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MLS Tops Liga MX on Penalties to Win 2021 MLS All-Star Game

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVAugust 26, 2021

AP Photo/Ashley Landis

MLS won the battle of the All-Stars. But it didn't come easy.

Matt Turner was the hero, making two crucial saves in the penalty shootout as the MLS All-Stars defeated the Liga MX All-Stars 3-2 in penalties after the game ended 1-1 in regulation at the Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles on Wednesday night.

FOX Soccer @FOXSoccer

🧤 <a href="https://twitter.com/headdturnerr?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@headdturnerr</a> with the HUGE block on Funes Mori's shot <a href="https://t.co/kBGLqaXgfA">pic.twitter.com/kBGLqaXgfA</a>

FOX Soccer @FOXSoccer

😤 <a href="https://twitter.com/headdturnerr?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@headdturnerr</a> AGAIN for the <a href="https://twitter.com/MLS?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@MLS</a> All-Stars! <a href="https://t.co/zAWdrRfgCB">pic.twitter.com/zAWdrRfgCB</a>

Those saves, combined with an Erik Lira miss for Liga MX, bailed out the MLS All-Stars in a major way after Nani and Eduard Atuesta each botched their efforts in the shootout. 

That Ricardo Pepi—a dual-national who reportedly has chosen to play for the United States in his international career—scored the ultimate winner will only throw fire on the USMNT vs. El Tri rivalry. 

FOX Soccer @FOXSoccer

🔥 <a href="https://twitter.com/Ricardo_Pepi9?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Ricardo_Pepi9</a> FOR THE WIN<a href="https://twitter.com/FCDallas?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@FCDallas</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/MLS?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@MLS</a> <a href="https://t.co/bd04c54MN3">pic.twitter.com/bd04c54MN3</a>

FOX Soccer @FOXSoccer

"We can confirm that Ricardo Pepi is on the roster for the upcoming <a href="https://twitter.com/USMNT?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@USMNT</a> World Cup qualifier."<a href="https://twitter.com/stuholden?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@stuholden</a> shares the latest USMNT roster update 🇺🇸 <a href="https://t.co/eeE5jjnusO">pic.twitter.com/eeE5jjnusO</a>

Roger Gonzalez @RGonzalezCBS

🚨 Ricardo Pepi has reportedly chosen to represent the USMNT over Mexico, according to TUDN.

Jonathan Rodriguez scored for Mexico in regulation, while Jesus David Murillo was the lone MLS player to tally in the opening 90. 

Rodriguez's 20th-minute goal opened the scoring, as he brilliantly chested down a long pass into the box and took a fantastic first touch to cut back inside before slipping the ball into the back of the net:

FOX Soccer @FOXSoccer

Liga MX strikes first in the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/MLSAllstar?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#MLSAllstar</a> game! 🔥 <a href="https://t.co/1xVnNrt1w6">pic.twitter.com/1xVnNrt1w6</a>

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But in the 53rd minute, Murillo found the equalizer with a fantastic header:

FOX Soccer @FOXSoccer

Jesús Murillo ties it for the <a href="https://twitter.com/MLS?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@MLS</a> All-Stars! 🙌<br><br>And he does it in front of the <a href="https://twitter.com/LAFC?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@LAFC</a> home crowd 🔥 <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/MLSAllStar?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#MLSAllStar</a> <a href="https://t.co/w8WDjRsW5W">pic.twitter.com/w8WDjRsW5W</a>

The game was open and competitive, if not a bit sloppy in the final third, as both sides had plenty of chances denied, either by last-ditch defending, solid saves from the respective keepers or a few very heavy touches. 

Jason Davis Is Ready for World Cup Qualifying @davisjsn

I'd like to lodge a complaint about <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/MLSAllStar?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#MLSAllStar</a>. WAY too much defending.

It appeared as though the MLS All-Stars were going to take an early lead in the eighth minute, as Diego Rossi came free on the break and lifted a beautiful chip toward goal. But an incredible clearance on that attempt—followed by a block on Gustavo Bou's shot off the rebound—kept the MLS All-Stars off the board. 

B/R Football @brfootball

NOPE 🚫 (🎥 <a href="https://twitter.com/LigaBBVAMX?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@LigaBBVAMX</a>) <a href="https://t.co/LEG5cOKjxH">pic.twitter.com/LEG5cOKjxH</a>

Wednesday's game came amidst growing buzz that the two leagues could consider a merger in the future, creating a North American super league that would be quite dynamic, given the financial structure and television markets of the MLS and the superior popularity and fanbase of Liga MX. 

"I think the potential in the United States and Mexico is enormous, each country by itself," FIFA president Gianni Infantino told reporters in March. "But, of course, if you could bring those two together, that would be incredible, and that could quite well be the best league in the world."

"If it makes sense at the right time, then we’ll take that step," MLS president Don Garber told Kevin Baxter of the Los Angeles Times in June. 

It would potentially be a giant league, with the MLS soon to expand to 30 teams and Liga MX having 18. It's hard to imagine teams from either league agreeing to a relegation format that would see some of them bumped down a division. 

But seeing the All-Stars from both leagues going at it in an entertaining game on Wednesday night, with the Los Angeles crowd absolutely rocking for both teams, was a pretty good indication that a merger could make sense down the line, despite the potential complications. 

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