The CONCACAF Champions League is always interesting to watch, not only because of its prestige but because MLS teams get to square off against teams from Central America and the Caribbean. We are lucky to have it started again.
It is also intriguing to watch our MLS teams travel to other countries in different stadiums than we are used to seeing here in the US or in Canada. The soccer-specific stadiums being built for MLS teams are state of the art and very new looking, therefore it can be very easy to get used to such venues like Rio Tinto Stadium, PPL Park, and Red Bull Arena. May it be known that these three aforementioned stadiums all cost upwards of 100 million dollars. So seeing our MLS teams in sometimes decrepit or small venues can sometimes be odd.
The other captivating thing about the Champions League on our continent is that it exposes us fans to different styles of play. We’ve seen this difference in style of play on many occasions in this year’s CCL group stage already. For example, MLS teams will take advantage of set pieces because of the strength and the physicality of players on corners and free kicks. North American teams also like to use long searching balls and crosses. This was executed in the LA Galaxy’s 5-2 win over Metapan where David Beckham’s precision in the long passes and Juninho’s finishing was just too much for the El Salvadorian side.
Other MLS teams have also dominated, like last year’s MLS Cup runners-up Houston Dynamo, who took advantage of their set pieces against FAS and Toronto FC, pounding on Aguila 5-1. Toronto FC could have scored more goals against the small EL Salvadorian side who did keep possession for some periods during the game. Real Salt Lake beat one of the two teams from Panama, Tauro, with a 2-0 win and a nice goal from Kyle Beckerman. Finally, Seattle beat one of the two sides from Trinidad and Tobago, Caledonia AIA.
So far it has been quite a dominant performance from MLS sides. Can they continue on this route and maybe win back the CONCACAF Champions League? The last North American team to win it was the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2000. It has largely been dominated by Mexican teams. We can look back on the Montreal Impact’s great collapse against Santos Laguna in the semi-finals during the 2008-2009 season. They had the game in the bag and it slipped away quickly with a few quick goals from the visiting side. Maybe an MLS team can bring back the CONCACAF Champions league back to North America in 2013.