Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Even without Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid a challenge for MLS All-Stars

CHICAGO — The greatest spectacle in soccer rolled into Chicago and even without its biggest attraction it still has managed to draw the eyes of the sport to the lakefront.

Real Madrid, the two-time defending European champions and arguably the most popular soccer team in the world, will face off against the MLS All-Stars on Wednesday night at Soldier Field (9, Fox Sports 1) and its presence has drawn a buzz among soccer fanatics.

At each previous stop of a four-game preseason slate that has had them play in the Los Angeles and Miami areas, crowds have flocked to see the team FIFA named the "Club of the Century" for the 20th century.

Chicago will be no exception as Wednesday's game is officially a sellout with more than 61,000 expected to attend. Even Real Madrid's workouts have drawn crowds, including hundreds who watched the team scrimmage and do drills Tuesday at Soldier Field.

"Everywhere we go in the USA or China or Madrid or Europe the fans are crazy," midfielder Toni Kroos said. "They are so happy to see us, to watch our training or our games. If you see that then you know that you are maybe at the biggest level in the world. There's no other club like this."

Real Madrid will take the field without reigning FIFA player of the year Cristiano Ronaldo and while that will strip the match of some off its luster — think about going to see the Rolling Stones without lead singer Mick Jagger — there are plenty of other top players on the team for fans to watch soccer at its top level.

"Real Madrid has had amazing success to win the championship twice in a row," Fire midfielder and MLS captain Bastian Schweinsteiger said. "Ronaldo is obviously one of the best players in the world but they have a lot of (top) players so we (All-Stars) really have to focus on our game to control their key players."

Those key players include Kroos, Gareth Bale, Dani Carvajal, Sergio Ramos, Isco and Luka Modric, among others. Their participation — and a formidable midfield that is among the best in the world — will help offset the absence of Ronaldo, who is on an extended break and not expected to join Real Madrid until the La Liga season opener this weekend.

"(Ronaldo) is taking advantage of his off time," Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said. "He's going to be with us (Saturday)."

The MLS All-Stars, including the Fire's Schweinsteiger, Johan Kappelhof, Dax McCarty and Nemanja Nikolic, know they have a difficult task ahead of them in facing Real Madrid.

"Even if Cristiano isn't here they have enough talent on that team not only to give us a spectacle but give us a very competitive game," Fire and MLS All-Star coach Veljko Paunovic said. "All our guys, when they see Real Madrid jerseys, no matter who are wearing them the guys will be happy to play and give their best."

Added Michael Bradley, a midfielder for Toronto FC: "There is no better opponent than Real Madrid. We want to make it a special night for (everybody watching). We want to be sharp, we want to own the night and represent ourselves and the league in a good way. Everybody will remember and understand that it's a friendly game but when you step on the field you play to win and play to be sharp."

In addition to capturing the La Liga championship, Real Madrid also won the UEFA Champions League, the UEFA Supercup and the FIFA Club World Cup last season.

"You want to win the game 100 percent," Schweinsteiger said. "I don't like to lose even friendly matches. When you play against Real Madrid . you want to win against the best team in Europe."

Even without Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid a challenge for MLS All-Stars 08/02/17 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 1, 2017 8:00pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Tribune News Service.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. College basketball scandal dips into Tampa Bay

    Preps

    Tuesday's national college basketball scandal has recruiting ties to Tampa Bay.

    In this March 15, 2012, file photo, San Diego State assistant coach Tony Bland, left, talks during NCAA college basketball practice in Columbus, Ohio. Bland was identified in court papers, and is among 10 people facing federal charges in Manhattan federal court, Tuesday in a wide probe of fraud and corruption in the NCAA, authorities said. [AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File]
  2. Lightning's Brayden Point could be perfect fit alongside Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov

    Lightning Strikes

    SUNRISE — Brayden Point ended last season as the Lightning's No. 1 center, thrust into the role as a rookie due to injuries.

    Lightning center Brayden Point (21) advances the puck through the neutral zone during Friday's preseason game against the Nashville Predators. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times]
  3. For starters: Rays at Yankees, with Blake Snell starting, Wilson Ramos cashing in

    Blogs

    The Rays open their final road series of the season tonight at Yankee Stadium, which is also where they played their first of the season.

    LHP Blake Snell will be on the mound for the Rays, looking to continue his successful late-season run, in which he is 4-0, 2,57 over his last eight starts.

    Tonight marks Wilson Ramos' 55th start of the season.
  4. Cannon Fodder podcast: Considering Gerald McCoy's comments

    Bucs

    Greg Auman talks about Gerald McCoy's comments — both about fan criticism online and Donald Trump — in the latest episode of our Bucs Cannon Fodder podcast.

    Gerald McCoy, front, said Monday that he would love to have a conversation with any of the fans who take to social media to criticize him and his Bucs teammates. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  5. Alex Volkov with a top-six showcase for Lightning

    Blogs

    Alex Volkov entered Lightning camp a bit of an unknown, the second-round pick from Russia in his first NHL camp.

    Alex Volkov (79) works to stop Florida Panthers center Denis Malgin (62) during the second period of Sunday's game in Tampa.