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Different Night, Same Story: USL wins, and MLS Loses

villegas islanders 300x199 Different Night, Same Story: USL wins, and MLS Loses

Villegas’ return helped lead Puerto Rico to a 2-1 win over Tauro FC/

What else is new? Another night of CONCACAF Champions League Action and another loss for an MLS side while another result is recorded by a side from our second division, USL-1. However we must all cut DC United some slack: without so many key players and then down a man after Devin McTavish’s strange sending off, the Red and Black fought valiantly against a superior Saprissa side. This stands in stark contrast to the New England Revolution who two weeks ago disgraced themselves and their league with their failure to show for a match against Joe Public. Puerto Rico welcomed skipper Peter Villegas, of Metrostars fame back to its side to beat Tauro FC 2-1 despite being a man down for much of the match. Villegas made an instant impact with a goal, and one wonders after how he played last night how the Islanders advanced to this stage without him. After all MLS sides save Houston have proven losing one key player in CONCACAF events is a pretense for excuse making.

But something has to be addressed. MLS apologists continue to make excuses about this tournament after building this event up before it started. The argument was that MLS sides continuously lost to Mexican sides in the defunct CONCACAF Champions Cup because the event was in the Mexican pre season. But the few Mexican fans I spoke to always countered that their teams were so beat up then and focused on their Clausura tournament that the fact that they beat MLS sides was a strong indication that the gap between the two leagues was actually wider than Americans fans wanted to claim. American fans contended that when the two leagues met in actual competitions during both seasons the results would be different. Considering MLS has now been shown up by its regions second division in the competition MLS apologists were pointing too, I don’t think MLS fans should be chanting “bring on Cruz Azul,” or even “bring on the Montreal Impact.”

USL-1 sides suffer from similar fixture congestion to MLS team. While they do not have Superliga to contend with, the single table format of USL means trips from Bayoman PR to Vancouver are possible, much longer than the longest MLS trip from Foxboro to Carson. Secondly USL-1 generally plays games on Friday and Sunday each weekend to save on travel costs. For example Miami FC will play @ Seattle and @ Portland the same weekend. This scheduling format has been perfected by the PAC 10 in College Basketball who uses a Thursday/Saturday scheduling format.

My round about point is these same scheduling issues have not affected USL sides whose regular season is actually about to end and who are in the middle of a playoff race. For example the Islanders have a must win game this weekend to ensure winning the Commissioners Cup and getting a playoff bye. However they still played brilliantly last night. The week the Montreal Impact faced Real Esteli of Nicaragua, they played at home to the Nicarguan side, home to Miami, at Atlanta and at Real Esteli in Honduras all within six days Yet somehow they survived and used the success to gain momentum for their push in the league. However when MLS sides have similar fixture congestion they tend to collapse and then make excuses. This is a phenomena I cannot explain other than the theorize that MLS teams are so used to justifying failure and trying to oversell the quality of their product the whole spin cycle becomes second nature.

As USL-1 continues to achieve success on the pitch while MLS achieves more and more monetary and marketing success the two models must be integrated together and not merely through MLS expansion to USL cities. MLS must understand why USL teams are having so much success in the CONCACAF Champions League, despite limited budgets and similar fixture congestion.

About Kartik Krishnaiyer

A lifelong lover of soccer, the beautiful game, he served from January 2010 until May 2013 as the Director of Communications and Public Relations for the North American Soccer League (NASL). Raised on the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the old NASL, Krishnaiyer previously hosted the American Soccer Show on the Champions Soccer Radio Network, the Major League Soccer Talk podcast and the EPL Talk Podcast. His soccer writing has been featured by several media outlets including The Guardian and The Telegraph. He is the author of the book Blue With Envy about Manchester City FC. View all posts by Kartik Krishnaiyer →

0 Responses to Different Night, Same Story: USL wins, and MLS Loses

  1. Larry says:

    Good post.

    All of this makes me wonder about relegation/promotion in american soccer.

    I mean honestly I’ve seen Puerto Rico only a handful of times when I’ve stumbled across the FSC game on Friday nights with nothing better to do or watch and now last night. Honestly, they are the type of team that has quality to make it through the long haul of an MLS season.

    MLS however is more of an American pro sports league and less of a international soccer league as you have stated before, and the relegation/promotion thing is not something they want.

    I’m not saying most of USL could compete with MLS. It could not. But the one team that has stood out to me when I’ve seen USL on FSC is the Islanders so it is no shock to me that they are beating teams in this event that MLS teams couldn’t crack.

  2. JRT says:

    MLS is being shown up in this tournament. I have heard the same reckless, arrogant comments from MLS yes men about the CCL being MLS vindication to prove its the best league in the region. Are you kidding? Tauro FC looked like world beaters against Chivas USA who is currently in a playoff position in MLS. The same Tauro FC looked totally outclassed against a USL team that was down to 10 men for most of the 2nd half and has played 8 games in the last 20 days. I mean seriously, how many b/s excuses do MLS types have to make up. kartik, at times your criticism of MLS was over the top, even for someone like me who thinks the worst of the league. You’ve ripped the league for months now and your partner in crime DD now has jumped on the bandwagon with his tirade yesterday. But honestly, given the evidence which also includes DC being outplayed for much of the open cup final at home by charleston despite putting all their eggs in trying to win the open cup, the continued efforts to margainilize USL are looking silly. it would have been nice if you had kept your word early in the season about giving USL lots of coverage. you did it on a few early shows and then dropped the league entirely focusing on the goofy mls.I want to single out Daniel Feuerstein the Red Bull guy on ATL as someone who has always stood up for USL and talked it up. Kartik, you were late to the party after promising extensive USL coverage on this site and your show early in the season. Glad to see the Islanders and Impact have allowed you to recant and realize MLS is not all its cracked up to be and some decent soccer is being played in other parts of the continent.

  3. Footy in Florida says:

    Miami FC is the worst team in USL by a mile so perhaps Kartik, every USL team that passed through Tropical Park looked impressive to you?

    No doubt Puerto Rico has achieved something very special while MLS is struggling. But this owes itself as much to the inept managment at Pizza Hut Park who fired Clarke for no good reason than anything else. USL-1 doesn’t land managers of Clarke’s caliber often and now MLS is essentially taking unqualified former players like Kreis, , PrekiOnolfo and Soehn and turning them into managers without any formal training outside MLS. So Puerto Rico has the advantage of having a proper manager which MLS sides save, New York, Houston, New England and Columbus lack. So comapring the Islanders with DC and Chivas is hardly fair when you really think about it. When teams are relatively equal tactics matter and many new MLS managers simply know how to fill out a team sheet and then talk to the press. Clarke knows a lot more about football than that.

  4. JOHN ROE says:

    MLS is garbage. Honestly for all the flash and flair and big TV contracts its trash. USL is a better game. True its slower and lack the star power but the on the ball skill and team game is better. The results in a meaningful competition speak for itself. Montreal, a mid table USL team beat a team 2-0 that crushed MLS’ second highest rated side in the table 4-0 in their last outing.

  5. Jeff says:

    Undrafted is clearly an MLS kool aid drinker.

    Here is the bottom line:

    Beyond DPs and maybe 2-3 players per team, almost no difference exists between MLS and USL players.

    Secondly because of the salary cap and roster limits, USL has a much more stable setup and the teams generally play with one another for longer. For example, Vancouver, Charleston, and Montreal have had the same core of players for years while MLS team are constantly in flux.

    Thirdly, USL clubs are used to fixture congestion and traveling cheap and being forced to play in less than ideal conditions. That fits this continental championship perfectly.

  6. Kiwi Yank says:

    Most MLS fans sleep on USL. Some have been drinking too much Kool-Aid. I follow MLS, MLS Reserves, USL1 & USL2 and the jump between the USL1 & USL2 is about the same as USL1 & MLS when you are looking at just the MLS Rank & File. And don’t try and tell me that MLS reserves are better than USL1 or significantly better. We have seen USL2 clubs take out MLS Reserve sides in the last two USOCs and USL sides do it, in the case or Charleston and Seattle a couple of times in a USOC cycle. That Sounders smackdown of Colorado (yes, I understand that it was Colorado)? Please their should have been charges pressed for kickin their tales so mercilessly.

    USL is better than most MLS fans think that it is.

    MLS isn’t quite as good as some MLS fans think that it is.

  7. JXY says:

    The soccer media has been beyond irresponsible in acting like USL does not exist. Sure it is a small time operation but those who know anything about the growth of soccer in this country realize the whole thing grew organically to begin with and USL represents a truer model of why websites like this even exist today than anything MLS has done.

    I applaud this site for its attempts to cover USL.

  8. Tim says:

    Let’s take the debate between the leagues away. We need both MLS and USL to be strong long term either as a merged entity or working closer together to reach the full potential of club football in the US.

    Let’s cheer for teams from both leagues and laud the accomplishments of both leagues going forward. This is what needs to be done.

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