ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Carlos Vela scored in the third minute and Raúl Ruidíaz's converted a penalty kick in the 73rd minute in the Major League Soccer All-Star team's 2-1 victory over Mexico's Liga MX on Wednesday night.
Vela, the versatile Los Angeles FC forward who led MLS with 34 goals in 2019, headed in the early goal off a crossing pass by LAFC teammate Diego Palacios. Ruidíaz padded the lead after Carles Gil drew a penalty, sending his free shot to the lower right corner to elicit a roar from the sellout crowd of 19,797 at Allianz Field.
Kevin Álvarez scored for Liga MX with a rocket from outside the box in the 83rd minute that sailed past diving goalie Sean Johnson. That brought the thousands of Mexicans in attendance to life, and they were just as loud as the Americans.
Minnesota United, nicknamed the Loons by the ardent supporters, had backup goalie Dayne St. Clair and starting midfielder Emanuel Reynoso represented on the team. Reynoso took the first corner kick. St. Clair entered in the 33rd minute to sub for Andre Blake. He made four saves, including a diving stop to block a header in the 44th minute, to win the game’s MVP award.
This was the second edition of this format for the MLS All-Star game, setting it apart from the other major U.S.-based pro sports leagues. The MLS team beat Liga MX on penalty kicks in Los Angeles last year after a 1-1 draw in regulation. The MLS has not committed to an All-Star rematch.
The two leagues are more business partners than fierce rivals, with only one Mexican player in the starting Liga MX lineup: Fernando Beltrán. The MLS team had Vela, Javier “Chicharito” Hernández and Julián Araujo, who was born in the U.S. and has dual nationality.
But the MLS, which was formed more than 50 years after Liga MX, certainly will take another sign that it's catching up to its southern neighbor. The Seattle Sounders became the first MLS club to defeat a Liga MX team for the CONCACAF Champions League title earlier this year when they beat Pumas UNAM. Minnesota United coach Adrian Heath, who coached the MLS team, said this week the gap between the two leagues is as close as he's ever seen it.
Next year, the leagues will compete in an expanded Leagues Cup tournament — the first to include all 47 clubs from MLS and Liga MX. The winner will advance directly to the CONCACAF Champions League round of 16.
The timing of the showcase this year also created a bonus opportunity for the U.S. national team members to connect, with the World Cup looming in a little more than three months.
There were seven MLS All-Stars currently listed on the U.S. roster, which has yet to be finalized for Qatar: defenders Walker Zimmerman, DeAndre Yedlin and Aaron Long, forwards Jordan Morris, Paul Arriola and Jesús Ferreira and Johnson.
Zimmerman and Morris were in the starting lineup. Arriola subbed in and had an early second-half goal erased by an offside call on Brandon Vázquez, who teed up Arriola with a perfect setup in front. Vázquez, who's second in the MLS with 14 goals, has played his way into strong consideration for the U.S. team with his breakout season for FC Cincinnati.
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Dave Campbell, The Associated Press