All-Star Reaction

Sunday 31 July 2005

Fulham concluded their pre-season tour of the US with a 4-1 defeat at the hands of the MLS All-Stars on Saturday. The home side took the lead in the 23rd minute through Taylor Twellman and although Claus Jensen equalised from the spot on 36 minutes after Luis Boa Morte was fouled in the area, the All-Stars side pressed home with three second half strikes.

Ronnie O'Brien restored the All-Stars' lead before substitute Jeff Cunningham made his mark on the game with a late two-goal burst.

Speaking after the match, Fulham Manager Chris Coleman was clearly disappointed with this side's showing.

"The MLS boys are a good team and they got stronger as the game went on and we got weaker," he said. "There's always a possibility of that happening but I'm not making excuses for my guys. There are things that I won't accept as a manager, certainly defensively, but I've let the players know that.

"There was always a danger that we were going to find it hard today. They scored two in the last five minutes which goes to show that we're not fit yet. Our play wasn't as good as it should be but that's what pre-season's for.

"I knew they were going to be two tough games, I was impressed with Crew on Wednesday, they played very good football, were fit and organised. I knew that today was going to be even harder but that's what we want - tough games.

"Today we saw that we're not quite there yet. There are a lot of things that we need to work hard on and we don't want to be brushing things under the carpet."

Mark Crossley's involvement in the match lasted only 31 minutes. The big Welsh stopper had to be replaced shortly after the All-Stars took the lead when he sustained an injury. He was replaced by Jaroslav Drobny, himself not fully fit.

"Mark injured himself when he went down for the first goal so we had to put Jaro Drobny on, who is only 50% fit," Coleman explained. "We're certainly concerned now that we've got two weeks left, we've got some tough thinking to do regarding our goalkeepers but Mark thinks he's going to be OK for Birmingham."

Those unfamiliar with the standard of football in the MLS couldn't have failed to be impressed with the standard of play shown, both on Wednesday when the Whites faced Columbus Crew and in Saturday's All-Star match.

With the number of US players playing their trade abroad increasing and the US National Team moving up to the sixth in July's FIFA World Rankings, there is certainly plenty of evidence to support the notion that the standard of football in the States is advancing at a healthy rate.

Coleman agreed, "I was very impressed with some of the players, I thought they played very well. I know that there are a lot of good players in the MLS, fit boys who are good on the ball and physically strong.

"Unfortunately for us, we don't have a big budget so we can't go out and spend millions on one player. But we've been looking at the States for players. As we've seen today and on Wednesday, there's a good standard of football here."