Real Madrid beats MLS All-Stars on penalty kicks at Soldier Field

All-Star "football" was played at Soldier Field on Wednesday night, but not the type Bears fans have been longing for in recent years.

Soccer was the attraction for the sellout crowd of 61,428, specifically the MLS All-Star Game. Even with Cristiano Ronaldo — arguably the most famous athlete in the world and the reigning FIFA player of the year — not playing, Real Madrid entertained the fans with its aggressive style and talented roster in the friendly against the MLS All-Stars.

After the teams battled to a 1-1 tie in regulation, Real Madrid won on penalty kicks 4-2. Marcelo scored the clincher, while goalkeeper Luca Zidane made two saves.

Fire midfielder Dax McCarty helped rally the All-Stars in the 87th minute. His header off a corner kick hit the near post and rebounded out to Dom Dwyer, who headed in the equalizer.

"Maybe Real Madrid doesn't scout set pieces because they didn't know I was decent in the air," McCarty said, smiling. "I was able to get a good head on it.

"I'm kind of mad at myself. It was the perfect opportunity to head it down into the goal. ... I thought the rebound was going to come back to me and I was going to score."

Borja Mayoral had put Real Madrid ahead 1-0 in the 59th minute by smacking a one-hopper into the far post.

Currently in its preseason, Real Madrid — which won Spain's La Liga championship in May along with claiming the UEFA Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup titles last season — wasn't short of opportunities. The 12-time European champions had 30 shots, with five on target.

The Fire, in second place in the Eastern Conference behind Toronto FC, were well-represented with a league-high four All-Stars. Instead of Fire stars Bastian Schweinsteiger, Nemanja Nikolic or McCarty, defender Johan Kappelhoff was the busiest team member.

Nikolic had a shot go wide in the 70th minute, his best attempt after not playing in the first half.

"It was a bit difficult angle for me, and I tried to put it in the first angle," said Nikolic, the league's leading goal scorer. "We had some good runs in the second half and just missed some opportunities."

In the 13th minute, Kappelhoff, a starter along with Schweinsteiger, stopped a potential scoring opportunity by knocking away a pass by Real Madrid's Theo Hernandez. Kappelhoff spent most of the first half fending off scoring opportunities for Real Madrid.

With the All-Star Game in Chicago for the first time since 2006, when it was played at Toyota Park, Nikolic noted the significance of the sellout.

"Soccer is growing here every year," Nikolic said. "This city deserves this game. They made for a fantastic atmosphere."

Fire and All-Star coach Veljko Paunovic said he was overwhelmed by the noise on Nikolic's near goal and when the fans started chanting, "Chicago Fire."

"It was very nice to see and hear the support from the fans," he said. "I think our potential is huge. We are putting together the pieces in our club, and it's very important to represent the community."

Bob Narang is a freelance reporter for the Chicago Tribune.

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