Okay, so, DC United and the Houston Dyn-O-Mite* somehow turned soccer back an indeterminate but non-trivial amount of time by going nipples northward in the Champions Cup this week.
I'm not blasting anyone here. These were all entertaining, well-written reports and opinions about the games. For the record, Pat Walsh at Goal - the last link - came closest to my opinions. Yeah, our heroes lost, but at some point excuses turn into reasons, and vice versa, and as losses go, these were understandable.
But I have trouble with the underlying premise here - these games flat out do not matter more than domestic league games. Period.
For one thing, this is the rump CONCACAF Champions Cup. DC United and Houston get a do-over, with more games and more publicity, this fall. Both teams, as well as New England and Chivas USA, will have the benefit of in-season form, and will have added to their squads thanks to the transfer window.
(Actually, only DC is likely to benefit from this, since historically Houston and New England tend to go "Meh, we're good," and CUSA, faced with the possibility of losing Guzan and signing Bautista, might be orders of magnitude worse in September than right now.)
Furthermore, and Bill is covering this better than I am, but CONCACAF games bring money to Jack Warner's pockets, while MLS league games bring money to our own investors. None of whom are going to appear being cradled by Sally Struthers anytime soon, okay, but still, they're throwing their money into MLS and not into a CONCACAF offshore account.
Anyway, it's not exactly impossible to picture a scenario where DC and Houston both disappoint in the Champions Cup, then go on to have domestic success that totally overshadows the preseason regional failure. For example, last year. I'm going to go way out on a limb and guess that Dynamo fans were happy with how last year turned out. DC fans ended up a little less than thrilled, but by November no one was dwelling on the Chivas loss.
The day in, day out MLS fan is happier with day in, day out MLS success. I think you can even project this out to an MLS team winning CONCACAF, then doing well in the World Club Cup. Okay, so no one really thinks Saprissa is the reigning third best team in the world. But what did Porto end up doing with the prestige of ruling Europe for a year? The current champions of the world are in fifth place at home - guess the current mood of that team's supporters.
Now that the CONCACAF Champions League has been moved into the teeth of the MLS season, more teams are going to have to make more decisions about what to prioritize. I'm concerned that MLS clubs may overestimate the benefits of regional success. It may look cute on the web page and the team letterhead, but regional success hasn't brought in tangible results yet, and regional failure hasn't cost anything. Keep focused on the league.
Er, except for Chivas USA, who should forget about the league and put all their eggs in the CONCACAF basket. If Chivas USA ends up missing the playoffs in order to get to the Champions League final against Joe Public or whoever, it will be well worth it.
*I'll try to resist calling them this ever again