Last week went pretty well for our heroes. Not only did FCD roll into Minnesota and lay the hurt on the Geese with Good PR, Austin lost, RSL lost, and the Gals and SKC drew.
The only suboptimal things that happened for FCD were Austin’s loss at the hands of Nashville – in a match that was seemingly designed to vault Hany Mukhtar in the lead for the MVP past Sebastian Driussi – and that Portland beat Atlanta.
But back to that Galaxy-SKC match. Let’s give a huge thank you to our pal Javier “Chicharito” Hernández for keeping it a draw with quite possibly the worst panenka attempt of all time… late in the second half.
And if the comedy of that couldn’t be any better, it was, thanks to this Spanish commentator:
As the great Mark Followill pointed out when he quote-tweeted this video, listen to how the commentator quickly stopped himself after “Hijo de…”
Muchas gracias y buen trabajo, Chicharito.
Montreal vs. Columbus (ESPN+, 6:30)
This game is on Friday because of some Canadian TV bullshit, I’m sure. But this should be a pretty good game!
Montreal is still technically alive for the Supporters Shield, but they’re eight points back with five games to go, so that’s pretty unlikely. Still, they’ve got a pretty nice gap between themselves and the rest of the East and should be gliding into that #2 slot pretty nicely and shouldn’t have to play on the road unless they face Philly in the Eastern Conference Final. Plus, they came back from two goals down last weekend to beat Toronto, so it’s nothing but good vibes, mon ami.
And Columbus is above the playoff line, but Crew fans hate Caleb Porter! Admittedly, he tends to provoke that reaction in people, but a quick reminder: THEY WON MLS CUP LESS THAN TWO YEARS AGO. And they only missed the playoffs by a single point last year! But Crew fans, you don’t need to justify your hatred of Porter to me.
Jefe the Hater’s rooting pick: Montreal, because Caleb Porter is still a preening schmo.
Charlotte vs. NYCFC (ESPN+, noon)
One of the nation’s great rivalries is New York vs. LA. West Coast vs. East Coast, Hollywood vs. Broadway, Tupac vs. Biggie. So when Chicharito delivered the comedy on Sunday, it was only appropriate that Greater Tri-State Area FC would match the comedy on Wednesday.
Of course, it happened while every American soccer fan outside of New York and Cincinnati was watching the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup Final, but the beauty of the Internet is that nothing is ever truly forgotten and lost to the sands of time:
That an autogolazo, baby. If you’re a hater, you love to see it happen to the defending MLS Cup champions. If you’re a hater, you love to see those defending MLS Cup champions on a “winless in seven out of their last eight games” streak. And if you’re writing this column, you love to have a week go by in which you don’t have to make jokes about their stupid home stadium situation. (This little nugget of own goal gold took place at Citi Field, home of your New York Mets, BTW.)
Jefe the Hater’s rooting pick: CLT FC. The savvy fan will know where to find… the game.
Nashville vs. LA Galaxy (Univision/TUDN, 2:30)
Nashville is one point behind FCD. The Galaxy is seven points back with two games in hand. That’s right, kids, it’s the “There Are No Winners Here” Game of the Week!
Frankly, I have no idea what happened with Nashville to suddenly get their shit together so dramatically. One minute, they’re stumbling through the season, dancing on either side of the playoff line. Then FCD comes to town, something in Nashville clicks, and they suddenly decided that they’re in the business of tanning their opponents’ hides. They are officially A Problem.
The Galaxy are on the other side of the playoff line and slightly less of a problem. But hey, they’re the Galaxy, winner of five MLS Cups. Anyone who’s been a fan of this league for more than 10 minutes can already see it steaming up the river: The Gals underachieve for six months, doing just enough to get into the playoffs, then fool around and make a deep run at MLS Cup. (Or maybe I’m thinking about most every class in my college career. Whatever.)
The point here is that it’s good if the Gals stay below the playoff line. Not only do we prevent the above scenario, but we also get to enjoy the sweet, sweet schadenfreude of another Galaxy season outside the playoffs.
Jefe the Hater’s rooting pick: Draw. Duh.
