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Thursday, February 26, 2009
Concachampions: Montreal (USL) to the rescue
After seeing an uninspired Houston Dynamo squander a win against an undermanned Atlante of Cancun game at Robertson stadium I was getting ready to forget about MLS, and for that matter, North America from the Concacaf Champions League. But I was wrong. It wasn't another MLS team (New England, DCU and Chivas USA were all knocked out of contention in the preliminary rounds and group phase), it was USL's Montreal Impact that showed up and beat one of Mexico's top teams--Santos Laguna de Torreon. On a night that saw the biggest crowd yet for the "Concachampions" (55000+), the USL team showed up, dominated and won the game. Mexican media and the club itself claimed that the synthetic pitch plus a failure to convert chances led to their demise. More impressive is the fact that the Mexican side had starters on the pitch, including great players like Mexican international 'keeper Osvaldo Sanchez and Ecuador striker Christian Benitez.
My take? Darn good football from North America's "second division"--USL-1. I'm starting to agree with one of my readers that claimed USL is more like an "alternative" league. After all, they pick up MLS rejects, recent NCAA graduates and random foreign players. This also makes a case for Montreal re-entering a bid for an MLS team that would give it higher international presence for an up-and-coming Canadian soccer play. This may hold even more promise as Miami's potential bid for a team may have been squandered by Barcelona following the global economic downturn.
So, with tonight's win by USL's Puerto Rico Islanders against Marathon of Honduras it is not at all impossible that we can see two USL squads make it all the way to the Concachampions semis. Either MLS needs to step up its international play or there should be a stronger relationship with USL. I'm not going to blame Houston's form on the fact that they're not playing "competitively" right now. Montreal isn't in-season at the moment either. As a side note, I'm looking forward to watching a USL-1 (local team Carolina Railhawks) team take on an MLS team (Revolution), even if it is pre-season.