March 16, 2007

What I'd like...

Whenever the lines of communication can be opened, letting MLS fans and Mexican League fans have an honest, open discussion and comparison of the two leagues, please let me know.

As a fan of both leagues, the kind of nonsensical attacks that plague both sides of the discourse bothers me, mainly becaue of the fact that nowadays, there isn't much separation in the level of talent.

Case in point: Luis Bueno's side of the argument. As a journalist who covers both MLS and the Mexican League, he often catches the brunt from overzealous MLS fans who will take any opportunity to discredit any stats, history or on-field results that go against their beliefs.

Yesterday's CONCACAF Champions Cup Semifinal 1st Legs prove a great point. Here is Luis's preview of the semifinals for Sports Illustrated, in which he points out the last time teams from the two leagues met in the competition.

Although I will probably be beaten to a pulp the next time I see my friends, Pumas's 6-1 aggregate victory over D.C. United in the 2005 semifinals (including an embarrassing 5-0 Pumas win in the 2nd leg in Mexico City) can be seen as a turning point in the competition and the rivalry.

Let's look at what's happened since then: Later that year, D.C. United represented MLS in the Copa Sudamericana, where they were two goals up in Chile against Universidad Católica in the quarterfinals before allowing three second-half goals. Despite the meltdown against the Chileans, who ended up losing to eventual champions Boca Juniors in the semifinals by just one goal, D.C. showed South America that MLS teams can play and that they weren't to be taken for granted.

Also, Houston's victory over Puntarenas in this years Champions Cup finally broke the hex that Costa Rican teams had over MLS teams in the tournament. It can be said without a doubt that the United States, Mexico and Costa Rica have the three best domestic leagues in the region, and a MLS team finally breaking through is no doubt a bright spot and a huge step forward for the league.

But back to the MLS-Mexican League rivalry. Since the birth of MLS, only D.C. United in 1998 and the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2000 have taken the Champions Cup. In comparison, Costa Rican teams have 2 titles, while Mexican teams have taken the other 6 titles.

In addition, look at the head-to-head results in two-leg ties betweeen Mexican and MLS teams. Only once, in 2002 when Kansas City beat Santos Laguna, has an MLS team defeated a Mexican team in one of these ties, while Mexican teams have taken five.

There's no doubt that the level of MLS teams has risen over the last two years. I was as surprised as anyone when my pre-tournament favorite to win it all, Pachuca, was stunned and embarrassed by Houston yesterday. If Chris Wondolowski has anything to say about it, we'll be seeing either D.C. United or Chivas heading to Houston for the final.

Luckily, with both semifinals matching up MLS and Mexican League teams, we can finally have some good, honest talking points between the sides.


Thomas said...

Just wanted to say I was very glad to read a balanced look at the Mexico-US debate.

On the one hand, the rivalry is good for MLS since it generates debate and publicity; on the other hand, the arguments are pretty tired and petty at times.

It's just a shame the tournament is taking place during MLS pre-season and not when the teams are in full swing.

El Güero said...

Thanks for the comment and setting up a link on your blog.

It would be nice to have the tournament during the MLS season, but with the new SuperLiga and the US Open Cup, this is probably the best time to have it.

Don't underestimate the impact of having the tournament during the regular season, however. I'm sure any Mexican team will tell you they'd much rather win the Clausura than the Champions Cup.