Orlando’s Soccer Legacy: The 1998 MLS All-Star Game

When Orlando City takes the field next year for its first MLS season, it won’t be the first time Major League Soccer is played at the Citrus Bowl. That occurred back in 1998, when the then four-year-old league played its All-Star Game in Orlando. MLS has famously tinkered with its All-Star Game format over the years, before settling on its current ‘MLS All-Stars vs. European Super Club with availability during the summer’ format.

The All-Star Game itself is a very American idea; an exhibition of players thrown together from across the league for an annual showcase. These games are notoriously wild and loose, and 1998’s game fit this model with plenty of goals and lots of fancy footwork on display.

The 1998 setup saw the league divide its stars between the best international players and the league’s best American players. This setup fit the nature of the young league, providing a chance to display both the development of American players as well as the international talent the league was attracting at the time.mLVtT0_gzf_tvbIZHKjDtrw

There was plenty of talent on display as well. MLS World lined up a number of league legends, including the great Mexican goalkeeper Jorge Campos, Bolivian striker Jaime Moreno, and the legendary Carlos Valderrama. Valderrama was, of course, as famous for his signature shaggy curls as his silky smooth one-touch passes. MLS USA featured a familiar core of U.S. internationals. Striker Brian McBride, midfielders Frankie Hejduk, John Harkes, and Cobi Jones, as well as the imposing defender Alexi Lalas among its starters.

138_-mls_all-star_game-primary-1998

A lopsided scoreline of 6-1 showed the problems with this format, however. MLS USA featured a core of players who knew each other. Some had played World Cups together and all played a similar style and were able to blend well. MLS World featured players from 17 different countries. While South American and Central American stars dominated, players came from all around the world, including Scotland, the Czech Republic, and Canada.

While MLS World played an interesting technical game with moments of brilliance, their unfamiliarity with one another and different styles of play proved their downfall. MLS USA used their understanding of one another to play a solid team game to overcome the international flair.

The uneven scoreline hides the fact that the game itself provided a wide open game with numerous opportunities on goal for both sides. It was the Americans who were able to convert more often.

Alexi Lalas
Alexi Lalas

The game was played in front of 34,416 fans, including myself. My memories of the day included the familiar heat of an August afternoon in Florida, some exciting goals, acrobatic goalkeeping, and being a little bit star struck by seeing World Cup stars from the U.S. and the rest of the world. As a tall lanky defender at this point in my life, I was excited to see Lalas play and score as well.

Campos had always been one of my favorite goalkeepers, and he had a very rough day overall; more to the fault of the defenders in front of him than any of his own skill, in my recollection.

The game’s MVP was Brian McBride, although it easily could have been goalkeeper Tony Meola, who kept MLS World’s score down to only one goal. MLS USA’s goals were scored by Tab Ramos, Lalas, McBride, Preki, Roy Lassiter, and Cobi Jones. MLS World’s lone goal came from Bolivian Mauricio Ramos, who came off the bench to score the consolation goal in the 89th minute.

The teams looked like this:

MLS World

Goalkeepers: Jorge Campos (Chicago Fire), Thomas Ravelli (Tampa Bay Mutiny).

Defenders: Geoff Aunger (DC United), Jan Eriksson (Tampa Bay Mutiny), Diego Sonora (NY/NJ MetroStars), Richard Gough (San Jose Clash), Uche Okafor (Kansas City Wizards).

Midfielders: Lubos Kubik (Chicago Fire), Adrian Paz (Colorado Rapids), Mauricio Cienfuegos (LA Galaxy), Carlos Valderrama (Miami Fusion), Marco Etcheverry (DC United), Martin Machon (LA Galaxy), Leonel Alvarez (Dallas Burn).

Forwards: Raul Diaz Arce (New England Revolution), Jaime Moreno (DC United), Mo Johnson (Kansas City Wizards), Welton (LA Galazy), Stern John (Columbus Crew).

MLS USA

Goalkeepers: Tony Meola (NY/NJ MetroStars), Zach Thornton (Chicago Fire).

Defenders: Marcelo Balboa (Colorado Rapids), Alexi Lalas (NY/NJ MetroStars), Eddie Pope (DC United), Jeff Agoos (DC United), Robin Fraser (LA Galaxy), Mike Burns (New England Revolution).

Midfielders: Cobi Jones (LA Galaxy), Thomas Dooley (Columbus Crew), Tab Ramos (NY/NJ Metrostars), John Harkes (DC United), Frankie Hejduk (Tampa Bay Mutiny), Ross Paule (Colorado Rapids), Chris Armas (Chicago Fire), Ben Olsen (DC United).

Forwards: Brian McBride (Columbus Crew), Preki (Kansas City Wizards), Paul Bravo (Colorado Rapids), Roy Lassiter (Tampa Bay Mutiny).

If you have an hour and a half to kill and want to watch this retro goal bonanza you can check it out here

Florida Facts:

  • The Tampa Bay Mutiny had four players playing in the game while the Miami Fusion had only one.
  • No players were born in the state of Florida, but one, Robin Fraser, played college soccer at Florida International University (FIU).
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