MLS needs to build on Real Salt Lake’s run in Champions Leagues to come By Steven Sandor Posted on April 28, 2011 1 0 676 Share on Facebook Share on Twitter On Thursday morning, all of MLS — not just fans in Utah — will wake up with a collective hangover. The words “what if” will be used all morning long. In conversations. In Tweets. Real Salt Lake finally lost a home game, the first since 2009. With a 1-0 win in the second leg, thanks to a goal from Chilean national-teamer Humberto Suazo, Monterrey took the CONCACAF Champions League title. Late in the first half, Suazo exchanged a give-and-go pass with teammate Sergio Santana, danced around reigning MLS defender of the year Jamison Olave, then slammed his shot home before anyone else in the RSL defensive corps could get to him. RSL spurned a series of chances, and Monterrey ensured that, after drawing 2-2 at home in the first leg, the CCL title would remain in Mexico. Of couse, the MLS apologists will be out in droves. But this time, they deserve to be heard. Sure, a Mexican side won again. Yes, there is no arguing the fact that the Mexican League, not MLS, remains the dominant force in the region. But, for the first time since CONCACAF switched the to Champions League format, and for just the second time since 2006, the final was not contested between two Mexican sides. In this region, our Champions League has been treated with hos and hums. Each and every year, we see Mexican teams excel, with little competition. So, when the preliminary rounds begin, we see stadiums that are three-quarters empty. The tourney hadn’t captured the imaginations of MLS fans, while Mexican supporters were far too bored to be bothered to watch their elite teams stomp on Americans, Canadians and clubs from the Caribbean and Central America. But this year’s final changed that. Soccer fans in American began to take notice of the competition. MLS, which has itself had a fractured relationship with the CCL, made a concerted effort to back RSL, from the famed MLS4RSL campaign, to lightening RSL’s schedule to allocation money to help the club. And the CCL finally got something it badly needed, a final that did not involve two Mexican sides. It finally had a USA-Mexico rivalry to promote. All of a sudden, CCL was no longer an excuse to watch Mexican teams kick the stuffing out of the rest of the region. Finally, people paid attention. And that’s the thing. When was the last time American and Canadian soccer fans paid close attention to the finale of a CONCACAF club competition? All apologies to the former CONCACAF Champions Cup-winning D.C. United and Los Angeles Galaxy, but the correct answer is “never.” MLS needs another Cinderella story next season. It needs another team to rise and face the Mexican superpowers, and compete. Real Salt Lake did it by not prioritizing the CCL, by making sure the regulars started the matches from the group stages right through to the finals. With injuries to Steve Zakuani and David Ferreira overshadowing their seasons, you have to assume that neither Seattle or FC Dallas can make the run. Toronto and Vancouver have the upper hands in their Nutrilite Canadian Championship semifinals, but neither would be CONCACAF favourites. That leaves the Los Angeles Galaxy and Colorado Rapids. The torch has been passed. The great loss for MLS would be if this appearance in the finals was just a blip. MLS needs more teams to succeed in the CCL. Not just for itself, but for the good of CONCACAF.