It took penalties to settle, but in the first of a new era for the MLS All-Stars facing off against the Liga MX All-Stars, it was FC Dallas rising star Ricardo Pepi stepping up to take and score the final spot kick to win the 2021 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target.
New England Revolution goalkeeper Matt Turner was the hero in the end, making two saves in the five Liga MX All-Star penalties he saw, with another flying off-target. Orlando City superstar Nani had the chance to win it from the spot but miscued his effort into the stands before Pepi took the final shot, which found the back of the net after clipping the crossbar.
Real Salt Lake's Damir Kreilach and Sporting KC's Daniel Salloi also scored during the penalty shootout, while LAFC's Eduard Atuesta saw his effort saved.
It was an eventful and intense 90 minutes plus the shootout, with a sold-out Banc of America Stadium in full voice as the rival leagues put on a spectacle in the city of stars.
Liga MX All-Stars took the lead in the 20th minute through Cruz Azul forward Jonathan Rodriguez. Rodriguez was on the receiving end of an inch-perfect cross from right back Jorge Sanchez, taking an exquisite first touch off his chest before half-volleying a shot into the bottom corner.
Jesus Murillo equalized for the MLS All-Stars in the 53rd minute, as the LAFC center back scored at his home stadium in front of the 3252 Supporters' Section packed with hometown fans. Murillo's towering header gave Pumas goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera no chance at the near post.
Pepi was lively after coming on in the second half and had multiple attempts at goal searching for the game-winner but couldn't find a way to get on the scoresheet until he had the crowning moment in the shootout.
The first on-field fireworks of the evening came in the ninth minute as Sanchez made an acrobatic overhead goal-line clearance to save a certain goal for MLS. LAFC's Diego Rossi got clean-through on goal, chipped Memo Ochoa only for the Club America defender to come flying in to deny.
All six Seattle Sounders All-Star selections started the match together, including Alex and Cristian Roldan, making history as the first brothers in MLS All-Star history to play alongside one another. The first subs came in the 27th minute. The MLS All-Stars used 27 players, Liga MX All-Stars 26.
- 20' — LMX — Jonathan Rodriguez
- 53' — MLS — Jesus Murillo
- THE BIG PICTURE: It was a historic evening around these parts, the first iteration of the MLS All-Star Game facing the Liga MX All-Stars. The on-field product was a success, with the players going full tilt and putting on a show for the raucous crowd on a warm Los Angeles summer night. Beyond the final score or the micro to come from the match itself, that'll be the legacy.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: It had to be the winning penalty, right? And it had to be Pepi, the man of the moment as both the United States and Mexico national teams hope to call up the dual-national for World Cup Qualifying. The starboy stepped up and took the responsibility in his stride.
- MVP PRESENTED BY TARGET: While Jorge Sanchez came up two huge moments to define the first half, Matt Turner was the hero in the penalty shootout. He denied Rogelio Funes Mori and Salvador Reyes from 12 yards.