So much for Montreal embarrassing themselves in the CONCACAF Champions League. With tonight's 4-1 win over Trinidad's Joe Public they pretty much wrapped up a spot in the quarterfinals, which will take place in February.
Full credit to the USL side. They have been playing effective soccer throughout the tournament and the Canadian qualifying (I'll resist pointing out that the Impact didn't actually beat TFC for now. They went through on the strength of two wins against Vancouver and stealing a point against the Reds on the final match day. I guess I didn't resist, did I?).
Meanwhile it's been a tough go of it for MLS teams (although Toronto's Dwayne DeRosario scored the winner last night for Houston to keep them alive in the competition). Part of it is that the league still puts most of its focus on winning the MLS Cup and teams are putting their energy towards the league title--reserves have dressed for many of the CCL games. But, that's just part of it. What the results have shown is that although MLS teams are generally better than USL teams in those 1 to 11 spots, it gets pretty blurry after that. Middle of the road players can make more money and have a bigger role on in the USL, so they often just stay.
Before making the argument that Montreal and Vancouver might be better off staying in the USL, where they aren't restricted by MLS salary cap and roster size rules, keep in mind that this is a small sample size. Over the past 10 years MLS teams have gotten the better of their USL opponents in about 80 per cent of the games that they have played against each other.
But, none of that matters to Montreal now. Nor, should it. The Impact can fully focus on preparing for the home and home this winter (and do you not think there might be a bit of a home advantage for Montreal against an opponent that will almost certainly be from Central America). And its fans can enjoy the ride.
Edit - DeRo's goal is at 4:37 below. It's worth a watch:
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