Let me get out of the way that I am thrilled by Houston’s slaying of the monster that is Pachuca, and look forward to almost a near certain all MLS tournament final. This is the first victory by an MLS team over a Mexican team in a knock stage of a competition since 1998. However, this year’s tournament and the bitterness felt by Mexican sides likely means the competition will have to be substantially revamped or abolished altogether.
Tonight, Pachuca it appeared scored first on a beautiful goal after playing a flawless match to that point tactically. Enrique Meza had his team absorb the pressure from high flying Houston in the first half. But the goal was disallowed. This is simply the most recent controversial call in this Superliga competition. Strangely every single disputable call has gone against an FMF side and favored an MLS side. For a Mexican press corp already dubious about this competition and looking for any opportunity to rip American Soccer, this is the reddest of meats. It’s actually like serving a live animal to a caged Tiger.
When you consider additionally the frustration CD Guadalajara has faced the past two years being eliminated due to head to head results rather than goal difference, it becomes plainly obvious that either the FMF will demand some changes to the event, or even more dramatic, you’ll see top Mexican sides begin to decline invitations to the event as Cruz Azul did last year.
Most Mexican coaches do not like Interliga, the SUM sponsored event held on American soil every year that awards a spot in the Copa Libertadoras. I believe these same coaches are beginning to detest Superliga as well. FMF sides believe they are vastly superior to MLS teams. I will not dispute that because the evidence is that they are on the whole vastly superior. But in the odd event that they lose like tonight, the event will always be viewed with a qualification or an asterisk in Mexico. Additionally it gives the impetus for the event to be killed.
In regards to the match, I believe the decision by Dominic Kinnear to insert Cory Ashe’s fresh legs and tireless runs down the wing in place of a tired Brad Davis whose sole late game function would have been to serve as a dead ball specialist won the match. Those are the types of tactical moves most American coaches do not make: the type of moves which make you wonder why Kinnear wasn’t given a long look to replace Bruce Arena. Perhaps it’s Bob Bradley’s familiarity with the US system as a coach, as opposed to Kinnear’s as a player that made Bradley the slam dunk choice when Jurgen Klinsmann said no. Perhaps it’s simply comfort with Bradley, or maybe Kinnear wasn’t yet established enough at that point. But when you have a coach whose dominating your domestic game and hands your league its most significant international victory of the past eight years while your national team is ranked twenty five spots below where it was twenty five months ago, isn’t considered it raises some serious questions.