On Tuesday night, the returns from MLS teams in the CONCACAF Champions League were mixed. Wednesday provided more of the same -- and measurably less drama.
This tournament remains a mountain that no one in MLS has been able to climb, and with the first leg of all four quarterfinals in the books, it doesn't look like this will be the year the jinx gets broken. A combination of factors related to sharpness, depth and altitude have, year after year, proved to be too much.
Let's start down in Mexico:
The similarities between this game and D.C. United's 2-0 loss at Queretaro last night are eerie. For an hour both teams could claim to have been the better side; for 10 minutes it was clear that several starters were running out of gas; and then a series of mental mistakes turned what would have been a wonderful scoreless draw or an acceptable 1-0 defeat into a dispiriting 2-0 hole.
Now there is a rule I am going to make, and it is so: Any MLS team that wants to have a legitimate chance at winning the CCL can not give up set piece goals. It just can not happen.
And so RSL gave up a pair of set piece goals to a great Tigres team that they otherwise played almost exactly even. Some of the stuff RSL put together...
was legitimately beautiful. Time and again they one-shotted the Tigres pressure and attempts to re-press, and often -- as above -- they turned that into chances.
The chances, however, never turned into goals.
As Kyle Beckerman said after the game, this is just halftime. RSL go back to Utah in search of an early goal and with the knowledge that they can go toe-to-toe with LigaMX's best pretty much anywhere.
It is hard to imagine, however, that Tigres let this one slip.
Of the four MLS teams to do battle over the past 48 hours, it's actually the Galaxy who 1) played the worst, and 2) got the best result. A scoreless home draw is actually just fine in the first leg of an aggregate goals series, as any win (duh) or any draw in which a goal is scored will now see the Galaxy through. Given the... ahem... experience of this team...
Average age of starting XIs:— Tom Marshall (@mexicoworldcup) February 25, 2016
Galaxy: 29.9 years.
Santos: 25.8 years.
Number of players over 30:
it's a safe bet they're well aware of that fact. They didn't take any risks and they suffered no real disappointments. Yes, they were out of sync and bereft of creativity... but so what? It's the first game of the season, and what really mattered was keeping that zero on the board. Thanks to a Gio Dos Santos clearance off the line and a couple of nice takes from Dan Kennedy, that's what they did.
If there was one thing to be concerned about, however, it's this:
De Jong doesn't check his shoulder as often as I would've expected.— Charles Boehm (@cboehm) February 25, 2016
Nigel De Jong covers a lot of ground, but he has a propensity to do so even if that leaves gaps in behind. In the second leg I'd expect Santos to try to capitalize on that by slipping an extra attacking midfielder into Zone 14 any time De Jong goes chasing and Steven Gerrard doesn't drop back to cover. That's one thing that the LA central defense didn't really have to face in this one, but almost certainly will after Luis Zubeldia watches the tape.
Zubeldia was part of the night's best highlight, for what it's worth:
Robbie just wants to have a frank discussion about the winter schedule and roster structure. pic.twitter.com/oFgCNeBW4T— Kevin Brown (@FriendlyFAUX) February 25, 2016
That was as CONCACAFfy as it got. Next week we'll see what the second leg delivers.