Tigres beats Vancouver Whitecaps to set up yet another all-Mexican CONCACAF Champions League final

Nahuel Guzman and Brek Shea
Goalkeeper Nahuel Guzman and Tigres had the last word against Brek Shea’s Whitecaps. (Reuters)

It’s an annual ritual. A handful of Major League Soccer teams enter the CONCACAF Champions League. Most survive the group stage. Some survive the quarterfinals and reach the semis. And every so often, one of them actually makes it to the final – thus far, Real Salt Lake in 2011 and the Montreal Impact in 2015. But in the end, a Mexican team lifts the trophy. A Mexican team claims the spot at the FIFA Club World Cup.

And then we all wring our hands over the stubborn persistence of the gap between MLS and Liga MX. We point at the 2-39-8 all-time competitive record by American teams on Mexican soil. We wonder at what point MLS teams can finally bridge the chasm and consistently compete with the regional juggernauts south of the border.

[ Follow FC Yahoo on social media: Twitter | Facebook | Tumblr ]

We wonder if the latest failure by an MLS team to win the continental crown is some kind of referendum on the league and its progress. We, too, point to the problematic MLS schedule, which basically dumps teams into the quarterfinals in the middle of their preseasons – although, by the semis, this isn’t really an issue anymore. And, of course, we award partial blame to the invariably terrible CONCACAF referees.

On Wednesday, it was high time for this whole song on dance to repeat itself yet again, as Tigres advanced to the final at the expense of the Vancouver Whitecaps, 24 hours after Pachuca knocked out FC Dallas with a 92nd-minute winner.

Going into the second leg in Canada, the Whitecaps were behind 2-0 from the away leg three weeks earlier. Carl Robinson’s team wasn’t given much of a chance.

Yet in the third minute, Cristian Techera’s cross after a free kick was not handled by goalkeeper Nahuel Guzman, who palmed it into Brek Shea’s path. His finish eluded Andre-Pierre Gignac’s desperate slide and went in to bring the ‘Caps within one.

Shea, a deep eccentric, marked the goal with an abidingly strangely celebration.

And the big, blond Texan was injured on the subsequent play.

Still, the affair was a largely even game. Tigres was more dangerous, but Vancouver’s defense somehow held up for over an hour. And after halftime, it nearly got a second goal to equalize the tie on aggregate.

Vancouver came raging out of the gate and forced a mistake in Tigres’s box. This resulted in a chance for Christian Bolanos, but Guzman saved.

From there on, Tigres had the opportunities. Edu Vargas whipped a shot just wide from the edge of the box. And then, in the 63rd minute, the Frenchman Gignac put the tie to bed with a curler from the edge of the box when Vancouver, in a defensive lapse, gave him way too much room.

For a good 20 minutes, Vancouver goalkeeper David Ousted prevented further damage with a series of fine saves. But it wasn’t much use, since his teammates couldn’t do any damage at the other end of the field.

And in the 85th minute, Damian Alvarez cleaned up on some messy defending to make it 2-1 and 4-1 on aggregate to Tigres, the final score.

In this ninth edition of the CONCACAF Champions League, a Mexican team will win it for the ninth time. And MLS doesn’t really feel any closer to breaking that streak. Because if these results don’t mean much in isolation, they provide overwhelming evidence when taken collectively.

There is a gap. And it’s still pretty big. An awareness of this incontrovertible truth is probably the first step towards doing something about it. Until things improve, we’ll be having this conversation once a year.

Until then.

Leander Schaerlaeckens is a soccer columnist for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter @LeanderAlphabet.