Way back in like 2010 and before, MLS teams did pretty bad south of the border. It was a little sad to see MLS teams go there, knowing that no matter what they did, it would not be good enough for a win. Heck, a draw would have been seen as an accomplishment.
But those days are gone. Not gone in the sense that MLS teams won't lose in Mexico or anything, but the time when Mexico meant an automatic loss for an MLS side certainly has disappeared.
FC Dallas shattered that record and Seattle brushed off the remains. Each took a 1-0 win from their respective games against Mexico, by identical 1-0 wins over Pumas and Monterrey, respectively.
Why the big change? What happened from the time when Seattle blew a 2-0 lead at Monterrey by allowing three goals in a four-minute span way back in 2010 to now when MLS teams can suddenly do no wrong in Mexico?
Real Salt Lake.
That's what happened.
RSL's run to the CONCACAF Champions League title came up excruciatingly short but the club's experience rubbed off on a lot of people. Galaxy players I spoke to about the Champions League said RSL's run made them look at the tournament in a different light, that they didn't really see the tournament before the way they see it now.
It makes sense. RSL's run was captivating and the way it ended, with RSL needing a result at home to secure a championship, made many feel as if it was going to happen. Why not? They'd gone down to Saprissa and done quite well, then pulled out a 2-2 draw at Monterrey, so a win at home was not exactly asking for too much.
It did not happen, though, but coming so close to glory probably made MLS players want to experience that for themselves. You don't know what you have until it's gone, right? So when MLS players, who probably jumped on RSL's bandwagon like so many other MLS supporters, felt the title slip away, they may have said the next time they are in position to fight for it themselves, they will do just that.
It's a mentality change that helped fuel MLS teams in Champions League. Aside from FC Dallas' historic win in Mexico, MLS clubs have done quite well for themselves thus far. No MLS team has lost and only Colorado's 1-1 draw at Honduras' Real Espana prevented the league from going a perfect 7-of-7 in CCL play.
Tonight FC Dallas and Toronto FC will meet so we may see the first MLS loss, but since it's coming against another MLS team, perhaps that's a bit of a wash.
Regardless, MLS teams now are making their push towards making their league become more influential in the region, at least on the field.
RSL helped push that door open.