New York Red Bulls vs. New England (ESPN+, 5:00)
I was watching yet another New York Red Bulls game on ESPN+ last week when it occurred to me. The Red Bulls are at least pretty good and have made the playoffs every year since 2009. But in that time, they haven’t advanced any farther than the conference finals. And they’re not on TV very often. Consistent competence that flies under the radar by not actually winning any silverware? That’s very familiar to me.
Oh yeah, they’ve turned into the late ’90s Dallas Burn.
And this blows me away because this team in its history has employed Roberto Donadoni. They’ve employed Thierry Henry. They’ve employed Branco. They’ve spent a lot of money and gotten a lot of media coverage over the years for teams that ended up being crummy. And now they’re consistently pretty good from year to year, they get ignored.
It’s pretty impressive that Red Bull bought the team as a marketing opportunity for their energy drink and have turned it into the secretly good team over there in North Jersey that normies don’t know about.
Of course, this game against last year’s record-breaking Supporters Shield winners is on ESPN+. At this point, why would you expect anything different?
Jefe the Hater’s rooting pick: Red Bulls, I guess. I just like seeing them stay in front of the traveling circus that wears light blue.
Atlanta vs. Toronto FC (ESPN+, 6:30)
Amazingly, the fact that Toronto keeps not winning despite spending more money than anyone else is not in fact the most schadenfreuditastic thing about this game.
The fact that Josef Martínez got himself suspended for this game. What got him the unexpected night off? Blowing up a catering table. As reported by Felipe Cardenas in The Athletic:
Well deserved, to be honest. Imagine you’re one of Martínez’s teammates who you’re looking forward some post-game grub. But uh oh, here comes Hurricane Josef! And oh yeah, he also mixed it up with his coaches, but who cares about that? We’re here for the endless struggle between man and his eternal nemesis, the catering table.
Jefe the Hater’s rooting pick: A draw that keeps all food service tables at Mercedes-Benz Stadium safe from disgruntled players.
Cincinnati vs. San Jose (ESPN+, 6:30)
It would’ve been not so long ago that the would be a stone-cold lock for Bumfight of the Week. But not anymore! Cincy seems to have stumbled on This One Simple Trick for making the playoffs in MLS: sign good players and hire a good coach.
This is knowledge that continues to elude the San Jose Earthquakes, and we’re thankful for that. In this ever-changing world, it’s good to know that there are something things that you can count on, like the sun rising in the east, the sun setting in the west, the inevitability of death, and the San Jose Earthquakes’ being the biggest dumpster fire in northern California.
Jefe the Hater’s rooting pick: Cincy, because I’m a big believer in keeping the long-standing traditions in soccer.
Philadelphia vs. Orlando (ESPN+, 6:30)
The downside to the final of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup being held on a Wednesday towards the end of the MLS regular season is that you win a trophy and then three days later, you’re back to your league schedule.
That sucks for us the fans because we’re really missing out on the spectacle of players from the winning team really showing every part of their asses on social media for multiple days as they’re celebrating their trophy win.
I don’t even know if Papi even gave any of his players Thursday off after they won on Wednesday night. Maybe he should’ve because their league game three days later is against Philly… on the road.
Jim Curtin had already built something of a death machine and they’re gonna be playing at home with a full week’s rest? This seems feels like when you’re watching a horror movie and the unsuspecting victim is about to walk into the room where the axe-wielding psychopath is waiting for them.
And now that I’ve compared Jim Curtin to an axe-wielding psychopath, I give you the pick:
Jefe the Hater’s rooting pick: Orlando, but DON’T GO INTO THAT ROOM, PAPI!
Honestly, this is MLS so who knows? We’re probably gonna get a 0-0 draw in which the Union takes a thousand shots and hits everything in Chester but the goal.
Chicago vs. Miami (ESPN+, 7:00)
For this game, the Chicago Fire return to their historic home in Bridgeview because Da Bears have their opener at noon on Sunday and apparently, there wouldn’t be enough time for the hardworking folks at the Chicago Parks and Recreation Department to turn around Soldier Field between a Fire home game and a Bears home game less than 24 hours later. (Pay no attention to the same feat being achieved in Charlotte this weekend.)
To be honest, Fire, this stupid move is yet another reason why people laugh at you. On top of the fact that you’re usually at the bottom of the league. On top of the fact that you did one of the worst rebrands in professional sports history and literally had to redo it two years later.
