D.C. United lost to Pachuca by a 3-2 aggregate despite winning the return leg of their CONCACAF Champions Cup semifinal match. Houston is done also, as they are down by two in the second half and a miraculous comeback notwithstanding MLS will again see their clubs bowing out before reaching the final.
I've heard so many things tonight and had read so many things leading up to these games about the preseason and how MLS were at a disadvantage because of that. Frankly, it's getting old. Now, I understand that the MLS teams might be a bit rusty in April. Lack of competitive games is a hindrance. But the preseason excuse doesn't hold water when players can't finish. "Preseason" can't excuse the miss Luciano Emilio had earlier today. "Preseason" can't excuse the spectacular whiff Richard Mulrooney had on a failed clearance that led to Saprissa's second goal. Tenacity and aggressiveness are qualities that cannot be diminished by the preseason but frankly they were lacking from DC and Houston in this semifinal round.
The one thing I always say about this competition is that MLS is on a bit of uneven footing in terms of competing against Mexican and Costa Rican teams, and it has nothing to do with the preseason. Costa Rican clubs are not held back by a salary cap. Mexican clubs are free to pursue whatever players they see fit and have only their own officials and fans to answer to. MLS clubs have a pathetically low salary cap and roster restrictions that make it difficult to field teams with true depth. Most MLS teams are a hamstring away from having their seasons go down in flames simply because they don't have quality depth.
Yet all we hear about this competition is how DC will be a better team come July and the sad reality is that this tournament is played in April. Well, May or June or October or whenever, the teams will have the same roster disparities any time of the year which leads me to believe that these same results would occur at any time of the year.