The FCD fan’s guide to hatewatching DECISION DAY

I’m Dustin “El Jefe” Christmann and I am an FC Dallas fanatic from Day One of the Dallas Burn. I’m also a hater. I used to yell mean, hateful things from the stands at the Cotton Bowl and Toyota Stadium, but now, I’m sharing my id with you to help guide you, my fellow FCD fans, in your enjoyment of Major League Soccer on TV.

Last week

It was not a good sign when I was sitting a Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on Saturday afternoon, looked up at the video board, which was displaying all of FCD’s subs, and they all had “M” or “D” behind their names. To be fair, that included Beni Redžić, whom they counted as a midfielder, but my offensive expectations for the match were nonetheless appropriately calibrated.

So when the match ended with two shots on goal for FCD and no goals, I wasn’t surprised. Fortunately for us, other Western Conference teams did FCD some favors, including a rather amusing win by the Dynamo in Nashville, and while FCD still has some work to do on Decision Day, their path to 3rd place and a first-round home game is pretty wide.

But let me first give a shoutout to the Philadelphia Union. What the hell was that? If I were a little conspiratorially minded, I might accuse y’all of tanking that game to avoid the Supporters Shield Curse. Not that you dopes should care anything about this, but that was a helluva way to make a lot of people who had been talking your up look stupid.

And congratulations to LAFC. Enjoy your poisoned chalice.

Decision Day

For those of you who aren’t familiar with how Decision Day works, on the last day of the season, all the Eastern Conference matches are at one time, and all the Western Conference matches are at another time. You might recognize this format from the World Cup, but I assure you that the stakes are quite a bit lower.

On a slightly different note, these will be the last-ever MLS games on ESPN+, so now you’ll only need ESPN+ to watch Bundesliga, La Liga, and the FA Cup. Theoretically, also the Eredivisie, but it’s not like we ever get to see the one Dutch team we care about.

Eastern Conference (1:30 PM)

Atlanta vs. NYCFC (ESPN+)

Do I enjoy the fact that Atlanta United is hot garbage now? Do I enjoy that people are quickly forgetting that Tata Martino once coached them to an MLS title? Do I enjoy the fact that they’ve missed the playoffs two out of the last three years? Do I enjoy that their home finale for the season is literally meaningless and that they’re playing out the string?

I don’t not enjoy it, I’ll tell you that.

And NYCFC? I make jokes about them, the fact that their existence was founded on a conceit, the fact that they’re a farm team for Manchester City, the fact that their coach who won MLS Cup last year bugged out to a gig in Belgium early this season, and the fact that they’ve played home games in three different places that aren’t their own, but… they’re actually better this season than they were last season. They’ve got more points now than they finished with last year and they’re higher in the table now than they finished last year. And they’re in the same position as FCD: Get a win or draw and finish 3rd.

But that’s no reason that you should watch this game. There are six other games going on. Watch them instead. And no matter how this game turns out, we’re gonna get this:

Because I know y’all are a bunch of sickos and want to see where “elsewhere” is, since both Yankee Stadium and Citi Field are currently in use by the Yankees and Mets, you’ll have to continue to wonder, since the Wednesday night results eliminated the possibility of a NYCFC-Red Bulls playoff game.

Jefe the Hater’s rooting pick: That you watch something else. Alexi Lalas might toss around the word “superclub” in reference to Atlanta, but I’m not here to tell you to watch Paris-St. Germain either.

Chicago vs. New England (ESPN+)

There are precisely zero reasons to watch this game. Both teams have been eliminated from the playoffs, neither is very good, and they’re both going to have guys playing this game with different levels of motivation. And there are better games to watch. If you watch this game, I will come over to your house and personally mock you.

At least it’s gonna be at an actual soccer stadium, since the Bears kicked the Fire out of Soldier Field for this game, since they’ve got a home game against… wait, the Bears are on the road in Minnesota this week? What? Whatever.

Jefe the Hater’s rooting pick: That you watch something else, like the Bears game if you’re looking for validation for being a soccer fan.

DC United vs. Cincinnati (ESPN+)

Some people think that America needs promotion and relegation. I am not one of those people. Although the pros and cons for and against have been beaten to death over the years, that’s not important here.

What is important for this column is the fact that had relegation existed in North America, we wouldn’t be able to watch this game because FC Cincinnati would’ve been God-knows-where, and likely not MLS, because they spent their entire existence at the bottom of MLS until this year.

And this is a game that you should watch! Not as your first choice. We’ll be getting to that game later, but certainly on your laptop or tablet, because there are actual stakes here.

Yes, DC United has nothing to play for, except for jobs, specifically preserving theirs. If I were better with Photoshop, I might cook up a picture of Wayne Rooney wielding an axe and put it here for nightmare fuel. You’re welcome, America.

