Sounders players are known for their second-half comebacks. But the six who lined up for MLS’s All-Star match against Liga MX on Wednesday were subbed off by halftime and could only watch as MLS won 3-2 on penalties at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles.
New England Revolution keeper Matt Turner was in goal for the shootout after regulation ended level at a goal apiece. Turner made two saves against Liga MX players in the shootout and was named the game’s MVP. FC
Dallas forward Ricardo Pepi nailed the game-winning penalty kick for MLS.
“I was trying to think back to some of the names I looked at before we played Mexico in the Gold Cup final,” Turner said of starting for the U.S. men’s national team for the win against Mexico. Liga MX’s All-Star roster featured players from around the globe.
“Nothing was coming to me, so I just sort of tried to shut my mind off and tried to read some context clues from the way they were approaching the ball,” Turner continued. “When I was diving, really believing that the ball was coming that way. That helped me to make saves. … The competition on the field was excellent. People really wanted to win and you don’t normally get that with All-Star games in America. It was really, really unique and really special.”
The match had a Sounders feel from the opening kick. Seattle’s club-record six All-Stars were all in the starting XI.
For defender Nouhou, it marked his first appearance in any Sounders match since May due to international duty and a subsequent adductor injury.
“This is one of the best moments for my career because I have had a very good season from the beginning,” Nouhou told MLSsoccer.com. “I’m very happy, I’m very proud to be here. It’s amazing for me.”
Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan was voted captain and made history by playing alongside his brother, Alex, in an All-Star match. League-leading scorer Raul Ruidiaz, midfielder Joao Paulo, and defender Yeimar Gomez Andrade rounded out the Sounders’ All-Stars.
Liga MX All-Star Jonathan Rodriguez, a forward for Cruz Azul, recorded the game’s opening goal. Jorge Sanchez, a Club America midfielder, lofted a beautiful cross from distance to Rodriguez. The latter sent a strong, right-footed shot into goal in the 20th minute.
Yeimar couldn’t stop the play with a block attempt in the keeper’s box. Rodriguez is the reigning MVP of Liga MX.
With all of Seattle’s players subbed off by halftime, it was up to Los Angeles FC players, the stadium’s home club, to level the match. Black and Gold defender Jesus David Murillo did in the 53rd minute. He poked in the score off a corner kick from a club teammate, midfielder Eduard Atuesta.
The matchup between MLS and Liga MX stars was a first in the U.S. league’s 26-year history. It was originally planned for 2020 but was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We all worked so hard to get it back,” MLS commissioner Don Garber said during the television broadcast.
According to Tom Bogert, an MLS reporter, play was stopped 11 minutes into the match because a section of fans began chanting a homophobic slur in Spanish. The starters from both sides were gathered at the center circle while a stadium warning was given.
Mexico’s national team has faced FIFA sanctions for similar chants by its fans at international matches. The slur typically follows goal kicks and is meant to intimidate opponents.
The momentous week could continue for the Roldans. Cristian is expected to be called up by the U.S. men’s national team to compete in World Cup qualifiers next month. USMNT, which will make its roster announcement Thursday, plays El Salvador on Sept. 2. That squad is expected to include Alex, who has dual citizenship because of his mother’s heritage.
“Starting and sharing the field with five Sounders players, including my brother, is an overall great story, a feel-good story,” said Cristian, who hasn’t lost a match in 2021. The 23-game unbeaten streak includes appearances for the Sounders, MLS and USMNT. “I’m happy more so for Alex because it’s been a tough three years for him (trying to make the Sounders roster). The way he’s risen and dealt with pressure and all that, he’s exceed really high expectations.”
Ruidiaz was called up by Peru but Nouhou told reporters in L.A. that he declined a call-up for the September international window because he’s not fully fit.
“I’m not ready,” said Nouhou, who played 30 minutes Wednesday. “I’m going to work hard and come back soon in October, because we have World Cup qualification again.”
The Sounders (12-3-6) are off Thursday. The club will reconvene Friday to begin preparing for a Cascadia derby against the Portland Timbers on Sunday at Lumen Field. The match is a part of a doubleheader with OL Reign, who plays its derby against the Portland Thorns FC at 4 p.m. at Lumen Field.
“It was a really important win just to get some respect,” Atlanta United defender Miles Robinson said of the rivalry between the leagues. “Obviously we have great players in this league (MLS) and we showed that. It was a good win for the team all around. Guys fought hard and it was pretty competitive in that second half, so it was nice coming out with the win.”