Donovan gives MLS All-Stars win over Bayern Munich

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Donovan gives MLS All-Stars win over Bayern Munich

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Landon Donovan scored the go-ahead goal in a 2-1 victory over German power Bayern Munich on Wednesday night in the Major League Soccer All-Star game.

Making his record 14th All-Star appearance, Donovan dribbled the ball to the top of the box before blasting it past German World Cup goalkeeper Manuel Neuer in the 70th minute.

The Bundesliga champions had seven members of the World Cup-winning German national team, but most of them remained on the bench until about the final 10 minutes.

The MLS team included several players from the U.S. World Cup squad that advanced out of the group stage in Brazil, including Seattle's Clint Dempsey and Toronto's Michael Bradley.

Donovan, the L.A. Galaxy striker who was left off the U.S. World Cup team, got a standing ovation from the crowd when he was subbed out following his goal.

Bradley Wright-Philips of the New York Red Bulls tied it for the All-Stars early in the second half. Robert Lewandowski opened the scoring for Bayern early in the first half.

The event caps a preseason tour for Bayern Munich, which hadn't visited the United States in a decade. The team beat Chivas Guadalajara 1-0 last Thursday night at Red Bull Arena in New Jersey.

The group of Bayern players from Germany's World Cup-winning team flew into Portland on Wednesday morning, and whisked to a meet-and-greet at adidas' North American headquarters.

Mario Goetze, who scored the extra-time winner in the final match against Argentina in Brazil, was among the national team players making the overnight stop in Portland.

"It feels like we're only going to be here for 12 hours so we're kind of in and out, but it's exciting," Goetze said.

Bayern coach Pep Guardiola said he was only playing his World Cup players for some 15 minutes apiece and he was true to his word. None of them started on Wednesday night.

Bayern midfielder Julian Green, who played for the United States in the World Cup, was also listed as a reserve but he was the first Bayern sub to enter the game in the 36th minute. Fans at Providence Park chanted "USA! USA!"

Green was born in Florida but grew up in Germany and has dual citizenship. Just 19, he scored against Belgium in the World Cup, becoming the youngest American with a goal in soccer's premier event.

Real Salt Lake's Nick Rimando, who was also on the U.S. World Cup roster, started in goal for the All-Stars, four days after he had his 112th shutout in a victory over Colorado to match the MLS record set by Kevin Hartman.

Rimando leaped with his arms outstretched but couldn't stop Lewandowski's goal for Bayern in the opening minutes. Lewandowski joined Bayern on a free transfer from league rival Borussia Dortmund last month.

New York's Thierry Henry had a good chance for the All-Stars in the 41st minute, but his long shot sailed just over the crossbar before getting caught in the net.

Wright-Phillips, the league's top scorer with 18 goals this season for the Red Bulls, skipped across the turf after his goal against goalkeeper Tom Starke in the 51st minute.

Following Wright-Phillips' goal, Bayern sent in Neuer to finish out the match.

The MLS is 8-3-1 against international opponents since the league adopted the current All-Star game format, with losses coming to English Premier League club Manchester United and AS Roma. Everton won on penalty kicks after a 1-1 tie in 2009.

Roma, led by longtime star Francesco Totti, beat the MLS All-Stars 3-1 in the All-Star game last year in Kansas City. The Galaxy's Gonzalez scored the only goal for the MLS side in second-half stoppage time.

Union want to send off Tranquillo Barnetta with MLS Cup win

Union want to send off Tranquillo Barnetta with MLS Cup win

CHESTER, Pa. — Union head coach Jim Curtin knows it may seem like a weird situation to some.

Early on Tuesday morning, as soccer fans around the area were just waking up, the Union issued a press release that stated that Tranquillo Barnetta would be leaving the team at the end of the 2016 season (see story)

There was no trade. No sale. No contract dispute. No off-the-field issues. 

It was simply a case of a player — a really good player — deciding before the end of the season that he wanted to say goodbye to MLS and finish his pro career with his hometown club in St. Gallen, Switzerland. 

“I think it’s unique maybe to the American public and fan bases that a guy announces it and there’s still [part of] a season left to play,” Curtin said during his weekly press conference. “I think it’s strange for everyone to hear it that way. But in Europe that’s kind of the norm. To get out ahead of it shows what kind of man and leader he is. He addressed the team and didn’t want it to be a situation where something leaked out. He’s a true pro. I’m honored to have coached him and I want to prolong it as long as I possibly can.”

