The energy in Providence Park elevated in the 80th minute when Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola, down 2-1 to the MLS All-Stars, brought on Thomas Müller, Bastian Schweinsteiger, and Mario Götze, then Philipp Lahm and Arjen Robben minutes later, to chase the match.

And if one tackle could set off a MLS-related international soccer incident, Timbers midfielder Will Johnson would be a prime candidate for main character. His foul on Schweinsteiger in the 89th, combined with Sounders midfielder Ozzie Alonso’s yellow card were at the root of an especially tense friendly. The rest is Vine history. 

So an entire weekend of free concerts, open practices, and a live “Men in Blazers” podcast event leading up to the MLS All-Star game culminated with Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola ignoring counterpart Caleb Porter during the post-game handshake. The universe finds new ways to keep its balance. 

Not that it was the first time for Guardiola, or Porter, to confront another manager after a match. Porter had a similar standoff with Galaxy manager Bruce Arena following a 2-1 win last season (after they shook hands). Guardiola’s Barcelona side was part of a famous post match brawl, featuring Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho gouging then Barcelona assistant Tito Vilanova’s eyes.

Guardiola said he hoped to be invited for next summer’s MLS All-Star Game to gain his revenge. But first, he and Bayern Munich must reclaim their place in Europe and rid memories of their 5-0 aggregate defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League semifinals. Madrid scored three goals in the first 34 minutes in the second leg, emphatically beating a Bayern side that looked unstoppable in league play. And maybe that was the point – his side won the Bundesliga on March 25th, with seven matches still left to play. Their next relevant match, against Madrid, would take place a month later. Leave it to Guardiola to find a way to win a title too early.

Getting outscored 7-1 in two matches against Netherlands and Chile this past World Cup marked the end of Spain’s tiki taka style that defined an era, a side that Guardiola built from Barcelona’s B team up. Even during their dominant run in the Bundesliga, Bayern legend Franz Beckenbauer presciently remarked that this side passed too much and would “end up being unwatchable like Barcelona”. It’s one thing to “be like Barcelona” and win titles. It’s another to get overrun in Europe.

Six players on the current Bayern side played for the World Cup winning German team, including finals game winner Götze. It seems like the highest of social media induced impatience to say that one season removed from winning the Bundesliga in record time, that Guardiola is under pressure. But to paraphrase Justin Timberlake in “The Social Network”, winning the league with seven games left isn’t cool. Winning the league with seven matches left, and winning the Champions League, and winning the German Cup – actually, even that might not be cool enough.

A Victory Lap for Henry and Donovan

After ignoring Porter, and delivering a final verdict to the head referee, Guardiola looked to Thierry Henry, for consolation after an emotional all-star game match. If anyone had the perspective to match wits with Guardiola in that moment, surely it’d be his former him. Henry was there for the height of the Barcelona era, and Guardiola shows a respect not only for his ability but for his intellect. Those around Henry have been hinting at his retirement recently. His introspective comments during press conferences building up to the exhibition about his time in the MLS had the undertone of coming to grips with his athletic mortality. But not in a mournful way – he was too busy taking it all in.

And we didn’t know it at the time, but it was also Landon Donovan’s final all-star game appearance, as he announced he’d retire from the MLS at the end of this season. It’d be fitting if him and Henry went out together – both thinkers with their unique, insular dialogue that toes the line between moodiness and brilliance. You could see them being their own version of Guardiola as managers, doggedly pursuing the art behind the game over the pragmatic (as an aside, the aforementioned “Men in Blazers” moved from ESPN to NBC shortly after the live event).  

As for the match itself, Bayern Munich started strong through newly signed Robert Lewandoski’s goal in the 8th minute. You could look at faces in the crowd and feel the onslaught. The dam had been breached too early. What would it be? 3-0? 4-0, Bayern? But the MLS All-Stars played well the rest of the first half, lead by Henry, Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins, Michael Bradley, Matt Besler, DeAndre Yedlin and Graham Zusi. After all, what’s an international friendly compared to playing in a knock out round of a World Cup?

But the side Porter fielded in the second half that caught my attention (and Guardiola’s, apparently). It lacked the international power of the starting eleven outside of Donovan, instead filled with no nonsense, MLS lifers. The two in the middle of the controversy were Sounders midfielder Ozzie Alonso and his Timbers rival Will Johnson. Both will fight, tackle, and pass – often in the same motion. Above them was Timbers playmaker Diego Valeri, Donovan, and the left field league leader in goals, Bradley Wright Phillips. This lineup represented the best of the MLS – the requisite grit and fight (Schweinsteiger was quoted saying “I think in America they play like this”), combined with the quality to score two goals from open play against the German champions.

There’s a perennial argument of what city holds the title, and pride, of being “Soccer City USA”. It might be Portland. Kansas City has recently taken on the moniker of “Soccer Capital of America”. Washington D.C. holds the title if you go by World Cup ratings. But if you listen to Henry, those arguments miss the point. It’s about the enjoying experience of the game. Donovan reached a different conclusion, saying he felt “obligated” to keep playing. Even in obligation, he still rose to the occasion, scoring the game winning goal for the MLS All-Stars. And Guardiola was already looking forward to a meaningless friendly a year in advance.