This may not be the absolute perfect metaphor, but an American team winning in Mexico is like a particularly difficult Grand Theft Auto mission. It's going to feel really good when you finally make it, but it's only a small part of the overall mission - even assuming you needed to complete it in order to win the game.
Yeah, that metaphor sucked. How about this. An American team winning in Mexico is like losing your virginity. It's the most important freaking thing in the world until it actually happens.
No, that metaphor doesn't work, either, because in reality, MLS teams are getting ********ed all the time.
If we take away one of the myraid lessons of this week's continental games, it's that it will happen someday. If it were easy, it would have been done already. But if it were impossible, the Crew and Salt Lake wouldn't have gotten as close as they did. The main advantage FMF teams have is that they're richer and deeper. The more that gap closes, the closer US teams will come.
But once it does happen, and we hang the Mission Accomplished banner...then what? "Lifelong fans of Mexican clubs will switch loyalties overnight and pack MLS stadiums" is not only the wrong answer, it's the wrong conversation. MLS teams won't get respect from CONCACAF success, only excuses. Ask DC United and the Galaxy. CONCACAF competition, like the Open Cup, is strictly a cookie for hardcore fans. American soccer is always better off trying to convince the neutral than convert the opposition.
And that's assuming the premise that MLS fans can take pride in others' accomplishments, which is a little doubtful. DC United and Galaxy fans didn't exactly share the glory of their 90's CONCACAF wins - they used them as a blunt instrument to gloat over their less successful rivals.
Yes, I realize that Mexican fans were unhappy that Chivas bungled the Libertadores final...but I'll bet more than a few of them, even ones who don't dress in yellow, weren't secretly or openly relieved. When it gets right down to it, can you really enjoy the taste of someone else's cupcake?
Winning in Mexico will be nice. But the US national team doesn't need to in order to qualify for the World Cup. And MLS doesn't need to in order to reach its long range goals.
Hey, speaking of which.
I *think* Beau Dure has written the first comprehensive history of Major League Soccer, almost certainly the first one not published by MLS itself. It's called Long Range Goals: The Success Story of Major League Soccer.
Full disclosure - I'm quoted in it. I've never been in a book before. (Beau quoted something I said about Brian McBride in the 2006 World Cup, which was basically "Wow, look at all that BLOOD!")
I'll give "Long Range Goals" a proper review soon, I hope - Beau raises a lot of interesting issues, especially in his last chapter and his afterword, that I don't want to shorten the shrift of. But it's the first general-audience historical work that I know of to use the word "Eurosnob." It's also the last time you will ever read about League One America, too, which is worth the price of admission.
I'm not one of those people who demand that you buy soccer books simply because they're about soccer - I still haven't paid for a copy of Jamie Trecker's "Blood On The Tracks," or whatever it was called. But like Roger Allaway's histories of the Gilded Age and Roaring Twenties era, it looks as if Dure's book is going to be pretty indispensable.