The FCD fan’s guide to hatewatching: Sat & Sun MLS Playoffs, 1st Round, Game 1

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.

Musical accompaniment

Last week

There were two games in the Play-In Wild Card Round on Wednesday night. Fortunately, neither featured FC Dallas. I’d like to thank Charlotte FC and the San Jose Earthquakes for their participation, however brief, in the 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs.

If I may offer a little bit of constructive feedback to both teams, it would be “Don’t let your opponents score every time they come down into your end of the field” to Charlotte FC, and “Try to put some shots on target” to the San Jose Earthquakes.

Good talk.

Now onto the actual playoffs. From here on in, all the games are free on Apple TV+, and if you’re so inclined, some of those games will also be on FS1. Be sure to check in on American soccer’s Uncle-Who-Will-Definitely-Say-Some-Wild-Shit-at-Thanksgiving-Dinner Alexi Lalas.


East #4 Philadelphia Union vs. East #5 New England Revolution (Apple TV+ free game, 4:00)

I’m not doing categories for the playoffs, but if I did, this playoff series would be a stone-cold lead-pipe lock for the Most Bitey Playoff Series.

First of all, Philly is involved. There’s always an outside chance that Jim Curtin might get off a shot or two at the Revs. Remember when he called the Red Bulls “little brother” during the season? And of course, Philly fans will be as welcoming as they always are.

Second, and most importantly, these two teams met on Decision Day, so we’ll definitely have three straight games between these two and maybe a fourth if this series goes three. And it’s a 4-5 series, so “going three games” is a safe bet.

Familiarity breeds contempt, y’all.

Jefe the Hater’s rooting pick: New England. Screw Philly.

West #3 Los Angeles FC vs. West #6 Vancouver Whitecaps (Apple TV+ free game, 7:00)

For me, the funniest part of this series is writing “West #3” next to LAFC’s name. It’s like when Roberto Donadoni played for the MetroStars back in the days when all MLS teams rode in coach on commercial flights. I’m sure they think it’s beneath their station!

But like the Philly-New England series, this is a matchup of two teams that met on Decision Day and so it will be three, and maybe four, straight games.

Will it be as bitey? I don’t know. It is a matchup of contrasts:

  • One of MLS’ glamour teams vs. “Oh yeah, Vancouver is in the league, aren’t they?”
  • Vancouver’s soccer tradition that dates back to the mid-1970s vs. the Southern California Not-the-Galaxy tradition that dates back to the mid-2000s
  • Hollywood vs. the place where half the shows on TV are actually shot.
  • Socialist Vanni Sartini vs. the most richy-rich team in Major League Soccer.
Batman is a story of how a billionaire deals with unresolved trauma by beating the tar out of people with unresolved trauma.
Batman is a story of how a billionaire deals with unresolved trauma by beating the tar out of people with unresolved trauma.

Let’s face it, Bruce Wayne would pal around with his billionaire buddies who own LAFC in a luxury suite at Gotham Stadium when LAFC came to town. Meanwhile, Clark Kent is almost certainly a Sporting Kansas City fan. And that’s why DC sucks.

Jefe the Hater’s rooting pick: Vancouver. Don’t ask me who Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, and Peter Parker would root for.


West #4 Houston Dynamo vs. West #5 Real Salt Lake (Apple TV+ free game, 5:00)

This matchup is the “We Heard You Were Talking Some Shit” series.

Look, I’ve made lots of gratuitous mean comments about Ben Olsen and Pablo Mastroeni this season… and last season… and in previous seasons on social media and message boards and so on when I didn’t have a weekly column at 3rd Degree to do so. (Obligatory: Pay the Buzz.)

But we’re sitting here at playoff time right now, and these clowns have their team in a 4-5 matchup and one of them has already bagged some silverware in 2023 and will be in the 2024 CONCACAF Champions Cup. Meanwhile, FCD, with its Definitely-Not-a-Dummy coach, is down in 7th.

