Well, after watching my Sounders fall an embarrassing 6-1 in Mexico, I have some thoughts about how and why MLS teams struggle so much against Mexican clubs. Hopefully we can bounce back and get a result against Toronto. I have to admit, I hoped that we'd be facing a side demoralized by a loss to LA instead of one energized by a win, but what can you do? So, earlier I said that I had some thoughts on why MLS teams struggle so much against Mexican clubs in international competition. I'll go ahead and explain myself now for anyone who cares to read it. At it's very core, I believe that the problem is that many of the better Mexican sides (and thus, the ones that MLS teams play against in the CONCACAF Champions League) play with a style that the MLS doesn't emulate. This means that it's a mentality problem for the teams that play against them, because they're seeing a system from the Mexican clubs that is not one they play against with any regularity. That system is what I call "Complete Football" (note: not the same thing as the Dutch 'Total Football' pioneered by Cruyff et al) and is sometimes called "Building from the back" by other people. This Complete system is something that you don't really see in the MLS. It's a style of possession and buildup that involves moving the ball effectively amongst all of your players, including centerbacks and that also incorporates many of the concepts of the Dutch Total Football by allowing the wing defenders to make the overlapping runs and be the extra man in the attack without having to worry so much about leaving their side exposed if possession is lost. This is accomplished by having players who are comfortable dropping and filling positions that are not their native spot, and by having players whose mentality and ability to read the game is good enough that they don't allow themselves to be caught out by these overlaps and coverages. Now, some of you may be thinking to yourself "but MLS teams have wing defenders that push up, so how is this different?" And that is true, some MLS sides have a defender or two who will join in on the attack occasionally. However, the key difference here is how those players are involved in the buildup. Most of the time, most of those players will 'be involved' by making an overlap down the wing, hitting a cross into the box, and running back down to get back in position defensively. The difference with the Mexican clubs is that those players are always involved with the attack. They will make the run and hit the cross the same as their MLS counterparts, but they will stay up after the cross is hit in case the option out wide is needed again. They also cut in aggressively if the midfielder or winger is making the wide run and provide the short cut-in pass to change the angle and draw defenders out. The other key thing is that when the Mexican sides are possessing the ball in the midfield or a little deeper in their own half, they constantly are using their centerback to give distribution to the wingers to make the run, or to hold the ball up so that their midfielders can reposition around the other team's defenders. The important aspect in this is that the centerbacks are good enough on the ball that they don't have to worry about giving it away cheaply on a loose touch or poorly executed pass. This is something that simply does not happen in the MLS. The reason that MLS teams have so much trouble with this style is that they largely run out of ideas on defense when confronted by so many players who can be on the ball. Generally, the wider defenders will try to mark up on the widest midfielder that the other team is playing, so when the other team's wide defender makes the overlap, there's stacks of space for them to run into on the wing. When one of the other defenders sees this, they generally pull out wide to try and close down the space, but no one covers the hole they left which opens up a hole about 10 yards wide for the ball to be played into. This problem is exacerbated by the wide defender dropping the midfielder he was marking to try and shut down the overlapping run that is already being closed down by the defender who pulled over when he saw the space. This leaves the original midfielder free to run into that new space that was created and receive the short cut-in that I talked about earlier, which is generally in a pretty good spot to take a shot from. Until MLS sides can come to grips with this, we will keep losing in Mexico. The only reason that we sometimes pull off a win when we play Mexican teams in the US is because Mexican clubs never seem to travel well.