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Leagues: MLS

Superliga Preview

One of the most significant events in the history of Major League Soccer takes place Tuesday with the inaugural match of the Superliga, an event that very well could replace the ill-timed and poorly conducted CONCACAF Champions Cup as the club championship of the North America region.

Superliga is viewed by some as a blatant money grab by MLS and the Mexican Primera League, but the bottom line is the event is being played for some serious prize money and could bring considerable prestige to Major League Soccer if an MLS club wins the competition. That is easier said than done: MLS has not one a major international competition since 2000, and an MLS club has not defeated a Mexican club in an international competition since 1998. But in this year’s CONCACAF Champions Cup both Houston and DC United took Pachuca and Chivas to the brink in the semifinals and both showed an ability to compete hard score goals on Mexican soil, something that continues to elude the US National Team when it travels to Mexico.

This season’s Superliga is very much experimental. In future years, we will likely see home and away matches in the group stages as well as a merit based qualification from both leagues. This year the LA Galaxy one of the weakest MLS sides was included because of David Beckham (who ironically could miss Superliga with an injury) and Morelia because they are owned by TV Azteca who owns the broadcast rights for the matches in Mexico.

Let’s take a closer look at the teams competing in Superliga.


Projected Finish

1- DC United

United is according to Paul Gardner, the dean of American soccer writers, “the most Latin oriented team in the league and by no coincidence its most successful.” (World Soccer, April 2007). This Latin orientation and overall quality of the squad means United is likely the only MLS based team that will advance to the knock out stages of the event. Luciano Emilio is the best finisher in MLS, and Christian Gomez is the league’s best playmaker. Look for Fred and Jaime Moreno to also provide potent attacking skill. The backline is a bit of mess, but the recent addition of Greg Vanney a former US national team player with several years of club experience in Europe should help DC advance. One liability is Troy Perkins who since a remarkable gaffe that cost DC United a chance to defeat Chivas in the CONCACAF Champions Cup has been indecisive in goal and generally a mess.

2- Club America

Nelson Cuevas is a special player, and the US learned first hand at Copa America. Cuevas has scored three goals in the World Cup and helps to stimulate the America attack. Fellow Paraguay International Salvador Cabanas is also a potent player going forward. The loss of Cuauhtémoc Blanco to the Chicago Fire hurts America’s fans more than the club who wisely brought in Hernán Rodrigo López and Lucas Castroman to fill the void left by Blanco whose number 10 has been retired by the club for the next five years.

3- Houston Dynamo

The Dynamo have deepened the squad with the recent acquisitions of Nate Jaqua and Joseph Ngwenya. However the key to Houston remains Dwayne DeRosario in the attacking midfield role. Brian Ching and Stuart Holden will also be threats going forward, while Eddie Robinson anchors a very solid defense. Ricardo Clark maybe spent after a busy summer of US National Team duty but he will be a key for Houston as will solid keeper Pat Onstad, the best between the posts in MLS.

4- Moreila

Thanks to Monarcas being owned by TV Azteca, Mexico’s second largest TV network who has the broadcast rights to the Superliga, they have been included in this tournament. Moreila have some decent players such as Luis Angel Landin who was a key member of Pachuca’s “treble” winner squad last season, but not enough to do much in this brutal group.


Projected Finish

1- Pachuca

Pachuca enter the Superliga as the clear favorites. Pachuca’s reliance on players who did not feature in Copa America should help steer them through this group without dropping points and probably means they will win the title. Andrés Chitiva who has been a staple in the midfield of Pachuca’s title run this decade will be a handful for all MLS clubs. Fausto Pinto, the best young defender in Mexico, may not be available for the beginning of the competition after playing regularly at Copa America for El Tri. Damian Àlvarez was an integral part of all of Pachuca’s success last season, winning three major trophies and he will be a creative force in the midfield. Keep an eye on Christian Gimenez as well.

2- Chivas (Guadlajara)

Chivas has had the least turnover of any major Mexican club, and as usual they have a host of superb players. Francisco Rodriguez and new signing Omar Arellano should spark a capable attack. Arellano played well last season for Pachuca and will link up well with sparkplug Omar Bravo to lead Chivas to the knock out rounds of the event.

3- FC Dallas

Juan Toja has quite possibly been the best player in MLS this season, and with Carlos Ruiz up top FCD is always potent going forward. Pablo Richetti is another strong newcomer but the Hoops will miss injured Kenny Cooper. The back line continues to be a mess with the exception of Drew Moor. FCD will score goals, even if they come from Dominic Odouro and Abe Thompson but is too weak in defense to be taken seriously as potential champion of this event.

4- Los Angeles Galaxy

The Galaxy’s inclusion in this event is a joke which hurts the credibility of the competition. Next year MLS will select its participants on a merit based system so Golden Balls and the Galaxy won’t be making a return trip. I will personally be stunned if the Galaxy manage a single point from this event, especially with Beckham banged up.

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  1. USA2010

    July 24, 2007 at 7:07 pm

    Good points, Guru.

    People in the mainstream media are already describing this tournament as an “attempt” at a Euro Champions League.

    SUM is a scary operation because it is alot of the same money that supports MLS. Instead of promoting our domestic league, they are more than happy to make money at its expense.

  2. Anonymous

    July 24, 2007 at 3:33 pm




  3. Josiah of Footy Fame

    July 24, 2007 at 3:12 pm

    FC Dallas is playing well enough right now to beat Pachuca or Chivas since both matches are at Pizza Hut Park. Don’t be shocked if they advance.

  4. Kartik

    July 24, 2007 at 2:44 pm

    Sams, I 100% agree! A disaster for the Galaxy. Now Beckham isn’t fit for Superliga something that really mattered.

  5. Soccer Guru

    July 24, 2007 at 2:42 pm

    I have very mixed emotions about Superliga. While the product on the field will be excellent and the current Champions League format for the CONCACAF Champions Cup has been altered many times, in time of the year held, format of the event, and qualification criteria, this event is dangerous in many ways.

    SUM, is a company managed by MLS whose largest independent contracts are with the US Soccer Federation and the Mexican National Team. Superliga is being managed by SUM and is a blatant money grab, with better promotion, TV exposure and format than the Champions Cup.

    However, how fair is this to the great leagues in Central America and Caribben that have produced some of the best club sides and players in this region? How is it that Jack Warner has been silent on this subject thus allowing his confederation’s existing champions league structure that has been sanctioned by FIFA to be superseded by an impostor that has been contrived by a sports marketing company?

    This is precisely why many in UEFA are fearful of the G-14 running rough shot over European Football. Sadly in North America the G-14 type structure has already won.

  6. Anonymous

    July 24, 2007 at 12:25 pm

    All four teams that advance will be Mexican teams. That’s the bottom line.

  7. GG 223

    July 24, 2007 at 10:22 am

    Superliga sure will be exciting. Too bad the games are on in English only Canada. I’ll still be watching with the volume button on mute, however.

  8. Sams Army

    July 24, 2007 at 1:14 am

    You never miss a chance to take a shot at the Galaxy do you? Well they deserve it in this case. I cannot believe how foolish they were to put a half fit Beckham on the field the other night and risk serious, long term injury. Maybe your points about Lalas weren’t as off base I used to think. A stupid, stupid move by the Galaxy to appease ESPN.

  9. Hernandez

    July 24, 2007 at 12:31 am

    Chivas is garbage and i believe fc dallas with ruiz and toja will victory martes noche. blanco will missed america giving dc united the advantage to win group a. the superliga will be outstanding. i have been wait long long time for this. european futbol isn’t the only futbol of quality. superliga will showcase mexico and usa quality.

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