Reader generated content: MLS salary cap, CONCACAF Champions League and the “long run”

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We received lots of wonderful, smart comments after Wednesday’s post on MLS failures in CONCACAF Champions League.

In an effort to introduce a new conversation, in trying to avoid covering the same heavily trampled ground, I proposed that an imbalance of experience in meaningful matches is denting MLS chances in the annual, regional club tournament.

I acknowledged that salary cap and roster depth were surely major elements of this ongoing Liga MX whuppin’. But writers like myself sometimes (falsely) assume that everyone remembers how often we already have stated the obvious, so we tend to undersell the glowing, red-letter items when taking the conversation elsewhere.

For the record, dominance of Liga MX teams in CONCACAF Champions League is largely about money and, by extension, a higher quality of collective play. (That was expressed by several readers simply as Liga MX sides being “better.”  Fair enough.)

Seeing as so many of the comments drew a big red line right back to the salary/money issue, this needs to be said:  Major League Soccer is what it is.

There always seems to be an insinuation in these comments (not always, but often) that MLS needs to spend more. It’s a fine debate to have.

I get the point. Still, patience has its long-term reward. I was seeing the same arguments 10 years ago, a.k.a. the darker years, when a grand total of 10 teams made up (in retrospect) an alarmingly wobbly Major League Soccer. Number of dedicated stadiums 10 years ago today: one.

(The Home Depot Center, this country’s second major stadium constructed expressly for pro soccer, opened in June of 2003.)

Had Major League Soccer owners gone all in at the time, throwing yet more money into the sinkhole, there wouldn’t be an MLS today.

Times have changed, and how. But the “math” here remains fairly simple: TV numbers keep rising, but remain relatively modest. Until those increase substantially, most clubs will continue to lose money. Until a few more beat their way into black ink, the salary cap increases will be modest at best.

It is what it is.

Everybody wants it to happen faster for MLS; me, too. But it deserves to be said every now and then: this has always been a marathon, not a sprint, and the pro game is in a pretty good place, all things considered.

AT HALF: Lletget, Bradley, Dempsey spur USMNT to 3-0 lead

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The United States men’s national team’s bid to recover their 2018 World Cup hopes is off to a flying start.

As it stands, the 3-0 halftime lead provided by Sebastian Lletget, Michael Bradley, and Clint Dempsey has the Yanks up from sixth to fourth in the Hex table.

Sebastian Lletget scored a fifth minute goal to ease the tensions of the Avaya Stadium crowd in San Jose, though he’d leave the match with injury before the match was 20 minutes old.

Sloppy Honduran defending caused a turnover outside the 18, and Jozy Altidore played Christian Pulisic in on goal.

[ LIVE – Play-by-play via @USSoccer ]

Keeper Donis Escober got a piece of Pulisic’s shot, but no one followed Lletget to the back post and the ex-West Ham and current LA Galaxy man quickly put the Yanks up 1-0.

Then it was the captain who doubled the lead, as Honduras inexplicably gave him the room to walk across the arc of the 18 to rip a shot across goal. 2-0.

It was Clint Dempsey’s turn in the 33rd minute, after an otherworldly scooped pass from Pulisic.

What. A. Pass. Kid.

LINEUP

USMNT: Howard; Villafana, Gonzalez, Brooks, Cameron; Bradley, Lletget (Bedoya, 18′), Nagbe; Pulisic, Dempsey, Altidore.

Goals: Lletget (5′), Bradley (27′), Dempsey (33′)

LIVE – USMNT looks to right ship vs. Honduras

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The United States starts to make amends for its 0-2 start to the final round of World Cup qualifying with a match against Honduras on Friday in San Jose.

Losses to Mexico and Costa Rica cost Jurgen Klinsmann his job and Bruce Arena will try things differently

[ LIVE – Play-by-play via @USSoccer ]

Most importantly for Arena, Geoff Cameron and Tim Howard are available this time around.

Cameron starts at right back, with John Brooks and Omar Gonzalez in the center of the back four. Jorge Villafana slots into the mix at left back.

Captain Michael Bradley will sit atop the midfield, with Darlington Nagbe, Sebastian Lletget, and Christian Pulisic in the midfield.

Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore are the forwards. Kickoff is set for 10:55 p.m. EDT from Avaya Stadium.

Minnesota’s Molino lifts Trinidad and Tobago to big win (video)

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Minnesota United attacker Kevin Molino has given Trinidad and Tobago life in the race to win a spot at the 2018 World Cup.

Molino’s 37th minute goal gave hosts T&T a 1-0 lead against visiting Panama at Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain on Friday, and the Soca Warriors held on to win its first points of qualifying.

Panama had a Luis Tejada goal controversially ruled offside as Los Canaleros nearly pulled their fifth point of the Hex. Panama faces the USMNT on Tuesday in Panama City.

[ WATCH: Zaha scores wonder vs. Russia ]

Molino fooled long time LA Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo with a low shot across the body. The Panama backstop couldn’t get low enough or far enough with his dive to stop the shot.

The win has T&T in fifth place on the Hex table, behind Honduras on goal differential and three points ahead of the last place USMNT.

The U.S. needs a two-goal win to pass T&T, and a three-goal win to climb above Honduras.

WATCH: Zaha drives Russia nuts with mazy dribble goal

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Wilfried Zaha combined balance, deft touch, and breakneck speed to score his first international goal for the Ivory Coast.

With his side leading Russia 1-0 on Friday, the Crystal Palace winger worked his way through four defenders before burying his shot.

[ MORE: Smalling hurt, Gibson called up ]

Zaha especially fooled with Ilya Kutepov, a harsh cut nearly tipping both to the field.

He’s just 24, and it seems much longer ago that he made his failed move to Manchester United in 2013.

Failed may be a rough verb considering it all contributed to making him the player he is for Crystal Palace and Ivory Coast today.