ANNAPOLIS, Md. – In a match that featured a different lineup in each half, it was only fitting for the 2023 MLS NEXT All-Star Game presented by Allstate to be a tale of two halves.
The East won the opening 45 minutes of this year’s East vs. West clash, featuring a collection of the best youth players in the league. Adem Sipic, the first homegrown signing in Nashville SC’s history, made his mark with a brace.
But it was the West that triumphed after the break thanks to a pair of Los Angeles-based standouts that rallied their side. LA Galaxy star Paulo Rudisill scored, then set up LAFC's Adrian Wibowo to tie the game at 2-2 through 90 minutes. Seattle Sounders goalkeeper Mo Shour saved an attempt from NYCFC's Jonathan Shore in the shootout, setting up the West’s 5-4 victory on penalties. Shour’s heroics in the final stretch and in the shootout earned him the MLS NEXT All-Star Game MVP.
With 22 players on each roster, each All-Star saw a half of action. And before Sipic’s goals, it was the West that started off strong in the game’s first 20 minutes. Real Monarchs forward Zavier Gozo and Columbus Crew prospect Maxim Scordo spearheaded the West’s push early in the game.
Against the run of play, the East took the lead first. Atlanta United midfielder Rocket Ritarita rocketed a shot against the post and Sipic, a presence in the penalty area, got on the rebound and slotted it home. Right before the break, Sipic added a second, running in behind the West backline and making no mistake.
Both lineups were changed at the half, as the West pushed to jump back into the game, and did so via goals from Rudisill and Wibowo.
Arguably the brightest spark for the West in the second half, Rudisill was rewarded with the strike that halved the deficit. A low shot from distance finally eluded Toronto FC goalkeeper Nathaniel Abraham, setting up a push to the finish. With two minutes left, Wibowo found enough space in the penalty area to curl it into the far post for the dramatic equalizer.
Tasked with little to do until the waning minutes, Shour ensured the game stayed deadlocked at 2-2 to solidify his MVP honors. He made a tremendous leaping save on a header from New York Red Bulls defender Davi Alexandre, and then just before the final whistle, he tracked a low strike from Orlando City B's Tahir Reid-Brown that was earmarked for the bottom corner.