When it was officially announced that the MLS would be without several big names, many likely began writing off MLS All-Star Week. While understandable, last night’s Skills Challenge proved far more entertaining than expected.
Granted, proceedings got off to a slow start. The MLS team dominated the opening event, the Shooting Challenge. LAFC’s Diego Rossi led the way, as all three MLS competitors put a shot through the ever elusive moving target. The rough start from Liga MX put them at the end of several jokes, despite this being a competition that “didn’t matter.”
Then, as with anything involving highly trained and extremely talented athletes, the competitive juices started brewing. Being blown out didn't sit well with Liga MX. They would take the crown in the Touch Challenge, where a big round from Orbelín Pineda gave Liga MX enough to get past MLS.
While the subsequent Cross & Volley Challenge, as well as the Passing Challenge didn't provide the expected highlight moments, it did provide us with something not many had seen before: Time wasting in a non-game exhibition, courtesy of Liga MX GK Nahuel Guzman. Always ones to get an advantage, Liga MX seemed to have some timely cramps, that led to some extended instruction to perhaps break the rhythm of a well-oiled MLS team.
As anticipated it all came down to the Crossbar Challenge, which absolutely did not disappoint. By the closing moments of the challenge, both sides seemed desperate to hit the winner, and achieve bragging rights over the other. In the end, it was Liga MX’s Jonathan Rodriguez who hit the winning shot, nailing the crossbar from mid-field.
Judging by the celebration, and visible disappointment from the MLS team, this event mattered. Maybe not in the, ‘win at all costs, legacy on the line,’ type of way, but in the way that anyone who’s competitive wants to win at just about everything. The best part of last night, is that the Liga MX win surely lit some fire under the MLS to win the competition that really matters this week, the MLS All-Star Game itself. Which means we could be in for some fireworks tonight.
What do you think about the Skills Challenge and All-Star Game? Leave a comment below!