Union 0-2 America: Major League Soccer Winning Battles, but Not the War

Prior to Philadelphia Union and Club America’s showdown on Wednesday, Major League Soccer got some key results against their neighbors south of the border. While the men’s and women’s national teams get most of the spot light, the domestic game remains a big part of US Soccer culture. In one of the fasting growing football nations, fans of the Stars and Stripes want to see proof in this growth through results. Those results have come in certain competitions, but are they enough?

A few weeks ago, the MLS All-Stars beat the Liga MX All-Stars 3-2 on penalties after a 1-1 regulation score in Los Angeles. This showcased the star power both leagues had to offer, but the MLS players left the pitch the more satisfied.

On Tuesday, Seattle Sounders kept MLS alive in the Leagues Cup, with Raul Ruidiaz scoring the lone goal in a 1-0 triumph over Santos Laguna. That followed up a more convincing 3-0 win over Tigres back in August, setting up a showdown with Club Leon for September 22 in Allegiant Stadium.

While these minor victories were sweet, that’s just what they are.

MLS won some battles, but Liga MX ensured that for another year they would win the war.

Jim Curtin‘s side had a mountain to climb after a late penalty from Emanuel Aguilera gave Club America a 2-0 advantage headed to Subaru Park in Leg 1 of their CONCACAF Champions League Semi-Final tie. They mirrored that score to advance to the final. It was a perfect performance complete with a Guillermo Ochoa penalty save, while Union couldn’t capitalize on their opportunities. Regardless of who comes out of the other Semi-Final between Cruz Azul and Monterrey, the trophy will remain in Mexico…yet again.

Perhaps the bigger indication of Liga MX’s success in this competition came in the earlier stages. In the Round of 16, Toronto FC advanced 3-2 on aggregate at Club Leon’s expense, in the only matchup that pitted Liga MX vs MLS clubs. The Quarterfinals were a different story, with the remaining Liga MX trio triumphing over their MLS opposition. Philadelphia Union survived in a friendly fire knocking out Atlanta United.

Major League Soccer fans should remain proud of what this nation has become regarding the infrastructure that exists for this sport. This result in the CONCACAF Champions League can be discouraging, but it is a reminder that this is a big world. Winning that competition means going up against the best of Europe and South America in the FIFA Club World Cup, something Liga MX sides haven’t managed to do frequently either. It would take a seismic shift to shake up the status quo. But with each game, we grow the game. One step at a time. Philadelpha Union’s loss shouldn’t inspire a defeatist mentality. Win or loss, the goal is still to grow and improve.