WASHINGTON - At a news conference Friday to preview yesterday's Major League Soccer All-Star Game, a jesting reporter asked MLS commissioner Don Garber for assurance that fans wouldn't have to deal with the kind of no-win All-Star situation that Major League Baseball faced last month.
Garber smiled and said no, nothing like that would happen.
It turned out he was right, but he wouldn't have been were it not for Marco Etcheverry.
On a day designed as a celebration of the strides American soccer has made in recent years, a team of MLS All-Stars and a squad of past and present U.S. national team members plodded through a scoreless and lightning-shortened first half before getting an injection of offense - and inspired play - from Etcheverry that rescued the contest from itself and the weather.
The D.C. United star scored the goal that broke a 1-1 tie midway through the second half, then set up another that gave his MLS team a 3-2 win over the U.S. squad at RFK Stadium.
"Marco played excellently today," MLS coach Frank Yallop said. "It was just 45 minutes, but we all know the quality of Marco and it showed today.
"He excels when the game's open a little bit like that, so it was a great game for him to show his stuff."
Etcheverry almost didn't get the chance to play at all yesterday. With 20 minutes elapsed in the first half, lightning flashed, prompting match referee Brian Hall to send the teams to their locker rooms.
A 58-minute delay ensued, during which league officials debated whether to call off the game. They chose to continue, albeit with an abbreviated first half that totaled 30 minutes.
They squeezed in the entire 45-minute second half, giving Etcheverry enough time to work his magic.
He struck first with the game tied at 1, after goals from U.S. forward Landon Donovan and MLS forward Jason Kreis.
Entering the penalty area on the left side after taking a feed from Joselito Vaca, the 31-year-old Bolivian faked a shot with his right foot, then used his left to lift the ball past goalkeeper Juergen Sommer.
"It was a little bit of luck," Etcheverry said through an interpreter. "Every day as a player you get better, and playing with great players brings out the best in you."
With Etcheverry's goal serving as something of a wake-up call, the U.S. team began playing the up-and-down game the 31,096 fans came to see.
It paid off in the 76th minute when Cobi Jones touched home a cross from Brian McBride to even the score at 2.
Etcheverry wasn't finished, though, and in the 81st minute he sent midfielder Chris Klein into the box with a short lob.
Klein settled and sent a low cross through the box to Steve Ralston, who was waiting at the far post to tuck the game-winner past Sommer.
NOTE: Former University of Maryland standout Taylor Twellman played the entire first half for the MLS team but finished without a shot on goal.