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MLS All-Stars Defeat US National Soccer Team - 2002-08-04


The Major League Soccer All-Stars have defeated the U.S. National Soccer team, 3-2, in a rain-delayed game at Washington's RFK Stadium. A one-hour delay for a lightning storm and a controversial decision to shorten the first half overshadowed the game.

It was supposed to be a showcase for Major League Soccer, with the top players from the U.S. first division taking on the U.S. team that made it to the quarterfinals of the World Cup.

However, just 20 minutes into a scoreless game, a powerful lightning storm with hail, heavy rain, and wind forced the players from the field and the 31,000 fans running for cover. The first half was shortened by several minutes, and ended scoreless.

The game was sponsored by the Pepsi-Cola softdrink company and televised to a national audience. The decision was made to hold an abbreviated, and Pepsi sponsored, half-time show featuring Latin pop star Paulina Rubio instead of playing the full first half.

MLS Commisioner Don Garber said that the decision to shorten the game in favor of the musical show was an effort to serve everyone watching the game. "Weather reports were changing. So playing, coming back in and shortening the first half was the decision that we made and that we felt was the right decision. In order to have a complete second half, in order to have a good halftime show and in order to have a field that needed to drain and needed the time to be safe for our players," Mr. Garber said.

U.S. National team Coach Bruce Arena said that the players and officials could do nothing about the weather. According to Arena, the decision was made to try to please both the fans in the stadium, the sponsors, and the television audience.

"The game worked out fine. [It was] obviously difficult with the weather and everything else. I'm happy we were able to get the game in and do the festivities at halftime and everything else. But obviously difficult. I am happy we were able to at least give the fans some good soccer, some good goals, some good chances. And we were pleased with the afternoon," Mr. Arena said.

In the waterlogged second half, the U.S. team took an early lead on Landon Donovan's 58th minute goal. Jason Kreis of the MLS team evened the score one minute later.

The MLS All Stars took a 2-1 lead on a goal from Marco Etcheverry, but Cobi Jones evened the game at 2-2 with a sliding goal on the rain-soaked field. Steven Ralston scored the game winner in the 81st minute for the MLS team. Etcheverry was named the game's Most Valuable Player.

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