We see that you have javascript disabled. Please enable javascript and refresh the page to continue reading local news. If you feel you have received this message in error, please contact the customer support team at 1-833-248-7801.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

MLS growth, improvement will be on display Wednesday in All-Star Game vs. Mexico’s best

The MLS All-Star Game at Allianz Field at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday remains, like the rest, an exhibition, but the opponent will be a rival collection of all-star players from Mexico’s Liga MX. It’s providing new spice.

We are part of The Trust Project.
MLS: 2022 MLS All-Star Game Training and Media
The MLS All-Star team warms up during the 2022 MLS All-Star Game Training and Media on Monday at National Sports Center in Blaine, Minnesota.
Kirby Lee / USA TODAY Sports

All-star games in the four major U.S. professional sports don’t have much at stake. They often rely on the same staid formula and sometimes lack a resemblance to their league’s games.

The NBA’s doesn’t have much defense and scores approach 200 points; the NFL’s lacks hard hitting and proper tackling; the NHL and MLB’s, like the others, are the cream from the same closed fraternity, meaning few bragging rights are at stake.

Major League Soccer is changing that paradigm.

The MLS All-Star Game at Allianz Field at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday remains, like the rest, an exhibition, but the opponent will be a rival collection of all-star players from Mexico’s Liga MX. It’s providing new spice.

Soccer in the U.S. and Canada have been closing the gap with their historically more successful neighbors to the south. Canada’s men’s national team finished first in the region’s qualifying tournament for the FIFA World Cup this fall, followed by Mexico and the U.S. All three advanced to the World Cup in Qatar in November and December.

ADVERTISEMENT

The U.S. men’s national team has won more key matches against Mexico over the past few years. The Seattle Sounders became the first MLS side to win the annual tournament between clubs in North America, Central America and Caribbean (CONACAF) countries this spring.

MLS: 2022 MLS All-Star-Liga MX All-Star Press Conference
Liga MX All-Star coach Diego Cocca and players Camilo Vargas and Alexis Vega during the MLS All-Star Liga MX Press Conference on Monday at National Sports Center in Blaine, Minn.
Kirby Lee / USA TODAY Sports

“It is clear that MLS has grown a lot, (LigaMX) has always been a very strong league and this is not a parameter,” Liga MX All-Star head coach Diego Cocca, who leads Atlas FC, said in Spanish. “In order to understand the growth of each league, you need to see that they’re different tournaments. … CONCACAF Champions League is an important parameter, that is done year by year. I think the best of all is that coming to play in these kinds of games makes both leagues grow and want to improve. It seems to me that this is the most important goal of all.”

Another parameter was how MLS beat Liga MX in penalty kicks in first border battle at the 2021 All-Star Game in Los Angeles last August.

“Last time we left with a bad taste in our mouths,” said Alexis Vega, a forward for Chivas Guadalajara. “We are working hard so we can take a victory to Mexico.”

Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez has more than 100 appearances for the Mexican national team and got his professional start at Chivas before the forward went on to star in England, Germany and Spain. He is now a headliner for L.A. Galaxy and will serve as captain of the MLS All-Stars.

“There are some results that there has been a consequence of how the MLS is improving for years,” Hernandez said. “… I think both leagues need to learn from each other because they both have a lot of positive things.”

MLS: 2022 MLS All-Star Game Training and Media
MLS All-Star player Kai Wagner on Monday during the 2022 MLS All-Star Game Training and Media at National Sports Center in Blaine, Minnesota.
Aaron Doster / USA TODAY Sports

MLS started its all-star games with a familiar East-West format at its inception in 1996 and then switched to match-ups against a top European club for 15 consecutive years from 2005-19. Nashville defender Walker Zimmerman played in the last game under that set-up in 2019, against Atletico Madrid in Orlando, but he said that match didn’t rival the 2021 version against Mexico’s best.

“Definitely a new step in the competition,” Zimmerman said Monday.

ADVERTISEMENT

The partnership between MLS and Liga MX will grow next season with the Leagues Cup, a midseason tournament for all clubs in both countries. The Loons will get the chance to test themselves against Mexican clubs with a trophy on the line for the first time.

Minnesota United manager Adrian Heath, who will coach the MLS All-Stars, emigrated from England 13 years ago and has watched the play in the U.S. and Mexico intimately.

“This is the closest that MLS has ever been to Liga MX,” Heath said. “I think years ago … when I arrived, the gap was pretty big, but I think it’s been continually closed with the investment put into the clubs in the U.S. (and Canada).”

MLS clubs had some successes against some European giants. When Chelsea came to suburban Chicago for the MLS All-Star Game in 2006, the English Premier League champions didn’t hide confidence they would roll over the best collection of players from the still-fledgling U.S. and Canadian league.

Officials with Chelsea said they wanted to keep the exhibition match respectable, maybe in a 2-0 or 3-0 win. Then the Houston Dynamo’s Dwayne De Rosario’s goal was the difference in a 1-0 MLS victory.

“Here comes little DeRo from Scarborough, Canada, spoiling their party,” De Rosario recalled Sunday. But De Rosario said that game against Chelsea and a loss to Manchester United in Houston in 2010 didn’t feel like home games.

“You have real fans now that support MLS,” De Rosario said. “ Sometimes when we played Chelsea or played (Manchester United), you always still felt like there was a little bit more in the other way for fan support.”

Allianz Field will be sold out Wednesday, a befitting scene as the epicenter of North American soccer for one night.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Having it last year in L.A., the fans were all behind it,” Zimmerman said. “It was passionate. Then we won in a PK shootout, now we are looking to run it back. It’s a great game with certainly a high level of competition. You don’t see that all the time in an All-Star Game.”

______________________________________________________

This story was written by one of our partner news agencies. Forum Communications Company uses content from agencies such as Reuters, Kaiser Health News, Tribune News Service and others to provide a wider range of news to our readers. Learn more about the news services FCC uses here.

What to read next
Pro
Kirill Kaprizov didn't finish the game, leaving early out of precaution after a shot from teammate Frederick Gaudreau grazed his foot.
Pro
The 6-foot-1, 195-pound receiver out of LSU will be the focus of most, if not all opposing defenses for the rest of the season. He’s just that good. With Jefferson taken out of the offense, Adam Thielen (six catches, 61 yards and a touchdown) and Osborn (5-73-1) got the lion’s share of Cousins’ targets, which was enough to beat the Lions on Sunday.
Pro
It wasn’t always pretty, but it was a good win. An important win, particularly for a team still finding its legs. There’s a big difference between 2-1 and 1-2.
Pro
Larnach, 25, played five rehab games for the Saints, the last coming on Sept. 21, before he was shut down. He was in the Twins’ clubhouse on Sunday morning, though not because an activation is near, manager Rocco Baldelli said.