It was another good night for USL teams and another disappointing showing for MLS teams in the CONCACAF Champions League.
The Montreal Impact faced Mexican power Atlante on Wednesday and posted a 0-0 tie to stay in a tie for first place in its group with Atlante.
D.C. United’s night wasn’t quite as fun. Playing without several key starters, the MLS squad fell, 2-0, to Honduran side CD Marathon in San Pedro Sula. The loss dropped D.C. into last place in its group.
For those of you who have lost track, Wednesday’s results now put MLS teams at a horrendous record of 0-5-2 in the Champions League tournament. As for the USL? The lower division now boasts an unbeaten mark of 5-0-3.
Yes, you read those numbers correctly.
Does it mean that USL is better than MLS? No, I won’t go that far. What it does show is that MLS teams are both ill-equipped and not exactly motivated to perform well in this tournament, not with the MLS playoffs looming and coaches having to choose between a new tournament and success in MLS. This is extremely disappointing considering the opportunity the Champions League provides MLS to show how it stacks up against the rest of the region.
There doesn’t appear to be any such concerns for the USL teams, which are fighting and clawing against tough competition with bigger payrolls, longer history and deeper benches and finding ways to secure results every time.
Yes, teams like New England, Chivas USA and D.C. United have had to deal with rashes of injuries that made these matches that much tougher, but the results still underscore some flaws MLS needs to address. Most notably the fact that an 18-man senior roster just isn’t big enough to put out competitive teams in both MLS play and international competition. Yes, teams have 28-men rosters once you include developmental players, but counting on a group of players that consists mainly of projects and rookies who mostly earn less than $20,000 a year isn’t exactly the formula for success on the international stage.
All is not lost for MLS in this competition just yet. Houston boasts a deep and strong team and has yet to play a home game so there is still hope that the Dynamo can carry the MLS flag deep into the tournament, and at the very least break the winless run MLS is enduring in the competition.
As for Puerto Rico and Montreal, these teams have done wonders for the profile of USL and just might give the league the boost it needs to start attracting more talent and more investment. Something tells me it wouldn’t exactly hurt MLS to start feeling some pressure from the lower league.
What do you think of MLS being winless and USL being unbeaten in Champions League play? Share your thoughts below.