have built a team that has some idea about what shape we want,” Backe said. “Defending wise and attacking wise, it’s not too much. But we’ll try this anyhow, to do the basics.”
The second half of Tuesday’s session was closed to the media as Backe worked through the tactical component with his squad. He hasn’t been bogged down in specifics but Backe did find time to remind his players that while as an assistant coach at Manchester City, he had a 2-0 mark against Manchester United.
“I’ve said that,” Backe said with a laugh. “That’s why we worked on tactical.”
Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer