Despite a decent first half effort, DC United demonstrated Tuesday night that once again MLS is miles behind the Mexican League in terms of skill and quality. Pachuca, a side whose best days are firmly behind it and whom at this time can only be considered an average Mexican League side continued its recent dominance of events involving teams from MLS with a 2-0 win in Hidalgo.
United showed some quality early but it is obvious Luciano Emilio and Marcello Gallardo are not on the same page as of yet. With an opportunity to strike fast and early the two misread each other in the fifth minute depriving DC of perhaps its best scoring opportunity of the match. While the half ended in a stalemate with Zach Wells being forced to make only one dramatic save, it was obvious the superior skill and quality of Pachuca, combined with the altitude were beginning to take a tool on DC United.
The second half saw DC hold its shape early but eventually collapse. United did almost get a goal on a counterattack when Marcello Gallardo’s cross nearly found Fred at the back post, and then later when Emilio was taken down in space, but honestly United looked completely inferior and outclassed. Considering DC spent its offseason retooling with several new Latin American faces, the fact that United cannot get a result on Mexican soil is proof that while we are told the standard of MLS is consistently improving, the league still doesn’t measure up to the top league in the region.
The only way to truly measure MLS is performance in legitimate international competitions. Right now, I’m not sure a single MLS team could make the playoffs in the Mexican League. I could be wrong in saying that but I believe that to be the case. The soccer media in this country these days gravely underestimates the quality of Mexican Football, and to be honest many underestimate the quality of MLS just as badly.
Football in this part of the world is different from Europe, thanks to climate, travel considerations, pitch size, etc. Yet it seems many analysts like to compare MLS and the Mexican League to their favorite European first or second divisions, based on a standard that is decidedly European. From my vantage point that is a tremendous injustice. The two leagues should be compared to one another and to other leagues in this region but not to leagues on other continents or in other hemispheres.
Based on this standard, the Mexican League is the best in this part of the world, and MLS still has some way to go to be competitive. Later this week I’ll get more into the American Ethos and why the Mexican League represents more of an acceptable model for MLS than most European Leagues.