By Luis Bueno – RIVERSIDE, CA (Mar 18, 2015) US Soccer Players – Mexico’s grip on the CONCACAF Champions League is slipping. If the rest of the region gets the best of Mexican clubs it will not have been the regional rivals’ surge of talent or increased level of play. Tactical errors and ill-tempered play could ultimately be Mexico’s downfall.
Poor tactics and indiscipline marred Club America’s stunning 3-0 loss to Herediano in the first-leg of the clubs’ CONCACAF Champions League semifinal series. America went down a man in the first half. Trailing late and trying to press forward, Club America gave up a pair of goals.
Perhaps it is fitting that such a display will be the way Liga MX fell from its perch atop CONCACAF. One poor showing does not resonate any further than what happened on the field on that given night. America fell apart but that alone does not reflect on Liga MX.
Any notion of Mexico as completely done ahead of the final is perhaps premature. America will return home and will call upon Mexico’s biggest asset to help turn around the score line. Herediano will have to visit Estadio Azteca and deal with the same altitude and hostile environment that has done in countless international rivals before, better rivals playing for bigger stakes.
America toyed with Herediano’s domestic rival Saprissa in the previous round, thrashing the Costa Ricans by 3-0 in San Jose and polishing them off by 2-0 in Mexico City. America know they need to win by four to leave no doubt. That means attacking en masse.
Even if America exit the Champions League in the semifinal round, it would be foolish to trumpet the downfall of Liga MX. Tigres are carrying the Mexican flag just fine abroad. They won 4-0 at home against Bolivian side San Jose in the Copa Libertadores just one week after nabbing a 1-0 at their place. Tigres have amassed 10 points through four matches and have all but booked their ticket to the knockout phase of South America’s famed tournament.
Atlas have had mixed results in the Libertadores, but took a 1-0 away from their trip to Atletico Mineiro. With a win at home against Colo Colo on April 7, the club could move into second place and position themselves for a shot at the knockout phase.
Mexican clubs have had a few blemishes along the way as their domination has not been 100 percent. This year will be the first since 2011 that the final has not been an all-Mexican affair, Costa Rican clubs reached the final in 2008, 2005 and in 2004, when the final was an all-Tico contest between rivals Alajuelense and Saprissa. MLS clubs have won the CONCACAF club championship before as well, although the tournament was a different, much more forgiving format then as it is now.
Liga MX will get past this hiccup, whether America overcome their deficit or Mexican clubs come back in full force next time out. Liga MX still the top league in the region, no matter what happens in Estadio Azteca on April 8.
Of course, that will mean little to anyone outside Mexico, who will be more than happy to see two non-Mexican clubs battle for CONCACAF supremacy. There is a possibility, however slight, that this will be a turning point in the region. MLS continues to evolve and improve while Costa Rica’s national team was the last CONCACAF team left standing in the 2014 World Cup.
All of that is a bit premature however. What is certain is that after April 8, either America and Liga MX live on or Costa Ricans and a number of MLS supporters will be celebrating.
Luis Bueno is a veteran soccer writer. Follow him on twitter @BuenoSoccer.
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