There isn’t much to say about Sporting Kansas City’s first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League semifinal. Reviewing the details of all of the goals is not the story in this one. This one is about two teams on different levels. There is a large disparity in the talent level and speed of play between Sporting Kansas City and Monterrey.
Monterrey is the more skilled team. If you only watch MLS games and then watch Monterrey you would be shocked to see some of the things Monterrey can do with the ball. They make MLS teams look like a Double-A minor league baseball team going up against the Yankees and it might not be that close.
Monterrey settles the ball with ease at their feet. Sporting generally settles the ball but it will often get a few feet away from them. This is fine against other MLS teams, but against a quality team like Monterrey it gives their opponent a chance to step in and take away possession.
Monterrey has a better feel for the game. They seem to be in the right place on most plays, especially those around the goal. When the ball is loose in front of the goal, Monterrey seems to always be moving and getting to the ball first. Sporting looks like they have to think more and by the time they react it’s too late.
The players on Monterrey are generally better athletes. They are a step faster than Sporting. They can push around Sporting, so those 50-50 balls are not really that at all. They look like either team can get it but you quickly notice that it’s really a 75-25 Monterrey ball at a minimum.
So how does Sporting advance further into the CONCACAF Champions League in the future? It s going to be years, if ever, for Sporting to advance because they are the better team. It’s likely going to take a non-MLS team to upset the best Mexico has to offer to make the road to the title an easier one.
If MLS wants its teams to be able to be as good as the best in the world it has to change the structure of the league. The salary cap has to go. Teams need to be able to spend any amount they want on any players with no limit to those coming from outside of the United States. The problem with this is that it could make the league less successful in the U.S. since some franchises would rarely be able to compete. It’s not an easy decision. I’m not sure that the MLS should change anything at this time. Soccer has never been more popular in the United States. It’s ok if MLS teams cannot compete against the best in Mexico. Don’t ruin the league by trying to be competitive outside of it.
Sporting still gets to play another leg against Monterrey at Children’s Mercy Park next Thursday. It’s going to be anticlimactic but it’s an opportunity for Sporting to play another game against a high quality team. It’s also an opportunity for soccer fans in Kansas City to see a higher quality of soccer than they normally get to see. The dream of advancing is dead in Kansas City. Sporting will not be in the finals and will not advance to play the best teams in the world. But this experience can help them get better and assist them in winning the MLS Cup.