But Cincy is currently in a playoff spot, but hasn’t clinched yet. If they win or tie, they’re in. If they lose and Columbus-Orlando doesn’t end in a tie, they’re in.

This is a game worth watching, but since it has no bearing on FCD, you might be wondering whom to root for in this game. Let’s go to the Hateability Ranking for the last three playoff contenders in the East:

  1. Columbus – This is mostly because of Caleb Porter and the fact that they’ve now got a better stadium than FCD.
  2. Cincinnati – I really got nothing against them.
  3. Orlando – This is Óscar Pareja’s team, so they’re at the bottom for hateability.

There are two playoff spots still left, so take Cincy and Orlando. These questions get a lot easier when you break them down scientifically.

Jefe the Hater’s rooting pick: Cincinnati

Miami vs. Montreal (ESPN+)

Because of results on Wednesday, Miami clinched a playoff spot, so a little bit of intrigue was taken out of this game. But not all! Miami can still get a playoff home game with a win, and Montreal can still finish #1 in the East with a win! Tabarnak!

This might not be the game you want on your main screen, but definitely if you’ve got a couple more screens at the ready for Decision Day, it’s one you want to throw up there. This is an Eastern Conference match and neither of these teams are especially hateable — yet — so this one is up to you.

Jefe the Hater’s rooting pick: Do you what you like for whatever reason you like. Personally, I’m just gonna enjoy the spectacle of Matt Doyle lookalike Gonzalo Higuaín putting in an honest 60 minutes’ work in one of his last professional matches before he retires.

New York Red Bulls vs. Charlotte (ESPN+)

First, let me give a tip of the game to Charlotte FC. You have overcome so much this season. You had a roster than your first coach ripped as untalented before you even played a single game. You had to fire that coach three months into the season. And you conceded this goal on Wednesday night:

But you persevered and managed to be one of the less sucky expansion teams in MLS history. You didn’t get eliminated until three days before Decision Day! But sadly, you now have to start thinking about 2023.

And Red Bulls? I don’t know what’s up with you. You’ve clinched a playoff spot, you’ve been in the playoff zone all season, you’re currently in line for a home game, but… you’re so bad at home. You keep pooping yourself at home. I’ve heard that animals will do that when they’re in distress. Are you in distress?

Whatever it is, I’ll give you your space to help you work out your issues in private by not tuning and encouraging everyone else to not tune in. You’re fine, you’re in a playoff spot and you’ll probably get a home game in the playoffs and home is a safe space.

Jefe the Hater’s rooting pick: Don’t bother with this game. Find out later if the Red Bulls managed to win as many games at home as they lost.

Orlando vs. Columbus (FS1)

A lowkey nice thing about Decision Day is that we usually get the best game out of the several games in the timeslot. Every other week of the season, it’s less certain.

Take last week. We got Portland-LAFC on ABC. That’s a good game! But we also got Kansas City-Seattle on FS1, a game that was only consequential because it made Seattle a non-playoff team for the first time ever.

But not this week! This is the best game of the early timeslot, and this is what we’re gonna get on FS1 for the entire nation to see, not just those of us who pay for ESPN+.

It’s got everything! Winner goes to the playoffs, the loser is done! (If there’s a draw, both might go, but that will require a Cincy loss and it’s not good for the narrative anyway.) And there’s history between Óscar Pareja and Caleb Porter!

You knew this GIF was gonna make an appearance, didn’t you? Of course you did.

But this is absolutely the game you should be putting on your big screen. Yeah, we know. You’ll also be getting Alexi Lalas’ and his inane utterings on your big screen, but we all have to make sacrifices.

And you know who the rooting pick here is gonna be.

Jefe the Hater’s rooting pick: Orlando, of course.

Philadelphia vs. Toronto (ESPN+)

This is the most intrigued-filled game of the day. Some might say the pettiest game of the day. Why? Philly needs a win to hold onto the #1 seed. Montreal needs a Toronto win, in addition to one of their own, to pass Philly and win the #1 seed and the first round bye.

What is Toronto doing? They’re leaving Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi in Toronto. Allegedly both guys are carrying knocks, but c’mon. We know the aroma of plausible deniability a mile away.

TFC’s not playing a playoff game, they’re not playing to get into the playoffs, they’re playing out the string. Give the kids a look and let your high money players heal up. And if it helps screw Montreal? Hey, Bob Bradley’s no dummy. He knows where his bread is buttered.

But all that intrigue aside, there’s not really much reason to watch Philly work out any issues they might having from having yakked up the Supporters Shield last week and watch them pound Toronto FC like a veal cutlet. Unless you’re into that sort of thing, of course.

Jefe the Hater’s rooting pick: That you not watch this game. And if you’re into watching veal cutlets getting pounded, go find a YouTube video of someone making veal piccata or Wienerschnitzel or something.