Yes, I know, we’ve heard all sorts of claims from Fire fans about the intolerable cruelty of having to go out to Bridgeview for home games, so moving back into Soldier Field was the right move, etc. etc. But you’re still not drawing fans, the field is a mess, and you’re still having to go out to Bridgeview for some home games!
But let’s spare a moment for their opponents, Inter Miami CF, and their minority owner David Beckham. It’s been a rough week for Becks. Not only is he mourning the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, he was unjustly snubbed to be her successor. Her son is now King. Nepotism, amirite?
But really, David Beckham would’ve been a better choice. The entire country, save for perhaps Scotland, loves him. He’s attractive, he’s well-dressed, he relates well to common folks, and he’s likely not as racist. Plus, he provides employment to Brek Shea, so you know he’s got the whole charitable giving part down pat.
Jefe the Hater’s rooting pick: Miami, because I just feel bad for Sir David of Goldenballs for the way he was passed over. Maybe Victoria can pen a protest song for the Spice Girls to perform, something catchy and upbeat that you can dance to.
Seattle vs. Austin (ESPN+, 7:00)
I almost made this the “There Are No Winners Here” Game of the Week, and in any other week, I would’ve, because everything I wrote about the Gals up above? It applies to the Sounders as well.
The good news here is that they’re currently six points below the line, so that fat lady warming up backstage? She’s about to serenade you, Brian Schmetzer. I know that he was a player with the NASL Sounders, that he’s been with the USL Sounders, and now the coach of the MLS Sounders, but every time I look at that cat, I swear that he was applying for a bookkeeping job with the Sounders front office and walked into the wrong interview room. You really can never judge a book by its cover.
And normally, I don’t root for the Sounders to win anything, but this week they’re hosting our little buddies down I-35.
Austin had a bad week last week, which you love to see. They lost at home to Portland on Wednesday, they got slapped around by Nashville, and they came to the realization that they’re not winning the Supporters Shield or the Western Conference, and that Hany Mukhtar is gonna win league MVP.
But hey, they got that spiffy new partnership with one of the best teams in the Netherlands not named “Ajax.” Wow, a partnership with a big European club. Wouldn’t know anything about that.
Jefe the Hater’s rooting pick: Seattle, but at least our Broccoli enthusiast friends will hopefully enjoy their discount cards for Philips merchandise.
FCD vs. LAFC (Ch. 21, 7:30)
If there’s an energy that permeates Los Angeles FC, it is “Fake it ’til you make it.” If you were to go solely by the hype that’s put out by the team and its fans, you’d swear that they were the ten-time defending champions of Major League Soccer. Instead, they’ve got one trophy, the 2019 Supporters Shield. You’d swear that they were the biggest club in LA. Instead, their big brothers in Carson outdraw them. And you’d swear that their 2022 team was on its way to being the all-time greatest team in league history. They came right out and tweeted it out a couple of weeks ago:
Since then, two matches and three points… in a win at home against Houston. So now they’ve got 60 points and five games remaining. The only way they set a league record for points in a season is if they win all five games, including Saturday night’s tilt in Frisco.
Oh well, LAFC. No record for you. At least Will Farrell will still occasionally come to your games.
Houston vs. Kansas City (ESPN+, 7:30)
The Bumfight of the Week. Could it be anything else? It’s Houston! It’s Kansas City! Two great hates to hate great together! It’s the team that it’s in last place in the West against the team in 12th place! It’ll take place in a four-figure crowd of degenerates in Houston!
Now, this game has a little added spice because Houston just canned Paulo Nagamura this week. On the one hand, some might point out that that shows ambition from the Houston ownership that the current results just aren’t good enough. On the other hand, you just hired the guy this last offseason.
A quick rule of thumb that I use is that if you’re firing a guy during his first season in charge, you shouldn’t have hired him in the first place. But whatever, it’s Houston, so hopefully they’re operating with this energy:
Their visitors are Sporting Kansas City, who spent most of the 2022 season in last place, but are now off the bottom of the West thanks to the point that they got from Chicharito’s brainfart. Whatever works, man.
But they’re the exact opposite of Houston. They’ve had a crummy season, but Peter Vermes is still there on the touchline, working through his anger issues in front of tens of thousands of paying spectators each week. Maybe ownership secretly hates him and wants to humiliate him and make his head explode. Maybe the ownership group has side bets amongst themselves as to which game will be that will be.
