Major League Soccer All-Stars start preparations to face Chelsea

Posted: July 25, 2012

John Hackworth walked across the field at the Eagles' NovaCare Complex Monday morning with his hands at his side.

The Union interim manager gave pointers and worked drills with some of the best soccer players in the country, in town for Major League Soccer's All-Star Game on Wednesday night.

Occasionally, a player would come through his line whom he knew from previous years. He'd put his hand on the player's shoulder and they'd quickly catch up. Then the player would return to the end of the line and another would come through.

As much as Monday's light practice served as a way for many of these all-stars to get acclimated with each other heading into Wednesday's sold-out game against Chelsea at PPL Park in Chester, it was also a morning for Hackworth to spend time with some of the players he has coached through his journey with the U.S. national team and into MLS.

Six of the players have spent extensive time working with Hackworth, none more prominent than Landon Donovan.

"I think he's made it pretty clear to everyone involved with this league that his 'interim' label should be removed," said Donovan, the Los Angeles Galaxy and national team star. "He's done a great job with them. I'm happy to see he's doing well."

The All-Star Game has evolved from a game of East vs. West to one that pits the league's best against a prestigious European club. For the last two years the opponent was Manchester United.

The new format, which began in 2005, adds more competition to what had been a game centered entirely on giving players a fun break.

"It's a lot different than the early days," Donovan said. "Before, if you had a little injury, you'd probably sit out the All-Star Game. Now guys really want to play."

Hackworth will serve as an assistant coach in the game. He has gone 4-2 since taking over the Union in the middle of June, raising their record to 6-10-2.

As he was walking off the field Monday, he had a couple of words with Union captain Carlos Valdes.

"Soak it all in," Valdes said of his converation with his manager. "This is a fun week."


MLS:

MLS All-Star Game

At PPL Park

MLS vs. Chelsea

Wednesday

at 8:30 p.m. (ESPN2)


Contact Chad Graff at cgraff@philly.com and follow

him on Twitter @ChadGraff.

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