Major League Soccer winning battles, but not war

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Ahead of the Philadelphia Union and Club America clash on Wednesday, Major League Soccer achieved key results against its neighbors south of the border. While the men’s and women’s national teams take center stage, national football remains an important part of American football culture. In one of the rapidly growing footballing nations, Stars and Stripes fans want to see evidence of that growth through results. These results have been achieved in some competitions, but are they sufficient?

A few weeks ago, the MLS All-Stars beat the Liga MX All-Stars 3-2 on penalties after a regulation score of 1-1 in Los Angeles. It showed the star power both leagues had to offer, but MLS players walked off the pitch happier.

On Tuesday, the Seattle Sounders kept MLS alive in the League Cup, with Raul Ruidiaz scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win over Santos Laguna. This followed a more convincing 3-0 win over the Tigers in August, setting up a showdown with Club Leon on September 22 at Allegiant Stadium.

While those minor wins have been sweet, that’s exactly what they are.

MLS won a few battles, but Liga MX ensured that for another year they would win the war.

Jim Curtin’s side had a mountain to climb after a late penalty from Emanuel Aguilera gave Club America a 2-0 advantage over Subaru Park in the first leg of their semi-final game of the CONCACAF Champions League. They reproduced this score to qualify for the final. It was a perfect performance with a Guillermo Ochoa penalty save, while Union couldn’t capitalize on their opportunities. It doesn’t matter who comes out of the other semi-final between Cruz Azul and Monterrey, the trophy will stay in Mexico… again.

Perhaps the biggest indication of La Liga MX’s success in this competition has come in the early stages. In the round of 16, Toronto FC advanced 3-2 on aggregate over Club Leon in the only clash between clubs La Liga MX and MLS. The quarter-finals were another story, with the remaining Liga MX trio triumphing over their MLS opposition. Philadelphia Union survived friendly fire knocking out Atlanta United.

Fans of Major League Soccer should remain proud of what this nation has become in terms of the infrastructure that exists for the sport. This CONCACAF Champions League result may be disheartening, but it’s a reminder that it’s a big world. Winning this competition means playing against the best from Europe and South America in the FIFA Club World Cup, something the Liga MX sides have failed to do frequently either. It would take a seismic upheaval to overturn the status quo. But with each match, we make the game grow. One step at a time. The defeat of Philadelpha Union should not inspire a defeatist mentality. Victory or defeat, the goal is always to grow and improve.

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