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    Large crowd was about the only plus for MLS in All-Star game

    HOUSTON -- Just in case anyone forgot that gathering up a bunch of talented players and hoping they figure it out on the fly is a dicey gambit, Manchester United reminded everyone during Wednesday's MLS All-Star contest.

    The English giants put a 5-2 stinger on the MLS collection, only the second time Major League Soccer has lost in seven such contests in this format.

    The only win for MLS was at the gate: A crowd of 70,728 under the roof at Reliant Stadium was the largest to see a soccer game in Houston and the fourth-largest ever to watch an all-star game in any professional sport in the United States, according to MLS.

    None of Major League Soccer's All-Stars could relish the result, but none seemed too upset about it, either. If you're going to be on the business end of a Texas butt-whuppin', taking it from the world's wealthiest and most storied club probably provides some small measure of consolation.

    "I don't think we necessarily came into the game to figure out how to try to steal a result as much as we tried to give players an opportunity, tried to put on a good show," MLS All-Star coach Bruce Arena said. "Even though the result didn't go our way, a number of our players showed well, and I'm really optimistic for the future of our league."

    New England Revolution right back Kevin Alston was one of those who had a nice evening -- after one seriously bad moment, that is. Alston got the ball caught under his foot and his weak pass over toward teammate Jamison Olave was easy pickings for Manchester United's Federico Macheda . Just more than 20 seconds into the game the Red Devils' reserve striker slipped a ball calmly past MLS goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts for a shockingly fast lead.

    Oddly, former MLS All-Star Stuart Holden did something very similar early in last year's contest in about the same place on the field as Everton put the first blemish on Major League Soccer's mark against foreign opposition.

    It got little better from there as Manchester United was clearly not here to drop and defend. The proud club's loss Sunday to Kansas City probably lit a little fire under Manchester United, as well. The MLS side needed about 15 minutes to adapt the speed of the game, to dig in against the pressing style of Sir Alex Ferguson' s side. The MLS players, some of whom met only Wednesday morning and who couldn't hope to orchestrate much coordinated movement, struggled to cope, even against a Man U team with perhaps only five true starters on the field to begin the match.

    Macheda drifted away from his marker to put his club up by two after 13 minutes. It would be another couple of minutes still before the MLS All-Stars even threatened, as Juan Pablo Angel 's free kick finally gave Red Devils goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar something to do.

    Hometown man Brian Ching briefly made it look like a close game, striking on a close-range header off David Ferreira 's free kick in the 64th minute. But Darron Gibson 's pinpoint free kick for the visitors made it 3-1 in the 70th minute and removed any lingering mystery. Three minutes later, Tom Cleverly beat both MLS center backs ( Wilman Conde and Omar Gonzalez by that time) for a fancy and well-worked goal off Darren Fletcher 's classy pass. And finally, Man U's new Mexican signing, Javier Hernandez , got in cleanly behind the MLS defense and calmly put a bouncing ball over Nick Rimando for No. 5.

    Ferreira and Ching worked the left side to feed Dwayne De Rosario , who cleanly beat Manchester United first-teamer Wes Brown for one of the best MLS moments, his 90th-minute goal.

    Player ratings for the MLS All-Stars (scale of 1-10, with 10 as best):

    Donovan Ricketts (5): The MLS goalkeeper couldn't do much on either of Manchester United's early goals, but he sure didn't need to play around with the ball and give up No. 3, which he nearly did.

    Kevin Alston (5): The New England Revolution right back recovered fairly nicely from his early bad moment -- but what an awful moment it was, a sloppy pass that led to a goal and put the wheels in motion for a bad MLS night all the way around.

    Jamison Olave (6): Real Salt Lake's big center back had some important interventions, stretching and lunging as danger approached. He was never a big part of the problem.

    Chad Marshall (7): The best young U.S. center back not in South Africa delivered his usual crisp passing out of back. Defensively, he always looked in control.

    Heath Pearce (6): A good, solid 74 minutes of work on offense and defense. Rafael did beat Pearce once, but Nick Rimando bailed him out. Juan Pablo Angel

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