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.
Is it too much to ask for this team to hold a dadgummed lead? Better yet, is it too much to ask that this team kill off a game at the other end?
It’s great that they’ve only given up more than one goal twice this season — the road games at LAFC and NYCFC — but they’ve scored one or zero goals in nine games this year, and three out of their four draws have come from blowing 1-0 leads and two of those came after the 80th minute.
Just saying… Those four points that they would’ve gotten from blown 1-0 leads late against Portland and Houston would have them in first place in the West right now.
But since I’m a font of positivity, let me give some love to Jáder Obrian.
After his, um, uneven performances over the last few seasons, it would’ve been a rare person who wouldn’t have groaned when they contemplated that he would be starting several games while Paul Arriola was on the mend. But he’s put in two good performances in a row, even beyond the goal and the ricochet off the crossbar against Houston.
And while it’s too early to make any grand proclamations, this does give FCD fans stirrings of hope that he might’ve had something click or that he’s figured something out. But if this is a real turnaround on his part, give him the damn Comeback Player of the Year.
EL SUPERCLÁSICO DEL SIGLO (de la semana)
Orlando City SC vs. Atlanta United FC (MLS Season Pass, 6:30)
Just a decade ago, MLS had no teams south of Washington and east of Houston. Then in 2015, Orlando City, a reasonably successful USL club, made the step up to become the 21st team in the league and the first in the Southeast since the Great Contracting of 2002 that killed the Tampa Bay Mutiny and Miami Fusion.
Now, in 2023, there are 29 teams in MLS and five teams in that formerly barren section of the country. For those of you who can do rudimentary arithmetic, that means that in eight years, you’ve gotten five new teams in the Southeast, starting with Orlando.
So unlike San Jose and the Galaxy, who have played roughly a gorillion times in 28 seasons and have a legitimate history and some consequential games to go along with the NoCal-SoCal rivalry, you don’t really have much history here.
The closest thing to a Southeast rivalry with history, however, is Orlando-Atlanta, which stretches all the way back to… 2017! Ah, well.
But this game is probably the best of the weekend since it is one of only four (!) that features two teams that are above the playoff line — we’ll get to two of them — and has anything resembling a little added heat, even if Orlando cares more about beating their pals from Ft. Lauderdale these days.
And really, since one Óscar Pareja — hallowed be his name — is coaching Orlando City, I’m gonna use the rest of this space to talk shit about Atlanta United. They’re an easy team to hate, thanks to their nouveau-riche, astroturfed, I’ve-never-thought-about-watching-professional-soccer-until-now fanbase with a massive sense of entitlement and nothing better to do in the summer, other than schlepping out to Cobb County to watch the Braves.
They’re like Sounders fans but without the charm. At least with Sounders fans, you have to acknowledge a certain amount of soccer history in the Pacific Northwest.
Atlanta? They’re a McMansion dropped in the middle of the M Streets by some human resources executive. The worst part is that Atlanta’s been pretty successful since Arthur Blank decided he needed to fill dates at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, with both an MLS Cup and an Open Cup.
It almost makes you want good things for Orlando, which I’m not sure is a real place.
Jefe the Hater’s rooting pick: Orlando. I wonder how many times Papi has been compelled by various family members to go to Disney and Universal Studios and whatever other theme parks are in the area since he’s been the coach there.
Little Brother Game of the Week
Houston Dynamo vs. Austin FC (MLS Season Pass, 7:30)
For the third straight week, the MLS schedule makers have made the choice for this slot for me. This week, however, it is not because FC Dallas is playing one of them. It is because they are playing one another. But I can’t help but notice that it’s not taking place during Rivalry Week. And when they met in Austin earlier this season, it wasn’t during Rivalry Week, either.
My takeaway is that MLS is basically saying, “It ain’t a rivalry if FC Dallas ain’t there.” If any of you think that I’m being mean when refer to these teams as little brothers, you can now take this as the Official MLS Seal of Approval for this viewpoint. This is MLS saying, “This game is not Rivalry Week-worthy because it is a little brother showdown.” And there was this, from J. Sam Jones:
By the way, I did a highly scientific bit of research and did you know… the last time that the words “Copa Tejas” appeared at Major League Soccer Soccer dot com was on May 12, when they were telling us that the Austin-Dallas game that was coming up that weekend did not count for Copa Tejas. This game does count, but nary a mention.
It’s almost as if they figured out somehow that it’s a bullshit trophy.
Jefe the Hater’s rooting pick: Draw, of course. But tune in to see how many times Eric Krakauer and Lloyd Sam mistakenly refer to it as the “Texas Derby.”
Or don’t. I’m not your mother.
“Let’s Pretend to Care About the Eastern Conference” Game of the Week
Nashville SC vs. Columbus Crew (FS1, Sunday at 7:30)
Today in “Words that are completely true, and yet, somehow surprising”:
Geodis Park, home of Nashville SC, is the largest soccer-specific stadium in the United States or Canada.
And since NSC plays to mostly-full houses, they have the highest average attendance in the league for anyone not playing in an NFL stadium. Good on you, Nashville. I guess that putting two photogenic FC Dallas alumni like Dax McCarty and Walker Zimmerman on your roster does wonders for marketing.