Little Brother Orange vexes me. They’ve been a clown team for years — Open Cup a few years ago notwithstanding — and then they hire a coach who had an uneven record in his previous gig, and now suddenly they’re decent and people are calling them “fun to watch.” Of course, it helps that Héctor Herrera has decided to stop being 30 kinds of ass and that Coco Carrasquilla has been a little more beastly this season, but still I feel ripped off.

I was ready for the sort of never-ending comedy that we’ve gotten from Little Brother Green, and here I am now having to resort to cracks about the loose gatherings of fans at BBVA Compass BBVA PNC Shell Energy Stadium. Do better, Orange! And by “better,” I mean “worse”!

Jefe the Hater’s rooting pick: Salt Lake, of course. The nice thing about the playoffs is that you don’t have to be strategic in your rooting.

East #1 FC Cincinnati vs. East #8 New York Red Bulls (FS1 and Apple TV+ free game, 7:00)

This will be the first of the games between the #1 seeds and the winner of the play-in game.

In the playoff setup in the bygone year of 2022, FC Cincinnati wouldn’t have to leave Porkopolis for the rest of the year, win, lose, or draw. But next week, they’ll have to travel to New Jersey like a Springsteen groupie for Game 2.

“Ah… but what if we gave you a Red Bulls or Charlotte FC team that had just played four days earlier and made them travel to your place?”

So here we are, with the Red Bulls having dropped a piano on CLTFC on Wednesday night in suburban Newark and gotten to celebrate for roughly 15 minutes before they got to think about the buzzsaw that they’re gonna face in Cincinnati.

One might be sympathetic towards the Red Bulls, but then again, if one had any sympathy for the New York Red Bulls, it might be for the fact that they are the unloved marketing vehicle sports property of Red Bull GmbH.

Forget getting the same sorts of resources that RB Leipzig gets. Forget getting the same sorts of resources that Red Bull Racing. Forget getting the same sorts of resources that Red Bull Salzburg gets… Well, let’s not go down the entire list here. Suffice it to say that the New York Red Bulls are probably somewhere between Red Bull Flugtag and those spokesmodels that you see on every college campus in terms of Red Bull’s financial priorities.

The reason why the New York Red Bulls aren't signing anyone (Courtesy
The reason why the New York Red Bulls aren’t signing anyone (Courtesy

The New York Red Bulls will probably made to fly coach to Cincy and made to stay at a Motel 6 before FCC puts them into a meat grinder and turns them into goetta.

Jefe the Hater’s rooting pick: New York, because it would be funny as hell if they were the instrument of the fulfillment of the Supporters Shield Curse.

West #1 St. Louis City vs. West #8 Sporting Kansas City (FS1 and Apple TV+ free game, 9:00)

Congratulations, St. Louis City! You are one of the best expansion teams in this league’s history, so as your reward, you get to face your rivals from across the state — err, the next state over — who have been playing better than you the last 20 games or so at 9:00 at night on a Sunday night. And then, you’ll get to face that team again in a week in their house!

I’m still not sure how St. Louis finished top of the West this year. Oh yeah, I know: It’s because pretty much every other team in the West was in the fat part of the bell curve. No one was very good, and no one was all that bad. (Except you, Colorado. You were terrible.)

We had a big ole laugh at the Galaxy, who finished 13th out of 14, but here’s the deal: They were only eight points out of playing in the play-in game on Wednesday night. If their defense had been merely serviceable, instead of downright awful, they might’ve been in the playoffs.

So yes, St. Louis. Congratulations on being the top turd on the dungheap. You might be getting the one team in the Western Conference who’s playing well right now, but consider it karmic justice after coasting through a season in which even the defending Supporters Shield and MLS Cup winners LAFC smelled a little bit bad and in which multiple teams gave you the winning goals against them.

This was Opening Day, y’all.

Now, am I saying that St. Louis is ripe for an upset? Maybe. But I sure as hell don’t want it to come from those assclowns from Kansas City.

Jefe the Hater’s rooting pick: St. Louis. I mean, just because I don’t believe in them doesn’t mean that I don’t want them to win.

Monday & Wednesday Playoff Hatewatching coming soon…

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