Tuesday night's CONCACAF Champions League win by Monterrey was a punch in the gut to Real Salt Lake and really all of MLS. The entire league jumped on the Salt Lake bandwagon for the latter portion of the tournament as the club carried the torch for the entire league. Not since CONCACAF's top club tournament went to a format that included a group stage instead of just a knockout tournament had a MLS club made it to the final. In fact, no team from outside Mexico had made it to a final, but Salt Lake bucked that trend and made it to the final.
There was plenty of fanfare surrounding Salt Lake going into the final, but when they went to Monterrey and came away with a 2-2 draw, all of a sudden the expectations were raised. Real Salt Lake really had a chance to win the tournament. Well, on Tuesday night Monterrey went to Rio Tinto Stadium and came away with a win that left many despondent. Even so, Denz, from SB Nation's Real Salt Lake blog RSL Soapbox points to the future and the impact of RSL's run to the final.
For MLS teams the bar has been raised, it is no longer acceptable to play your reserves and not care about the Champions League. Oh, take notice we now have a new single minded focus, if you thing our 4-0-0 record was a fluke you are about to find out that we are very much for real.
For RSL players, coaches, and staff, the bar has been raised, we know that we are an elite team with incredible depth, now we have 48 hours to get ready for Portland away. You have big matches at home coming up, lets get ready and be focused on starting our new undefeated at home streak, cause it starts in 9 days.
As Denz makes clear, the bar has been raised. Real Salt Lake was the first team to really prioritize the CONCACAF Champions League above all else and it paid off by making the final. They also got support from all of American soccer and now those fans of the Colorado Rapids, Los Angeles Galaxy, Seattle Sounders and FC Dallas (the American teams who will compete in the next CONCACAF Champions League) who were pulling for RSL will certainly put pressure on their clubs to prioritize the tournament. Just by making the final, Salt Lake has most definitely changed the way MLS looks at the tournament, but now that they are "the second best team in CONCACAF" they need to accept the expectations that come with it and be tops in MLS come the fall.