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Big MLS influence on big CONCACAF matches

Feb 7, 2013, 11:41 AM EDT

Mexico's Hernandez fights for the ball with Jamaica's Taylor during their 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match in Mexico City

How ironic that Major League Soccer had such a big influence in shaping the early race for World Cup spots out of our part of the world.

Because men from the United States’ officially designated tier one league proved most beneficial – but not to the United States.

Two of Jurgen Klinsmann’s starters in yesterday’s 2-1 loss to Honduras were MLS men: center back Omar Gonzalez and attacker Eddie Johnson. (For accuracy’s sake, seven of the 11 did start their careers in MLS.)

Meanwhile, most of the starring roles for Honduras were MLS men, or were so recently. Midfielder Roger Espinoza, probably the best man on the field Wednesday, just left Sporting Kansas City for Wigan Athletic in the English Premier League.

Oscar Boniek Garcia, who helped arrange the home team’s game-winner, is a Houston Dynamo man. Big center back Victor Bernardez may have been Major League Soccer’s top defender last year, playing for San Jose.

But the big MLS influence stretched way beyond San Pedro Sula. In Mexico, a couple of men under MLS contract helped manufacture the region’s real shocker, as Jamaica stunned Mexico in a scoreless draw at typically impenetrable fortress Azteca.

Goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts (Portland Timbers), defender Jermaine Taylor (pictured Wednesday, plays for Houston Dynamo) and forward Ryan Johnson (Portland) all started for the Reggae Boyz. Well done, Boyz.

In Panama, FC Dallas striker and recently released FCD defender Carlos Rodriguez were in the lineup as the Central Americans drew with Costa Rica, 2-2. On the other side, Real Salt Lake’s Alvaro Saborio hit one of the goals for the Ticos.

  1. mkbryant3 - Feb 7, 2013 at 12:02 PM

    Man, I love the Hex and even more so since I am familar now with many of these MLS internationals. I’m a Quakes fan and a big Bernardez fan, so I can be a little happy for him and his side winning. Hey, they deserved it. Knowing more players faces and personalities definitely adds to the character of the game and, thus, my enjoyment of it.

    Man, what a turnaround in that Pan/Crc game. Panama really looked like they were running away with that one.

    And the Mex/Jam game. I respect El Tri’s skill level, but wow were they terrible last night. Jamaica played a level-headed game, but I can not remember so many wayward balls from a Mexico team before. They were awful. Their next game in Honduras is going to be must see TV. Then again, Jamaica could have easily had two goals. That first half open goal sitter and the second half breakaway by Ryan Johnson, I think it was. Gotta love the Reggae Boyz though.

    Snobs may look down on CONCACAF, but it’s our little CONCACAF family and we are growin up.

  2. mkbryant3 - Feb 7, 2013 at 12:04 PM

    Oh, a couple more thoughts:

    Awesome how the Reggae Boyz seemed to draw inspiration from it being Bob Marley’s birthday. I had to toast that one in true rastah style.

    Also, respect to the Jamaican team for not falling to the ground, feigning injuries as the clock wound down…like some other teams we’ll not mention. And, six minutes of injury time? Crazy.

    • Steve Davis - Feb 7, 2013 at 12:35 PM

      Yes … I think we all had that same thought about the six mins of injury time. As in, “Hmm, where did all that come from?”

  3. drewvt6 - Feb 7, 2013 at 2:47 PM

    Espinoza played with a level of toughness I would have liked to have seen from _any_ US player.

  4. jhalion - Feb 7, 2013 at 2:53 PM

    As MLS goes as does our CONCACAF region; the influence our league has is amazing. I’m sure it has something to do with our inclusive culture but regardless the Mexican league has not shown the ability to improve the region as much as MLS has in such a short period of time. The hex games were all interesting and as the skill level improves and players flock to our league we can expect more influence over matches going forward. As for our neighbors to the north, oh Canada…

  5. charliej11 - Feb 7, 2013 at 3:10 PM

    Agree with mkbryant3,

    Very fun to watch the players when you have watched all the way through MLS. I have to think that the rising tide of CONCACAF can only help the US overall…if we keep qualifying.

    mkbryant, dont worry about the CONCACAF snobs. I have been around this soccer thing for a long time, one thing about the snobs…they are almost always idiots who don’t understand the first thing about soccer. Look at that, I gave a little crack for one of the idiots to think they are aren’t one !

  6. tackledummy1505 - Feb 8, 2013 at 1:24 AM

    The MLS is going to surpass the English Premier League in the next 15 to 20 years. I know that’s a stretch for some people but with the growing of the sport in this country, more and more kids are playing and learning the sport. A lot of the older leagues across the pond are less adaptable on how the game changes. They’re too stuck in their old traditional ways and our country is all about growing and adapting how the sport changes. I would say the only sport that’s really hurting for our country in that same time frame is baseball. Maybe it’s the region of Pennsylvania and maybe it’s not, but most people will see what I’m talking about in the next 5-10 years. Promise you all and would bet my entire life savings on that.

  7. charliej11 - Feb 8, 2013 at 7:12 AM

    I couldn’t agree more. As the MLS teams approach the level of an Everton or other mid standings teams in the English top 20, you will see fans watch a much more exciting league….once that happens, it is over. As exciting as it is to follow a league where Liverpool is 26 points behind Man U, they will switch from it pretty easily, then the money comes, the players would probably be rather be here any way, I can’t imagine anyone would like to be 26 points back mid season……game over.

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