Dom Dwyer provided some late dramatics, but Real Madrid kept the cooler heads in penalty kicks to come out victorious in the 2017 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target.
The defending La Liga and Champions League title-holders prevailed thanks to a 4-2 shootout win following a 1-1 draw in regulation. Los Blancos made all four of their penalty kicks, with Marcelo netting the decisive tally, while Dwyer saw his opening attempt saved and Giovani dos Santos smashed his kick off the crossbar.
Madrid came within minutes of winning in regulation thanks to All-Star MVP Borja Mayoral's 59th minute goal, but Dwyer found himself in the right place at the right time in the 87th minute to put in the rebound after Dax McCarty hit the post with a free header from a corner kick.
The Spanish visitors dominated the ball throughout a scoreless first half of the encounter and had 19 shots to show for it through 45 minutes. Though only two of those efforts tested All-Star starting ‘keeper Tim Howard, a number of other attempts – largely orchestrated by Madrid midfielder Isco – whistled just wide of Howard’s goalposts.
The All-Stars were not without looks of their own, though. After some probing counterattacks early in the game, their best chance of the half came in the 36th minute as Kaká beat his defender on the left side before finding David Villa free at the near post, but his turn and shot was expertly denied by an onrushing Keylor Navas.
After another spell of Madrid possession, Sebastian Giovinco put an ambitious effort from 35 yards just inches wide of Navas’ goal to close out the first period.
After making two first-half substitutions – one forced by a shoulder injury to Greg Garza – All-Star head coach Veljko Paunovic made 10 substitutions at halftime, leaving only first-half sub Ignacio Piatti on the field, while Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane made his first three changes of the game. A host of changes just past the hour mark then saw Zidane bring on some of the biggest names at his disposal, including Karim Benzema, Marcelo, Gareth Bale and Casemiro.
The new faces would prove influential, as Bale glanced a shot off the far post from a tight angle soon after coming on, while Marcelo would prove instrumental on the other end. The Brazilian international came across at the last minute to block away Diego Valeri's seemingly open look at goal in the 71st minute, one of the All-Stars' best chances of the half along with a Nemanja Nikolic effort that went wide a minute prior.
Despite the looks, Real Madrid continued to boss most of the possession in the second half, but were largely unable to find the crucial final ball outside of Mayoral's goal and Bale's effort off the woodwork, giving the All-Stars the chance to equalize and make Real sweat it out in penalties.
59’ – RM – Borja Mayoral Watch
87' – MLS – Dom Dwyer Watch
LET ME ENTERTAIN YOU: The goals didn’t fall as hard as the Chicago rain, but both teams gave a packed Soldier Field plenty to ooh and ah about. The 90 minutes were punctuated by some impressive displays of skill on both sides, with players from both sides pulling out an array of tricks including nutmegs, backheels and even a few chip attempts. Some particular highlights for the All-Stars included a filthy first half nutmeg from Kaká on former teammate Sergio Ramos, and an equally impressive effort from Giovinco on Toni Kroos.
PK PAIN: This year’s All-Star Game marked just the second time the league’s summer showcase has been decided via kicks from the penalty spot in the "MLS vs. guest" format, which has been played 15 times. The first shootout ended in similar fashion as Howard, then playing for Everton, came up big for his team in the 2009 edition. This time around it was a familiar name, if not a familiar face, that played the role of shootout hero as Luca Zidane – son of Madrid manager and French legend Zinedine – saved Dwyer’s opening kick to set the tone for the shootout.
UNDER PRESSURE: The difference between a defense that has spent a summer (if not years) together vs. one that has spent two days together was painfully obvious throughout the evening. Where Real Madrid were organized, quick to pressure the ball and rarely found themselves beaten, the All-Stars were guilty of some disjointed play in the back that led to a number of holes and openings for the visitors to tee off. This was no more evident than on Madrid’s goal, where Hernan Grana failed to track Mayoral as he drifted in behind the All-Star backline, despite McCarty’s efforts to alert his teammate.