In other American leagues, of course, a talented but aging player with Barnetta’s pedigree might drum up a bidding war to try to get one more good contract in free agency before he retires, perhaps using a strong playoff performance to do so. But, as Curtin alluded to, global soccer is a whole different animal. And Barnetta never planned to use his 2016 performance as a launching pad to a new deal with Philly or something bigger on a different MLS team.

His plan all along was to retire for the hometown club he cheered for as a kid — and he made sure he’d have the freedom to do so when he signed with the Union last summer.

“We offered several years but he was very content and adamant about taking an 18-month deal,” Curtin said. “A lot of people say they’re not about the money but Tranquillo truly means when he says it. He came here at a very big discount to what his value was in the European market. And he had a goal of playing for his hometown club, which I respect at the end of the day.”

If there’s any knock against Barnetta, it’s that he essentially treated MLS as a short-term project, a way to try something new after an illustrious career in Switzerland and Germany, to live in a different part of the world and see different cities throughout the United States.

But make no mistake, he earned that right and he never tried to hire his future ambitions. And even if his tenure with the Union will be a short one, it’s been very beneficial for both sides.

Barnetta, for instance, learned about the grueling travel demands in MLS and the more physical nature of the league compared to ones in Europe, all while showing the sublime skill that made him a three-time World Cup veteran for Switzerland.

And the Union leaned on his talent and leadership at the end of their disappointing 2015 season and throughout the entire 2016 campaign with Curtin calling him “the best player that ever wore a Philadelphia Union jersey.”

“He’s a great example for our young guys,” the Union coach added. “He’s got a close relationship with a lot of the veteran guys. And he’s just a pleasure to have in the locker room. He comes to work with a smile on his face but when it’s time to work, he’s the hardest worker there is. A true professional. And the pedigree is the highest we’ve ever had in this club.”

You can make the case that acquiring players with great pedigrees hasn’t always worked to the Union’s benefit (see: Mbolhi, Rais), but it’s hard to find any fault in the Barnetta deal, especially when you consider Philadelphia got him at a discount and that Curtin and technical director Chris Albright orchestrated the signing at a time when the franchise was in a state of flux and sporting director Earnie Stewart had yet to join the fold. 

For someone that’s played in three World Cups, the Champions League and one of the top leagues in Europe, Barnetta may not be the biggest name out there. But getting him when they did was still something of a coup for Philadelphia. And the benefits will likely be reaped for a long time to come as the Union followed last year’s Barnetta signing with a couple of big moves in the offseason and this summer’s long-term acquisition of U.S. national team starter Alejandro Bedoya — the combination of which has them thinking about the playoffs and a whole lot more even as Barnetta’s departure looms.

“It’s something we want to celebrate rather than pity and feel bad,” Curtin said. “We’re happy for the time we’ve had him here. And now we’re gonna make it last as long as we possibly can. The rest of the games out, in the pregame talk, we’ll say, ‘Let’s extend this thing as long as possible and use it as a rallying cry.’ You don’t want it to come to an end. And when it does come to an end, you want it to be a special moment.”

What kind of special moment?

“We want his last game with the Philadelphia Union to be an MLS Cup.”

Tranquillo Barnetta will not return to Union next season

Tranquillo Barnetta will not return to Union next season

Tranquillo Barnetta is going home.

In an abrupt announcement on Tuesday, the Union declared that the skillful Swiss attacking midfielder will not renew his contract with the club and will return to Switzerland following the 2016 season to play for his hometown club, FC St. Gallen.

According to MLS Players Union, Barnetta’s exit will free the Union of $687,500 next season.

“The entire soccer community here was so welcoming and I’m so thankful to everyone at Philadelphia Union for making me feel so appreciated,” Barnetta said. “Playing in front of my friends and family and making plans for life at the end of my career where I want to live is a force I can’t resist.”

Although the timing of the announcement is a surprise, the move isn’t one. With Alejandro Bedoya now in the mix, currently playing out of position in a box-to-box midfield role, the Union will replace Barnetta with Bedoya at the center attacking midfield spot. It’s a position that Bedoya is comfortable in, playing there with his previous club, FC Nantes.

Bedoya played for the injured Barnetta in the center midfield spot last Saturday and scored his first goal of the season in a 1-1 draw with Toronto FC.

But even with Bedoya ready to take over, the Union will miss Barnetta. Since joining the Union in 2015, Barnetta, 31, has been one of the better possession playmakers in MLS, scoring six goals and seven assists in 37 games.

“Tranquillo has been a key piece in what we’re trying to build here in Philadelphia but we appreciate his decision to return to Switzerland,” said Union sporting director Earnie Stewart, whose club has three matches left in the 2016 season, and will likely make the playoffs. “We look forward to continuing to push for the postseason.”