For much of All-Star week, the likes of Adrian Heath and Javier Hernandez have spoken about the near parity between MLS and Mexico’s Liga MX.
So it was perhaps fitting that it was a Mexican who put MLS All-Stars on their way to victory and earning further bragging rights over their neighbors following a 2-1 win at St Paul’s Allianz Field.
Arsenal misfit Carlos Vela nodded home in the third minute and Carlos Acevedo’s second half penalty ensured victory for an MLS All-Star team featuring the likes of Javier Hernandez, Walker Zimmerman and home favorite Emanuel Reynoso.
Carlos Vela opened the scoring with a header in the third minute
He then celebrated the goal with Julian Araujo (center) and Javier Hernandez
Their Mexican counterparts were guilty of missing several gilt-edged chances as American World Cup hopeful Dayne St Clair looked lively in his spell as MLS goalkeeper.
With Bandera de Mexicos and multicolour kits galore, the MLS got off to the perfect start in the lively $25,000,000, 19,400-seater stadium.
Trickery on the left from Jordan Morris was followed up by a change of pace from Diego Palacios which brought the crowd to life. Seconds later Vela nodded home his looping cross at the far post.
Fans for both the MLS and Liga MX All-Stars came out to support the sides
Paul Arriola of FC Dallas makes a play for the ball against Liga MX defender Luis Reyes
Juan Escobar missed a golden chance to level, scraping his shot across the face of the goal. Fernando Beltran continued the lack of cutting edge, missing a straightforward chance.
After the break, the changes in personnel continued, but little swayed the pattern of the game. The MLS saw a Heriberto Jurado goal chalked off for offside, while a pitch invader brought some light relief.
A foul on substitute Carles Gil – once of Aston Villa – brought a penalty late in the game, with Ruidiaz sending Carlos Acevedo the wrong way.
Liga MX players argued with referee Joe Dickerson after a penalty was awarded
Ruidiaz slotted the penalty home to give the hosts a 2-0 lead vs. the visitors
The MLS All-Stars celebrate after Ruidiaz’s goal all but confirmed a victory for the hosts
Liga MX hit back in a frantic final minutes, sparked by a superb strike from Kevin Alvarez. But MLS held on to seal back-to-back All-Star game wins.
Earlier this week MLS All-Star and Minnesota United coach Heath spoke about the near-parity of the two rival leagues.
He speaks from experience. The former Everton and Stoke forward has managed in MLS since 2008 and few are better placed to notice evolution.
Julian Quinones was heavily involved for the Liga MX team in the first half
Walker Zimmerman of Nashville SC heads the ball near Liga MX goalkeeper Camilo Vargas
The game was held at Allianz Field in Saint Paul, Minnesota
‘This is the closest MLS has ever been to Liga MX,’ said Heath. ‘When I arrived, the gap was pretty big.’
Citing the ‘incredible investment’ seen in MLS, which has seen the league explode from 14 teams in his first season to 29 next season with the addition of expansion side St Louis City.
‘Long-term, this will be good for Liga MX as well,’ Heath said. ‘The US is getting closer. Our league is getting better, buying more players, competing for the same players to buy. I think it’s only good for the competition.’
Hernandez continued in a similar vein. He noted 2002’s ‘dos a cero’ game in the World Cup – the USA beat Mexico in the last-16 – as the moment that began the tectonic shift.
Zimmerman and Hernandez laugh before the game
Darlington Nagbe of the Columbus Crew slide tackles Liga MX midfielder Luis Quinones
‘MLS wasn’t even as big then as it is now,’ he said. ‘It’s going to take time and patience. Growth takes time to develop and it takes time to accept in the minds of a lot of people. That’s evolution.
‘You need to adapt and accept that competition makes you better. You don’t need to be threatened by it. You need to feel it’s something that makes you better and better and better. We need to take the best out of each league.’
Liga MX’s Argentine coach Diego Cocca said before the game: ‘It is clear that MLS has grown a lot. The Mexican league has always been a very strong league. Coming to play in these kinds of games makes both leagues grow and want to improve.’
MLS All-Star Sebastian Driussi (left) and Liga MX All-Star Aviles Hurtado vie for the ball
Inter Miami’s DeAndre Yedlin (right) entered the game in the second half