The MLS All-Star Game, without Orlando City
The MLS All-Star Game is a bizarre exercise that embodies the weird intersection of international and North American sports that defines the league. For the longest time, it served as a bizarre offseason friendly between an MLS super team and a European powerhouse, but that weird and bad model is out in favor of an MLS vs. Liga MX All-Star battle.
It's a great solution to the all-star set up and creates another fun way to integrate the two biggest soccer leagues on the continent. The all-star format is meant to showcase the biggest and brightest stars of a league to the masses in a show all fun-filled festivity, and for much of the last decade, Orlando City's played a role in that showcase.
Between Kaka and Nani, Orlando's boasted two of the biggest faces in the league, keeping the Lions relevant on the league's big night. Between the big stars, former Lion Yoshi Yotun also represented the Lions in the all-star game. Exploria Stadium even hosted the all-star game in 2019.
For all of Orlando City's struggle, there's always been something tethering it to the silliest night on the MLS calendar. This year, however, that's not the case.
There's not a single Orlando City on the MLS all-star roster. You could potentially argue for Robin Jansson, Mauricio Pereyra or César Araújo, but frankly, no Lions earned the rank of all-star. I'd argue Nani or Kaka sometimes didn't earn their all-star recognition either, but had the star power to carry through.
There is no big star on Orlando City's roster right now, and that's ok. Despite writing several grafs about the All-Star game, this does not matter. Having the biggest and flashiest stars doesn't always win games. The bigger issue from an Orlando City perspective is that nobody deserves to be an all-star. Nobody on the team is playing exceptionally. There are exceptional talents, but nobody is playing like one of the best players in MLS.
As the teams take the pitch Wednesday night, the Lions will be at home preparing for Saturday's bout with the New York Red Bulls. It's a year away from the league's best, but right now it's the collective that's more important than a midweek exhibition.