I talked to Francisco Mendoza after Chivas USA bowed out of the CONCACAF Champions Cup. He seemed frustrated, and afterwards, I thought it was more than than just the regular disappointment every competitive player has after a loss.
"I think these competitions are important - just as much as league games, if not more so," said Panchito. "These are the games in which MLS measures itself on an international level - where people from outside the country are looking at the teams and the players."
What I realized is that as a young player, Panchito is looking to the future. MLS has proven to be a launching pad for quite a few players - but mostly American players.
Commissioner Don Garber may point to transfers like Jozy Altidore as examples of players scouted via their league play, but that's a bit disingenuous. Jozy was a prodigy back with the U17 team in 2005, and he definitely garnered attention with his U20 play in 2007. Of course, I'm sure the European scouts who courted Jozy checked out his league games, but there's no way the other games against international competition didn't play an important factor.
Mendoza's visibility isn't getting the same boost from MLS play - Sven and his scouts simply aren't watching MLS like they're tracking games in the Mexican league. Panchito understands that he's not going to get opportunities with the Mexican national team if he isn't able to prove himself on a bigger stage.
Good performances in tournaments versus teams from other countries, especially in the latter stages of competition, could catch the eye of scouts abroad as well.
Mendoza's effort in the recent games couldn't be faulted, but he wasn't able to finish, either.
"I'm disappointed in myself," said Panchito.
I asked him if he felt the league bore any responsibility - if he thought the league was handicapping their own teams through poor cheduling.
"I don't like to blame anyone else," Panchito said. "I can't control what they do. I still think we could have won. We should have won, but we didn't."
Honestly, MLS as a whole, let alone any individual players, doesn't impress anyone when their teams limp out of tournaments the way they did in the CONCACAF competition. At least they didn't go out with the surly behavior of Atlante in the SuperLiga, though.