LOS ANGELES – There would be no buzzer-beating crossbar magic for MLS this time around.
In the second iteration of the MLS All-Star Skills Challenge presented by AT&T 5G, the Liga MX All-Stars were the ones celebrating after the crossbar shook with a 40-yard ping to take the competition 26-25.
Scoring was broken down into five categories, culminating with the popular Crossbar Challenge presented by Gillette. MLS initially held a late lead, but Liga MX rallied and Cruz Azul forward Jonathan Rodriguez hit the winning shot.
MLS won the Shooting Challenge presented by AT&T 5G and Cross & Volley Challenge presented by AT&T 5G, while Liga MX took the Passing Challenge presented by Crest and Touch Challenge presented by Old Spice before winning it at the end in the crossbar showdown.
There were plenty of great moments at Banc of California Stadium on Tuesday night.
In the Cross & Volley Challenge presented by AT&T 5G, things got weird. Things got Concacaf-y.
Rogelio Funes Mori put on an absolute spectacle, but MLS clawed back through Raul Ruidiaz and then rising star Ricardo Pepi. Pepi started on fire and was about to give MLS the lead… and then there was an “injury."
Perhaps playing to the spectacle, Tigres UANL goalkeeper Nahuel Guzman laid down on the line stretching his leg, intimating a cramp. Andre Blake wasn’t buying it and flashed a red card.
Pepi kept his composure, waited out the delay and still won the round for MLS.
“I just hope he’s okay,” Alexi Lalas joked a few minutes later on FS1's broadcast. Nahuel admitted in a virtual postgame press conference that he was indeed faking in order to stop the clock.
All good fun.
At the 2019 All-Star Game in Orlando, hometown hero Nani dramatically won the event by hitting a long-distance, buzzer-beating crossbar shot. It helped spark tweaks to the events, making the crossbar challenge its own event rather than part of the passing challenge.
All eight players from each side took part, including the goalies, as anticipation and excitement grew in Los Angeles as the teams neared 25 points and were looking for the winning shot from near the midfield circle.
Liga MX, whose All-Stars came onto the field prior to the final event starting, all celebrated together after Rodriguez shook the goal to win.
The attacking quality of the top-end stars captured the imagination.
Funes Mori, the superstar CF Monterrey forward who made his debut for Mexico's national team this summer, made the shooting competitions look far easier than imagined. Particularly in the Cross & Volley Challenge presented by AT&T 5G, he banged in full volley after full volley to either corner as USMNT and New England Revolution goalkeeper Matt Turner did his best to try and limit the points Funes Mori put on the board.
Lucas Zelarayan helped lead MLS to victory in the shooting event, proving lethal from the penalty spot and pinging the targets in goal. He also excelled in the Touch Challenge presented by Old Spice, though Liga MX ultimately won out there.
Pepi, easily the youngest player participating in the event, nearly matched Funes Mori in the Cross & Volley Challenge presented by AT&T 5G and sparked Nahuel's fake injury. He, too, was smashing full volley after full volley into the back of the net.
Zelarayan and Pepi did struggle in the passing challenge, though, an event Liga MX took easily.