ST. PAUL, Minnesota — Every Wednesday night you’ll undoubtedly find countless Golden Boot winners and superstar forwards patrolling central midfielders around the world — you just need to find the right FIFA lobbies. Outside of PlayStation and Xbox, however, any manager having their number 9 watered down in the team engine room would have all sorts of questions to answer after the game. Unless that coach manages the MLS All-Stars.
Minnesota United boss Adrian Heath has lined up Austin FC forward Sebastian Driussi (who has 16 goals in 24 regular season appearances; two more than his nearest rival) on the left side of a three-man midfielder in the 2-1 win over the Liga MX All-Stars. .
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“I was joking about it today; I had about seven or eight No. 10s to try to fit into some form,” Heath said after the challenge game when fielding a team so rich in attacking talent.
The other No.8 in that midfield, flanking Darlington Nagbe? Emanuel Reynoso, one of the league’s leading playmakers, who also took set pieces for the MLS team. Why was the Loons’ number 10 picked ahead of others in such a talented team? “Because I’m responsible,” Heath joked. “I could tell who was going to take what.” And that captures the essence of the All-Star Game. It’s fantasy football brought to life.
None of the 19,727 attendees announced at Minnesota’s beautiful Allianz Field will feel slighted. It was as intense as an exhibition can be. After the hosts opened a 2-0 lead through Carlos Vela’s header and Raul Ruidiaz’s penalty, Kevin Alvarez’s 84th-minute goal halved the deficit to put the large contingent of Mexican fans on their feet and fill the floor with equal anxiety and enthusiasm. for the final moments of the game. It was a win on the field for MLS, but the night as a whole was a win for both leagues.
As Liga MX and Major League Soccer continue to draw closer, this was the second All-Star Game to pit the leagues against each other, while next season’s reimagined Leagues Cup will see both leagues suspended. their domestic seasons so that all of their 47 clubs can participate in the month-long tournament in group stage and knockout format – the novelty and necessity of this All-Star format already seems to be waning.
Of the top five scorers in Mexico’s Clausura tournament that ended in May, only one was part of the Liga MX squad: Germany’s Berterame from Monterrey. None of the current Apertura tournament have been included. Their regular season resumes just 24 hours after the full-time whistle in Minnesota. So it’s hard to feel that this was the best that Liga MX has to offer.
One of the words Heath repeated throughout his press conference after the victory was “competitive”. That his players were competitive. That their opponents were competitive. That the game was competitive. And it was – as much as any exhibition can be.
The rivalry that exists between Mexico and the United States men’s national team carries real weight in this part of the world, and it’s clear that MLS and Liga MX want to capture that fiery and intense spirit, but the All Games -Star inherently lack this department. There is no bite and there is not much bark either.
There will be plenty next summer at the League Cup, when we can enjoy a World Cup-style tournament format contested exclusively by teams from those leagues. Perhaps more when Mexican clubs set out to demonstrate that the Seattle Sounders’ CONCACAF Champions League triumph – the first by an MLS club in its current format, and the first continental trophy by an MLS club since 2000 – was a stroke of luck, and that Mexico is truly home to the best clubs in the region. But there were none on Wednesday.
It’s the start of what should be an extremely successful partnership between MLS and Liga MX, and it’s exciting for the leagues, the players and the fans. But four years after this tandem announced their intentions to team up with world football, launching the Campeones Cup and putting them on track for the All-Stars and Leagues Cups, they are already flirting with market saturation.
The MLS All-Stars win the crossbar challenge and claim victory over Liga MX in the MLS All-Star Skills Challenge.
And yet, the Allianz Field made a considerable buzz around a fifth competition between these two: the Skills Challenge. It was fun. It was different. This is something that MLS, as a league, should embrace.
This summer, MLS clubs hosted European powerhouses — the kind of teams that in years past would have had to face the league’s All-Star squads — and in many cases were competitive. Three weeks ago on the night Minnesota beat Frank Lampard’s Everton
Between those increasingly common July schedules filled with international opposition and Seattle’s newly outfitted Continental crown, the appetite for MLS competition against the world could be considered somewhat sated.
But people always want more Goalie Wars.