LOS ANGELES – The 2021 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target brought the celebration, intensity and entertainment value that the occasion demanded, with MLS ultimately beating Liga MX on penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw. MLS netted three spot-kicks compared to two from Mexico's top dogs.
Here are five key moments that defined Wednesday night's affair at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles, one that perhaps foreshadowed more long-term alignment between the bordering leagues as their rivalry and partnership continue to blossom.
On a night where Ricardo Pepi is reportedly set to join the US men’s national team for World Cup Qualifiers in September, it was fitting that the 18-year-old dual-national forward scored the game-winning penalty kick against Liga MX's best.
The rising FC Dallas star got one over on Tigres UANL goalkeeper Nahuel Guzman, who threw some gamesmanship the forward’s way during the MLS All-Star Skills Challenge presented by AT&T 5G on Tuesday night. A full-circle moment for the US-Mexico eligible attacker, indeed.
GOAL: Ricardo Pepi, MLS All-Stars - Penalty Shootout
New England Revolution goalkeeper Matt Turner came up huge in PKs, stopping two and seeing another soar over the crossbar. For his efforts, he was voted the All-Star Game MVP presented by Target.
It continued an incredible summer for Turner, who backstopped the USMNT to a Gold Cup win over Mexico in early August. Perhaps he’s just Mr. Clutch when it comes to players from Liga MX?
The MLS All-Stars found their equalizer after halftime, with LAFC center back Jesus David Murillo heading home an Eduard Atuesta corner kick in the 53rd minute to make it a 1-1 game.
It was a fitting moment between two Black & Gold standouts, who combined in front of the 3252. The home fans were out in full voice for the celebratory affair.
GOAL: Jesús David Murillo, MLS All-Stars - 53rd minute
Cruz Azul forward Jonathan Rodriguez opened the scoring for Liga MX, taking a 1-0 lead in the 20th minute on a crisp finish from the Uruguay international. He collected a cross-field switch and finished past Orlando City SC goalkeeper Pedro Gallese.
That continued a strong two days for Rodriguez, who won the MLS All-Star Skills Challenge presented by AT&T 5G for Liga MX on Tuesday night after hitting the clinching shot on the Crossbar Challenge presented by Gillette.
GOAL: Jonathan Rodríguez, Liga MX All-Stars - 20th minute
Before the game began, the celebrations were ripe and apparent. It all started with a drumline show and pyrotechnics, then carried through a live, on-field full-orchestra rendition of the Hans Zimmer-created MLS anthem.
The party continued when the Mexican and American anthems were also featured. Then a fly-over from four helicopters pronounced that the festivities were truly ready to begin.