Jefe the Hater’s rooting pick: Draw, in a phenomenally stupid game filled with controversial decisions and plenty of VAR reviews. Let’s draw out the agony.
Colorado vs. Vancouver (ESPN+, 8:30)
Neither of these teams are technically eliminated yet, but let’s just say that both teams’ players are firming up vacation plans for late October. They’re eight and nine points below the playoff line and both teams have five games remaining. It can technically happen, but it ain’t happening. And since one of these teams is FCD’s eternal playoff nemesis, that’s a good thing, especially since FCD looks likely to be in the playoffs next month.
But other than that slight point of interest, I can’t give you a good reason to watch this match. I can’t even give you a reason to hatewatch this match unless you hate yourself. There are other, better matches to watch.
Let the team that was foolish enough to trade Kellyn Acosta fight it out with the team that hired a coach who I’m sure will be glad to tell you all the advantages he gets by living in his RV in front of a crowd of semi-interested people in the shadow of the Suncor refinery in Commerce City and let us never speak of it again.
That is, of course, unless something really stupid happens.
Jefe the Hater’s rooting pick: That you take care of your mental health. Watching this game is a cry for help.
Salt Lake vs. DC United (ESPN+, 8:30)
This is a game you should be watching instead of the above game.
Yes, DC United is a flaming dumpster fire this season, but Real Salt Lake is pretty good. They’re above the playoff line, they’re only four points behind FCD, and they’ve got plenty of asshole players who have got “the dawg in them.” Rarely does a team so perfectly reflect the personality of their jackass coach who was a jackass player in this league not long ago, and 20 years ago, gave us the following:
Yes, kids, this came from the 2002 World Cup photo shoot that also featured the infamous Landon Donovan water fountain picture. And let’s be clear, I’m not hating on Pablo Mastroeni for looking stylish and giving us his best “come hither” glance. I’m hating on Pablo Mastroeni for appearing in the New York Times Magazine in dreadlocks. C’mon, man. The only people who want to see that shit are at Burning Man.
But save for that faux pas, Pablo’s pulling it off. Why do I say that? Because there are so many people who couldn’t, like for example, the current coach of DC United.
Just picture in your mind’s eye Wayne Rooney in that exact same pose. I bet you’ve just imagined it and you’re laughing right now. I know I am. I know that Coleen Rooney is not a reader of this column… yet… but if she were, even she would be laughing right now, and probably harder than all of us.
That said, I’m sure that Wayne does the Shrek cosplay much better than anyone else on the planet.
Jefe the Hater’s rooting pick: DC United, because it’s good for FCD, it’s good for Wayne Rooney, and it’s good for the hack that writes this column.
Portland vs. Minnesota (ESPN+, 9:00)
The final game of the weekend features the team that on a yearly basis flirts harder with not making the playoffs than Sam Malone flirted with Diane Chambers during the first season of Cheers. And just like Diane ultimately left Sam at the altar, the Portland Timbers always manages to leave non-qualification at the end of the season.
(If you want to know one good indicator of how good the writing was on that show, most shows with sexual tension between the two main characters usually decline precipitously when those characters inevitably get together romantically. Moonlighting is the most classic example. But not Cheers.)
Anyway, Portland is being Portland again, by which I mean that they’re in the playoff at this current time, but only by three points. A couple of weeks ago, it was the opposite. And they’re currently on a three-game winning streak, so they’re probably in the stage of the season where they get their shit together, get hot, and get into the playoffs. How depressingly predictable.
Probably not the best time for Minnesota to roll into Providence Park. Minnesota had a rough week last week. The perpetually frumpled Adrian Heath rotated his squad in Salt Lake on Wednesday and received a 3-0 beatdown. Then they returned home on Saturday to face your heroes, had three goals dropped on them in four minutes, and managed to do not a whole lot in response in the other 86 minutes. They started the week in 3rd place and are now in 5th.
Do I think that they’ll hold onto a playoff spot? Sure. Would it amuse me greatly if they didn’t? Yes.
Jefe the Hater’s rooting pick: Draw, because they’re both behind FCD and should stay there.