When the MLS All-Stars face off against a group of Liga MX counterparts later this month, they’ll be equipped with two of Mexico’s top veteran attacking talent, a slew of summer heroes, a number of rising stars and a squad of supporters of the league.
The MLS All-Star Game which was supposed to take place in Los Angeles last summer but was canceled due to the pandemic is slated for 2021, and it’s fitting that Javier “Chicharito” Hernández and Carlos Vela, the two Los Angeles teams Angeles shining stars, lead the MLS against the best of their native Mexico. They will do so on August 25 at LAFC’s Banc of California Stadium.
But the MLS team goes way beyond the veteran duo El Tri. United States Gold Cup champions Matt Turner, Miles Robinson, James Sands, Walker Zimmerman and Cristian Roldan were all selected to take part in the summer showcase, as well as Canadian Tajon Buchanan, who won the title of best young player at the Concacaf championship. Rising talent such as 17-year-old San Jose Earthquakes striker Cade Cowell and 18-year-old Mexican-American FC Dallas striker Ricardo Pepi, the youngest player with a hat-trick in league history, join them, along with numerous players from the two teams currently leading their respective conferences, the New England Revolution and Seattle Sounders.
As for the game itself, play in the broader theme of MLS and Liga MX cooperation. Between the League Cup and Campeones Cup competitions that were created to favor more matches between clubs in both leagues and (the one-sided nature) of Concacaf Champions League head-to-head matches over the years, there has been more overlap between the two entities than ever. A merger might even come to fruition at some point, but for now it’s just about scratching each other’s backs so that both of them can enjoy some positive results while remaining separate and competing organizations.
“The advantage of what everyone is talking about is that our teams will play against each other,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in June when addressing the issue of a potential merger. “That we would be able to work together and create valuable content. That we would be able to monetize that content. That we would be able to have governance that would allow all of us to make good decisions together. You can do it in a variety of different ways without a formal merger ”.
The All-Star Game fits in perfectly with this and rewards a group of players who excelled in the early part of the MLS season. The 28 player squad was selected through a fan / media / player vote which consecrated 13 picks and 13 more selections by manager Bob Bradley (the host club manager was nominated to lead the MLS All-Stars for a certain number of years now) along with the traditional two going to Garber. Cowell and Buchanan were his picks, in homage to two of the league’s top young talents. Overall, 24 of the 28 players are All-Stars for the first time, and there is also a sibling combination, with Cristian and Alex Roldan among the six selected Sounders. The Revolution and LAFC (four players each) are the next best represented clubs, with 15 of the 27 league teams having at least one player involved.
This match marks a departure from the MLS vs. European club that had been in existence since 2005. The MLS enjoyed mixed results during that time, even though it fell short of the semifinals against Arsenal, Real Madrid, Juventus and Atletico Madrid, respectively. Overall, the MLS went 7-5-3, with all three draws leading to losses on penalties (against Tim Howard’s Everton in ’09 and against Real Madrid and Juventus in ’17 and ’18) .
Here is the full list of the MLS:
Pedro Gallese (Orlando City), Matt Turner (New England Revolution)
Yeimar Gómez Andrade (Seattle Sounders), Julian Araujo (LA Galaxy), Jesus David Murillo (LAFC), Nouhou Tolo (Seattle Sounders), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United), Alex Roldan (Seattle Sounders), James Sands (NYCFC), Kai Wagner (Union Philadelphia), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC)
Eduard Atuesta (LAFC), Carles Gil (New England Revolution), Damir Kreilach (Real Salt Lake), João Paulo (Seattle Sounders), Emanuel Reynoso (Minnesota United), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders), Lucas Zelarayán (Columbus Crew)
FORWARDS / OUTSIDE
Gustavo Bou (New England Revolution), Tajon Buchanan (New England Revolution), Cade Cowell (San Jose Earthquakes), Javier Hernández (LA Galaxy), Nani (Orlando City), Ricardo Pepi (FC Dallas), Diego Rossi ( LAFC), Raúl Ruidíaz (Seattle Sounders), Dániel Sallói (Sporting Kansas City), Carlos Vela (LAFC)
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