USA international Auston Trusty struck the decisive blow as we won the MLS All-Star Skills Challenge at a sold-out Audi Field in Washington.
Ten members of the squad took part in a series of challenges in a build-up to the main event, the All-Star match on Wednesday, and we prevailed on the final kick of the evening. Here's how it all panned out.
We began with the shooting challenge, where three players from each side each had 60 seconds each to hit a variety of targets in the goal from the penalty spot. Our trio of Jurrien Timber, Folarin Balogun and Jakub Kiwior took the honours by 121 to 88.
Timber top scored with 50 points, and Kiwior was also impressive with his left foot, racking up 49 points to clinch the win. Former Liverpool, Crystal Palace and Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke – now leading the line for local side DC United – got the challenge underway for the All-Stars.
Next up was the Touch Challenge, with Kai Havertz and Marquinhos in action for us, with the aim to control and volley a cross into different scoring zones. Marquinhos went first, finishing off some deliveries from Trusty and Jorginho to score 53 points.
We were behind going into the second round, but Havertz racked up 86 points to give us the win, 139-115, making it 2-0 after two challenges.
Cross and Volley Challenge
Havertz was up again in the cross and volley challenge. Points were awarded depending on the type of finish for each goal, though the German failed to hit the target in the first round.
Balogun found the net three times, but Denis Bouanga was in fine form against Alex Runarsson to pull the All-Stars back to 2-1 after three challenges, with a 125-25 win.
Pinging passes was the name of the game in the fourth challenge, in a best-of-three-round battle, with each round lasting 60 seconds.
Trusty missed out in round one, but Jorginho levelled matters by winning his head-to-head against Riqui Puig. Kiwior then confirmed the win with a quickfire display of accurate passing.
The score going into this final challenge was 3-1 to us, but with each crossbar hit worth a point, it was all up for grabs. Seven players on each side were involved, aiming at the woodwork from the edge of the box, then midway inside the half.
The All-Stars pulled it back to 5-5, meaning it was all on the long-range efforts. Aaron Ramsdale came agonisingly close before Trusty stepped up and thudded his effort against the bar to seal a 6-5 win.
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