Incidentally, two of the three teams ahead of them on the MLS attendance charts who play in NFL stadiums are from Atlanta and Charlotte. I believe that Andre 3000 had the appropriate words at the 1995 Source Awards:
Meanwhile, their visitors from Columbus are literally MLS’ first team and are currently playing in their second soccer-specific stadium, which was built after the team was sold to new owners after the jackwagon who formerly owned the team attempted to move it to some third-rate cowtown.
The point here is that while some people there will tell you that soccer in America only does well in certain places and should only be in certain places and that MLS is foolish to have teams in some places and not in others, all of that is bullshit.
On Sunday night, when you’re watching that 2nd placed team in the East from Nashville, Tennessee playing in front of a packed house against that 8th placed team in the East from Columbus, Ohio, on national cable TV, contemplate that there are bozos out there that tell you such things are not possible in American soccer and that those people should be getting fitted for large floppy shoes instead of running their mouths.
Jefe the Hater’s rooting pick: Nashville, because I still miss Dax in Frisco.
Bumfight of the Week
CF Montréal vs. Inter Miami CF (MLS Season Pass, 6:30)
This is a bad week for picking bumfights.
Mind you, it’s a good week for games in which teams above the playoff line will play teams below it:
- New England (3rd East) vs. Chicago (14th East)
- Toronto (15th East) vs. DC United (6th East)
- Houston (10th West) vs. Austin (9th West)
- Colorado (12th West) vs. Cincinnati (1st East)
- Seattle (2nd West) vs. New York Red Bulls (11th East)
- LA Galaxy (13th West) vs. Charlotte (9th East)
- Kansas City (12th West) vs. Portland (8th West)
Some of those will turn into really blood-lettings — looking at you, Colorado-Cincy — but there just aren’t that many bumfights this week.
So we’ll have to make do with this one, between 12th place Miami and 13th place Montréal. And honestly, neither of these teams are that bad.
Montréal is in the maple-flavored answer to the US Open Cup and was recently on a four-game winning streak in which they outscored their opponents 8-0. But… they’ve won five and lost eight in league play, so they’re in 13th place in the East.
For their part, Miami has an identical record of five wins and eight losses. And they are into the quarterfinals of the US Open Cup after beating Nashville at home on Wednesday night. And very recently, they ran off a three-game win streak.
So it’s not really a bumfight per se. Maybe a parking lot fight between two overserved middle-aged professionals outside of a Chili’s, while their horrified families look on. You don’t hate yourself for watching it, but you don’t really need to look from your baby-back ribs to have a gander out the window.
Jefe the Hater’s rooting pick: Draw, which is something that neither team has done yet this season, after almost half the season.
Good Guys Game of the Week
San Jose Earthquakes vs. FC Dallas (MLS Season Pass, 9:30)
This week, we get FC Dallas After Dark as our heroes make a trip out to the West Coast to play at San Jose. Y’all, I’ve got a bad feeling about this game. Let’s have a look at the facts here:
- FC Dallas generally doesn’t do well on the West Coast
- FC Dallas generally doesn’t do well against San Jose. They’ve played 23 times in the last decade, and FCD has only won six times.
- FC Dallas generally doesn’t do well in San Jose. They’ve played there 12 times in the last decade and won only twice, in 2014 and 2016.
Over the years, I can remember all sorts of terrible losses at Spartan Stadium, at Buck Shaw Stadium, and at PayPal Park against some Earthquakes teams that have often been pretty crummy.
But that’s not what anyone wants to talk about for this game.
That’s right, folks. It’s the Luchi Gang Derby. Our team’s former coach is going up again his former employers for the first time.
And to be honest, I can’t blame him if he feels like he got screwed in Frisco because he did.
Right before the 2021 season, I remember watching Thiago Santos bossing the central midfield in a preseason game and feeling pretty good about the season. A few days later, he was sold to Grêmio. In June, his replacement arrived in the form of Facundo Quignón, and we’re now in the third year of talking about how woefully inadequate he’s been at the defensive midfield.
And while he wasn’t a direct replacement for Santos, Tanner Tessmann’s sale in July also didn’t help matters.
Then Coach Gonzalez was made to walk the plank in September.
So this Saturday night, FCD will get to face him with something that he didn’t have when he was made to walk the plank: A dominant #6, our old friend Carlos Gruezo.
Don’t anybody get this twisted. Luchi had his issues in Dallas.
It was his first head coaching gig for a big-boy team, and he still coached like he was coaching youths, namely he coached them too much. And he was too rigid in responding to a team that was struggling badly.
There are many things that Nico Estévez does that are an upgrade. And after finishing third in the West last year and being currently in fourth, one can undoubtedly say that he’s doing a good job.
So where does the hate come from in this game? The fact that FCD’s administration – after more than two years after selling Thiago Santos and after a lot of money made on player sales and a lot of money spent on all sorts of really good things – still has not addressed the steady downgrade at the defensive midfield position and still has the notion that either Quignón or Edwin Cerrillo is in any way adequate successors to Leonel Álvarez or Simo Valakari or Daniel Hernandez or Carlos Gruezo or Thiago Santos.
That’s a hate that’s been with me for two years and seeing Gruezo out there in San Jose colors is gonna remind me of it.