- While in Minnesota for the MLS All-Star festivities, we stopped by Allianz Field in St. Paul on Tuesday night for the Skills Challenge
- What’s the best thing about the Skills Challenge? We rated everything involved in the event to find out
ST. PAUL, Minn. – Playing soccer isn’t that hard, really. Wait, hold on, that can’t be right. Let me try that again: playing soccer is hard. There we go. That’s the one.
Soccer is tough. But when you watch enough professional soccer, the things that should be hard start to look easy. It’s the Darlington Nagbe effect. Nagbe moves at two miles per hour and never loses the ball and he makes this whole being a professional athlete thing look very easy. That’s why I appreciate the MLS All-Star Skills Challenge. It’s fun, it’s goofy, and it’s a great chance for MLS to toss a batch of a dozen sponsors into one event.
What’s not to like?
But seriously, I went to the Skills Challenge at Allianz Field on Tuesday night ready to be impressed by how these players do some of the hardest things in the sport with such ease. I wasn’t disappointed.
While I sat and watched the Skills Challenge, I put together some ratings for each event and more. Here are those ratings.
RATING: 10 “IS THAT A FUTURISTIC SPACESHIP OR A SOCCER STADIUM?”S OUT OF 10
Okay, we gotta start with the venue. I’m slowly working my way through the list of MLS stadiums (at the rate MLS is growing, though, the list is getting bigger all the time). I’m not willing to say that Allianz Field is the best that I’ve seen in American soccer, but it is way up there.
From the outside, the stadium looks like a 24th century spaceship, which is to say it looks cool. From the inside, the color scheme and layout are both lovely. I know I’m about three years late to the party here, but hey, at least I’m here now.
10 out of 10.
RATING: 6 “THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN ON TV”S OUT OF 10
CALM DOWN. I love Goalie Warz as much as the next person. But MLS didn’t give Goalie Warz the billing it deserved, sticking it at the front before the competition actually started and then during commercial breaks on the broadcast.
Here’s some video to satisfy you. Even PK, who is apparently Minnesota United’s mascot, was shook.
This should’ve been a real event. Maybe next year.
RATING: 4 “FINISHING ISN’T REAL”S OUT OF 10
Maybe I’m alone in this, but a penalty kick is one of my least favorite parts of soccer. That could be because I used to be a defender, so I’m sensitive to the fact that defenders are punished unnecessarily hard for a small misstep in the box. Or it could just be because I’m awful at taking penalties on FIFA and my anger at a video game has seeped over into real life.
Whatever the cause, I’m not a big penalty kick person. This event is basically a string of uncontested shots (they’re not actually penalty kicks, but they’re close) that are supposed to hit hanging targets inside the goal frame.
It’s not a bad event, but I need there to be some pressure.
RATING: 9 "I CAN STILL SEE THE DISAPPOINTMENT IN BOBBY WARSHAW’S EYES WHEN HE SAW MY FIRST TOUCH”S OUT OF 10
My first touch is terrible, so I have a ton of time for seeing soccer players cushion a ball and then direct said ball into a giant cornhole board. They make it look incredibly easy, which brings the Darlington Nagbe effect back into play.
Unfortunately for me, it also brings back memories of former professional soccer player and current men’s league menace Bobby Warshaw’s disappointed expression when he saw my first touch a few years ago in Seattle. To be clear: his disappointment was completely warranted.
Don’t worry, though, I didn’t let that memory stop me from enjoying this event. The touch challenge is great.
CROSS & VOLLEY CHALLENGE
RATING: 10 “OH YEAH, THIS IS THE GOOD STUFF”S OUT OF 10
This event is just pure, unadulterated fun. Players serve balls into the box for a shooter to smash into the back of the net. If that isn’t what soccer’s all about, then I don’t know what is.
Brandon Vazquez, who was one of MLS’s participants in this event, did not thrive, though. That means we should all probably hop off the BV4USMNT hype train that we’ve been riding for the last few hundred miles.
Just kidding. We’re taking BV4USMNT to the moon.
RATING: 4 “THAT BOUNTY TARGET SURE LOOKS GOOD”S OUT OF 10
Look, they can’t all be cross and volley challenges. I’m just disappointed we didn’t get a Michael Bradley/Wil Trapp/Jackson Yueill pass-off to see who Gregg Berhalter’s true defensive midfield playmaker should have been back in 2019.
We didn’t get that. But we did get a nice long look at the Bounty-branded passing target. So that’s something.
RATING: 8 "I HONESTLY CAN'T EXPLAIN WHY WE ALL LOVE CROSSBAR CHALLENGES SO MUCH BUT WE DO"S OUT OF 10
It’s a phenomenon. I don’t know what it is about crossbar challenges, but somehow we all love them. To be fair, there’s nothing not to like about watching people kick a round thing into a piece of metal.
This was the last event of the night and it was a lot of fun. This whole event was fun. It’s silly, but soccer should be silly sometimes, don’t you think?