MLS All-Stars midfielder Cristian Roldan says there is more than just bragging rights on the line when his side face Liga MX All-Stars in Wednesday’s exhibition clash.
The best players from North America’s strongest leagues meet at Banc of California Stadium for another chapter in the fierce sporting rivalry between the United States and Mexico.
Roldan was voted captain of the MLS side and wants prove that the division he plies his trade in with Seattle Sounders is stronger than what Liga MX has to offer across the border.
“You’re representing MLS in this rivalry,” he said. “You have big name players. It’s about pride and how we want to showcase to the fans and to the world how good MLS is.
“We have to bring it and bring intensity.”
Wednesday’s showdown in Los Angeles will mark the first All-Stars meeting between the teams and MLS coach Bob Bradley is relishing the occasion.
“All-Star Games are unique, it brings the best of the league,” said Bradley, who will temporarily put Los Angeles FC coaching duties aside.
“You have so many different, talented players. Everybody gets a chance to come on the field and show what they’re all about.
“It’s all about the fans. It’s about having really good players on the field and letting the fans enjoy it. Anything that goes on between Mexico and the US is a rivalry.”
Bradley will be pitting his wits against Juan Reynoso in the opposition dugout and the Cruz Azul boss agrees that there is plenty of weight on the shoulders of his players.
“It is an important moment for the league,” he said. “As a professional, everyone wants to participate in this game and help us get a good result.
“Liga MX has had a good level for a longer period, though MLS is improving. The game will be of great importance and we will try our best to win it.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
MLS All-Stars – Raul Ruidiaz
Bradley will have to contend without injured quartet Javier Hernandez, Carlos Vela, Carles Gil and Tajon Buchanan, but this MLS squad is still packed with talent in every position. That is no truer than in attack, where Ruidiaz will be looking to carry his form with the Sounders into this game. The Peruvian has an MLS-leading 14 goals to his name this term.
Liga MX All-Stars – Jonathan Rodriguez
The Liga MX contingent has also been weakened ahead of this contest by the loss of Andre-Pierre Gignac, Jesus Corona and Jesus Gallardo. Cruz Azul striker Rodriguez is one of the most exciting talents on the continent and, having finished as top scorer in Mexico last season, he is very much the player for the MLS All-Stars to be most aware of.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– This will be the 25th MLS All-Star Game, and the first involving All-Stars from two different leagues. It will be the second time Liga MX has been involved after the MLS All-Stars beat Chivas Guadalajara 3-1 in the 2003 edition.
– This will be the 18th time the MLS will field a league-wide all-star team to compete in the annual event. The MLS All-Star Team has recorded nine wins, five losses in regulation, and three losses after penalty kick shoot-outs in the first 17 iterations, with 16 of those against club teams (once v the United States men’s national team).
– The MLS All-Star Game will take place in California for a record fifth time. Banc of California Stadium will be the fifth different venue in the Golden State to host the All-Star Game after then-Qualcomm Stadium (1999), Spartan Stadium (2001), then-Home Depot Center (2003) and then-Avaya Stadium (2016).
– In the last All-Star Game, in 2019, the MLS All-Stars failed to score for the first time, losing 3-0 to Atletico Madrid in Orlando. None of the selections for this year’s game have ever scored in an All-Star Game before for MLS. Chicharito, who will miss the game due to injury, scored for Manchester United in his debut for the club in the 2010 MLS All-Star Game.
– Four players on the MLS All-Star team have experience in Liga MX: Lucas Zelarayan, Raul Ruidiaz, Rodolfo Pizarro and Gustavo Bou. None of the Liga MX All-Stars have ever played in MLS.