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MLS All-Stars defeat Liga MX in penalties; Crew’s Zelarayan starts

The MLS All-Stars’ shootout win against the Liga MX All-Stars earns the first victory for MLS since 2015.

MLS: MLS All-Star Game Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The 25th MLS All-Star Game featured the best of Major League Soccer against the best of Mexico’s Liga MX. The game finished in a penalty shootout victory for the MLS All-Stars against the Liga MX All-Stars after a 1-1 draw in regulation at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles, California. Columbus Crew midfielder Lucas Zelarayan started and played the first 30 minutes of the match.

Columbus’ top scorer in 2021 got the start in the All-Star Game after showing off his talent in Tuesday night’s Skills Challenge. Zelarayan was the only player in the competition to have the highest score in two events as he earned the top marks in the Shooting and Touch challenges. The Black & Gold’s lone All-Star started the match with six Seattle Sounders.

A notable moment in the game occurred in the 11th minute when an MLS goal kick was overshadowed by the traditional Mexican homophobic chant that has caused matches in the CONCACAF Nations League and Gold Cup to be paused. The players of both teams gathered in the center circle for the two-minute delay. This happened just hours after FIFA eased Mexico’s punishment for the chant by reducing its closer-door World Cup Qualifying games from two to one.

Nine minutes late came the first goal of the game and, scored by the Liga MX All-Stars. Cruz Azul striker Jonathan Rodriguez controlled a back-post cross with his chest and slotted home a right-footed shot past Orlando City SC’s Pedro Gallese to give the Mexican All-Stars the 1-0 lead. Rodriguez won the Liga MX Balon de Oro last season and will face the Crew with Cruz Azul on Sept. 29 in the Campeones Cup.

Zelarayan was subbed off after 30 minutes on the pitch with head coach Bob Bradley understanding he and multiple other MLS players have games two days from now. This surely means the Argentine will be ready to go in some capacity for Friday’s Hell is Real Derby match for the Black & Gold against FC Cincinnati. Zelarayan and company will try to snap a six-game losing streak in MLS at Lower.com Field.

The first half concluded with Liga MX maintaining its 1-0 lead. The MLS All-Stars put together opportunities to dribble into space late in the half but heavy first touches cost the team chances to get off clean shots.

In the 53rd minute, the MLS All-Stars equalized with a little home stadium connection between LAFC players Eduard Atuesta and Jesus Murillo. Atuesta sent a corner in for MLS with his LAFC teammate Murillo getting on the end of a near-post header to score. The 27-year-old Colombian defender hasn’t scored an MLS regular season or MLS Cup playoffs goal since joining LAFC in 2020, but had his moment in the All-Star Game.

The two sides weren’t separated before the final whistle blew, forcing the match to penalty kicks. The shootout was the fourth in MLS All-Star Game history and the third in the last four editions of the match. MLS won the shootout for the first time in All-Star Game history by a 3-2 scoreline thanks to two saves by All-Star Game Most Valuable Player and New England Revolution goalkeeper Matt Turner and the winning kick came from FC Dallas youngster Ricardo Pepi.