Thursday, April 28, 2011

Crushing Blow

The more things change, the more they don't progress.

MLS was supposed to finally have announced to the region, the world, anyone who would listen, that MLS was a league to be reckoned with, that American soccer was here.

It's here alright, back in the same position as it ever was.

Real Salt Lake were dealt a tough blow Wednesday when Monterrey snapped RSL's impressive 37-match unbeaten streak to claim the CONCACAF Champions League title. Monterrey advance to the FIFA Club World Cup while RSL is left thinking what could have been.

This loss wasn't just a bad defeat for RSL but a crushing blow for MLS. Fans and players from across the league had come out en masse to support the club in its efforts to claim glory for the league. RSL Owner Dave Checketts had said the club was carrying a banner that read MLS on it.

But none of that was enough to get a ball past Jonathan Orozco. And none of that prevented Humberto Suazo from hitting the back of the net in first-half stoppage time.

Had a better team than Monterrey walked into RSL and left with the championship, perhaps the glaring differences between MLS and Mexico would not be as noticeable. It's tough to beat really strong teams home or away. But that it was Monterrey, who are struggling in league now and need a victory in the regular-season finale this weekend to just reach the postseason, brings to light the chasm that still exists between the two leagues even further.

RSL was the best MLS had to offer. The team has been hailed as having incredible depth, a true team mentality with no superstars, the model franchise for the 16-year-old league, a great coach worthy of taking over the U.S. national team some day, amongst other praise.

But there they were, this model franchise that does things the way they ought to be done, struggling against a Mexican side that has been mediocre for most of 2011, at Rio Tinto no less.

Everything was there for the taking, and Real Salt Lake/MLS came away with nothing.

Actually, RSL/MLS did come away with something as it was the first time since it became a real tournament with home-and-away legs since an MLS team made it this deep.

But what truly does not change is this: when RSL/MLS got there, a too-tough Mexican team stood in the way.

And that part won't change anytime soon.

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