Ricardo Pepi made the decisive kick as Major League Soccer defeated Liga MX in a penalty shootout to win the historic first combined All-Star game between the two leagues in Los Angeles on Wednesday night.
After LAFC's Eduard Atuesta and Orlando City's Nani missed their penalty kick chances, Pepi – the 18-year-old homegrown forward for FC Dallas – stepped up for the winner.
"I was confident," Pepi said. "I felt like everything was set up for me to win the game."
New England Revolution goalkeeper Matt Turner – who made two saves in the penalty shootout – was named the game's MVP. Turner will undoubtedly be named to the U.S. national team roster for 2022 World Cup qualifying that starts on Sept. 2 in El Salvador, but what remains to be seen is if recent performances in MLS, the Concacaf Gold Cup and now the MLS-Liga MX All-Star game earn him consideration to start in goal for Gregg Berhalter's squad.
Jonathan Rodríguez (who plays for Cruz Azul) gave the Liga MX All-Stars an early lead with his goal in the 20th minute.
The MLS All-Stars answered early in the second half, when in the 53rd minute LAFC teammates Atuesta and Jesús David Murillo combined to tied the game up at 1-1. Murillo headed home Atuesta's corner kick for the equalizer right in front of the famed 3252 supporters' section at Banc of California Stadium.
The game was marred by a halt in play after just 10 minutes due to fans using a homophobic chant, with players gathered at midfield as the stadium public address announcer gave a warning to fans in attendance.
The combined All-Star game (and Tuesday night's skills challenge) is the latest step in the growing bromance between MLS and Liga MX. The All-Star game represents the third tentpole event for the two leagues, joining the Leagues Cup – which opened play last week – and the Campeones Cup – which will be contested between the 2020 MLS Cup-winning Columbus Crew and Cruz Azul, winners of the 2021 Campeón de Campeones, on Sept. 29 at Lower.com Field.