Western Conference (4:00)

FCD vs. Kansas City (Ch. 21)

This is better than the 2022 shirts, amirite?

First, let me say a word about Mark Followill and Steve Davis on what will almost certainly be their final game behind the mic for FC Dallas. As someone who’s lived outside of D/FW for the past 15 years, I’ve had to follow FCD with MLS Direct Kick and MLS Live and ESPN+. Sometimes, I’d get the Dallas feed, sometimes I’d get the other team’s feed.

And I can say without the slightest sliver of uncertainty that Messrs. Followill and Davis have been the best. With all due respect to the great Brad Sham, Dave Dir, Steve Jolley, Bobby Rhine, and others; Mark and Steve have been the best for FCD.

And they’ve been the best out of all the various local crews that I’ve seen. They treat their viewers like grownup soccer fans, they give you their honest opinions about what they’re seeing on the field, and you can hear the love for soccer and for the community in their voices.

They have been one of the great things about this club over the years, and I think I speak for a lot of FCD fans when I say that they’ll missed if this is indeed the end of the road and they’re not part of the Apple TV coverage starting next year.

But if this is it, at least they’re getting a consequential game as their swan song. It’s pretty simple for FCD. Win or draw, and they’re at home for their first-round playoff game. Lose, and they need some help. This team should need no further motivation, but if they need any more, the old villains from Kansas City should provide plenty.

Ever since the first year in 1996, the team formerly known as the Kansas City Wiz has been a perpetual pain in the ass for our team. They’ve had no lack of hatable players and hatable coaches, but there’s been no greater villain than Peter Vermes.

Vermes rolls out a bunch of marginally skilled donkeys on a weekly basis like Johnny Russell, carries on like a raving lunatic on the touchline, treats every foul rightfully whistled against his time like a savage injustice, treats every action by an opposing player as a red card that should be called, and otherwise acts as if the fans are there to see him lose his mind in real time.

It is not only enjoyable to watch FCD beat him and his band of donkeys, it is enjoyable to watch them lose. And given their position in the standings, they’ve been doing a lot of losing in 2022 and bringing joy to me and to every other soccer fan with taste.

Give the world one more measure of joy in 2022, FCD.

Austin vs. Colorado (ESPN+)

There’s no reason to watch this game, not even on a side screen while the FCD game is on the big screen. Absolutely none.

Austin is locked in as the #2 seed, and Colorado has been out of the playoffs for a couple of weeks. The only reason is if you’ve got money on it or if you’ve got one or more of these players on your fantasy teams. In either case, get help.

This is a Maxi Urruti goal celebration, in case you forget what they look like this time of year

But let me give my acknowledgment to one of the enduring new traditions of FCD fandom: Forgetting Maxi Urruti’s schtick. You know how it goes. Every season, Maxi starts out like a house on fire, scoring a ton of goals in March, April, May, and June. A bunch of FCD fans ask on social media, “WHY DID WE GET RID OF HIM?” because they have the memory of your average fruit fly. Then some time in July, the goals dry up.

This year is no different. He’s got nine goals for North Austin FC. That’s not bad! Unfortunately for our Vurdee friends, seven of them came on July 12 and early. In the last three months, a grand total of two goals, both of which came in their win over LAFC in August.

Truly a tradition like no other.

Jefe the Hater’s rooting pick: Colorado, because it is also Drew Moor’s final game as a professional soccer player, and we like Drew. He should’ve been an FCD lifer, but sadly, FCD once upon a time had Schellas Hyndman as head coach and Barry Gorman as technical director, and those supergeniuses decided to trade him. Nice call, jackasses.

Houston vs. LA Galaxy (ESPN+)

The problem with FCD’s losing the game in Colorado and not taking care of their own business is that they needed some help from other teams in their quest for a home playoff game.

Fortunately, LAFC obliged by beating Portland, and RSL obliged by drawing at the Galaxy, but the most improbable of the help they got was Houston’s winning in Nashville. Your humble writer wrote that he wanted Houston to win, but it felt like rooting for the Ewoks against the Empire.

Well, just as George Lucas’ marketing-driven teddy bears beat the Galactic Empire on Endor’s moon, the Dynamo rolled into Geodis Park — which sounds like something from Star Wars, to be honest — and rolled out with a 2-1 win.

A third-rate filmmaker’s depiction of Hector Herrera

Look, we all want FCD to get their result, but in the event that they don’t, we want some insurance. Part of that insurance would be a Houston win or draw in this game. Do we want Houston to ever have anything good? Of course not. But life is messy and complex like that. There’s a reason why “necessary evil” is a phrase in English.

Obviously, this is a game that you want to have on a side screen while you’re watching FCD, and you’ll truly understand the meaning of the word “hatewatching” as you do so.

Jefe the Hater’s rooting pick: Draw, because it’s just as good as an LA loss for FCD’s purposes, and it keeps Houston from having a win.

LAFC vs. Nashville (ESPN+)

Here’s an artist’s rendering of everything that LAFC has to play for on Decision Day:

That’s right, nothing.

OK, sure, there’s pride and reaching 70 points, which’ll get the players a $1 discount on a double-double at In ‘n’ Out.

But it’s nothing like what Nashville has to play for, which is a home game in the playoffs and burnishing Hany Mukhtar’s MVP campaign. And that’s the reason why this isn’t the game that gets the national coverage on ESPN2.

But this is the other part of the insurance that we want for FCD. An LAFC win or draw would clinch home field in the first round for FCD and if the Ewoks in Houston pull off another improbable result, FCD would clinch 3rd place, no matter what they do against Kansas City. So now you, my fellow FCD fan, have common cause with the former Chivas USA fans at Banc of California Stadium.

So let it all hang out, LAFC. Score early, score often. Ignore all those voices telling you that you’ve got nothing to play for. Do it for your fans. Do it for the $1 discount. You’ve got the first round off anyway.

Jefe the Hater’s rooting pick: LAFC, because they’re gonna be getting some serious pain soon enough in the playoffs anyway.

Minnesota vs. Vancouver (ESPN+)

This is first of two games that are gonna be more interesting to most folks outside of D/FW, LA, and Nashville than the Western Conference games above because they involve four teams playing each other that haven’t

  • clinched a playoff spot, or
  • been eliminated from the playoffs.

So it’s life or death in these matches, baby. Victoria o muerte. And while we’re focus on other things, this is probably more interesting for unaffiliated fans. But not for us, outside of likely determining FCD’s first-round opponent.

I gotta be honest: I thought that Vancouver was done a month ago. Not actually-factually done, but it was just a matter of time. And yet, they’ve been time getting results and dodging having “e-” put next to their name. And they’ve made it to Decision Day with a shot at a playoff spot if they win.

Similarly, I thought that Minnesota was in a month or so ago. Sure, they had similarly managed to dodge the “x-” next to their name, but it was just a matter of time, right? After all, they were as high as 3rd place and they could bring it home. Then Bakare Dibassy and others got injured, the bottom fell out, and they are, needing a result to qualify for the playoffs.

I don’t have a huge preference here, but I like the feel-good story of a team getting off the mat and fighting their way into the playoffs, and I like the LOLs of a team not named FC Dallas being fairly high in the standings and collapse out of the playoff chase. Such is the duality of life.

Jefe the Hater’s rooting pick: Vancouver, and I’m sure that Adrian Heath will handle missing the playoff with class and grace.

Salt Lake vs. Portland (ESPN2)

It’s pretty obvious why the league or ESPN or both chose this game over the Minnesota-Vancouver. The other one has a team from a Canadian market that won’t be watching the game on ESPN2, and this one has two American markets. But like the other one, it’s gonna be less interesting to you, the sweet, clean FC Dallas fan.

But for me, on a personal note, I’m sick and damn tired of the Portland Timbers. Not only are they part of an organization that has been shown over the last couple of years to be profoundly shitty on multiple ways, I’m just tired of them from an on-field standpoint.

First of all, under Giovanni Savarese, they have been the platonic ideal of the notion that you make the playoffs and anything can happen, which annoys me just on general principle.

In the previous four seasons that he’s been coach, they’ve made the MLS Cup final twice in 2018 and 2021, but they finished 5th and 4th in the West those seasons. The other two seasons he’s been in charge, in 2019 and 2020, they finished 6th and 3rd in the West.

Second, I’m sick of seeing them. The last time FCD played anyone in the playoffs that wasn’t the Seattle Sounders or Portland Timbers was 2014. The last postseason where they didn’t face either the Seattle Sounders or Portland Timbers was 2011.

Since then, FCD has played the Sounders in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2019, and 2020. They played the Timbers in 2015, 2018, 2020. I just wanna see someone else for a change, and if Portland makes the playoffs, FCD’s gonna face them again.

Jefe the Hater’s rooting pick: Real Salt Lake, because it seems appropriate that when Seattle finally watches the playoffs from home, their little brothers join them.

Seattle vs. San Jose (ESPN+)

BUMFIGHT. OF. THE. WEEK. God, that feels so good to write.

As many electrons have been sacrificed over the last 15 years writing about the Sounders, we’re gonna save some and not write too much about this game. They’re playing out the string, so I will too.

Don’t watch this game. There really is no reason. There’s nothing riding on this game, and there are literally six other Western Conference games that you could be watching instead, five of which are of some consequence.

Jefe the Hater’s rooting pick: That the people in San Jose and Seattle really enjoy their teams’ last competitive matches for four months, and that both teams have fun.

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