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.
The first round had more chalk than the weight rack at your local gym. Both #2’s won, both #3’s won, and the #4’s? Well, at least the Galaxy won.
Yes, folks, we’re gonna laugh at the Red Bulls one last time for 2022. If I were to tell you that a team played at home 17 times in a given season and that they won only six times, you’d probably guess that that team was garbage, right?
Well, that was the Red Bulls in 2022 and they finished fourth in the East and were cursed with a home playoff game because they were awesome on the road. So we shouldn’t be surprised that they lost and were the only home team to lose, or that they blew a 1-0 lead late in the second half in the process.
And FC Cincinnati, which had only ever finished at the bottom of the Eastern Conference in every season of their existence, are now statistically The Greatest Playoff Team in MLS History: One game, one win, a perfect record.
At the other end of the scale, the New York Red Bulls (née MetroStars), who have made the playoffs more than anyone else in league history, 23 times in their 27 years of existence, will be going for their first MLS Cup title on their 28th try in 2023.
Speaking of ingloriously blown leads, let’s give some love to Real Salt Lake. It was going to take something special to blow a 2-0 lead, even on the road. Fortunately for all of the assembled suburbanites and gentrifiers at Q2 Stadium, RSL gave them some special.
First, Rubio Rubin, you are officially the dumbest player in the league. Your teammates had already blown half of that 2-0 lead, you’re already carrying a yellow, and you decide to go in hard on Brad Stuver, 100 yards away from your own goal? You are a moron.
And Pablo Mastroeni… nice job. I’m already predisposed to calling him incompetent, so I appreciate his efforts in affirming that belief. Here’s a quick reminder: The guy that got himself run? He’s a forward. If he were a defender, yanking a forward and replacing him with a defender would make total sense. What doesn’t make sense after one forward gets sent off is to replace the other forward — the guy that’s scored both of your goals — with a defender, leaving your team completely toothless going forward. And yet, Mastroeni did that. Thanks for nothing, Pablo.
Finally, we learned Alan Velasco must be incredibly strong to carry around such enormous brass balls at all times.
Eastern Conference: #1 Philadelphia vs. #5 Cincinnati (FS1, 7:00)
This is the sort of game that I love in MLS, a game that you just don’t get in most other soccer leagues.
Philly’s probably been the best team of the last four seasons, winning a Supporters Shield in 2020 and finishing level on points with the winners in 2022. And yet, to win the championship this season, they will have to beat a team that finished bottom of the league their entire existence until an outburst of competence this season.
Other people don’t like this. They’ll tell you that it’s an utter travesty that Cincy is even in the top division this season, that Cincy should’ve been relegated years ago, that MLS is rewarding mediocrity. They’ll use terms like “cartel” and “closed system” and “corruption.” They’ll even go so far as to imply or outright state that fans of MLS teams are not “real” fans of the game because they support such an abomination.
Those people are utter dorks and should be ignored and marginalized. They are the first cousins of the people who will fact check the Marvel films and tell you that those films are not true to the comic books because some scene is in conflict with a 1974 issue of The Avengers. Their other first cousins are people who get very upset that a Black actress was cast as Ariel in the live action remake of The Little Mermaid.
They’re people who lose sight of one simple fact: Professional soccer, like all professional sports, reside in the toy box of life. The point is to have fun. Games like this are fun. And the possibility that a team as good as Philly could get bounced by the likes of Cincy? That’s a feature, not a bug. It makes games like this fun.
If you want to get mad that we’re playing with our toys differently than the kids on the next block play with their toys, be my guest. You can stay mad. You can die mad. In the meantime, we’ll enjoy ourselves.
Jefe the Hater’s rooting pick: Cincinnati, because I like having a little chaos in the toy box.
LAFC vs. LA Galaxy (FS1, 9:00)
One of the things that I’ve enjoyed about the 2022 season, other than the fact that FCD has been pretty good, has been Los Angeles Football Club. No, not the actual on-field team. Specifically, I’ve enjoyed how prematurely everybody, including LAFC themselves, have crowned them.
In the days before Chielini and Bale joined the team, when they were running off win after win, I heard an FS1 commentator use the words “greatest team in league history.” And as discussed in this column, as recently as seven games before the end of the season, the club’s social media was openly suggesting that a regular season points record was on its way.
A funny thing happened to LAFC’s date with immortality: They turned out to be mortal.
They got knocked out of the Open Cup rather early, and if it hadn’t been for an improbable 4-0 win by CLT FC over the Union in the penultimate game of the season, they likely wouldn’t have won the Supporters Shield either.
And I mention the Open Cup for a reason, namely that LAFC was ejected from the Open Cup in the Round of 16 by Thursday night’s opponent, the LA Galaxy. Combined with the fact that the Gals split the league matchups with their downtown rivals, they would seem to have the edge in El Tráfico for this season. And there is nothing that the Gals would love more than to be the ones to end the MLS Cup dreams of Sons of Chivas USA.
In that quest, we as FCD fans have common cause with them. If they win and FCD wins in Austin, the Western Conference Final would take place at Toyota Stadium. And of course, we’d get another opportunity to loudly mock the hubris of LAFC.
Jefe the Hater’s rooting pick: LA Galaxy, because part-time player Gareth Bale deserves nothing more than to have his season end early to start scouting all the Qatari golf courses.
Eastern Conference: #2 Montreal vs. #3 NYCFC (ESPN, noon)
I didn’t write a whole lot about last weekend’s first-round game between Montreal and Orlando. First, because this column is pretty unashamed about its pro-Pareja bias. Second, because honestly, I’ve got no beef with Montreal.
Honestly, CF Montréal offends me less than most teams in this league. Yes, they had an utterly comical rebrand, but who amongst us hasn’t had one of those? They’re not flashy, but they are well-run, they make good acquisitions below the radar, and they just win and win a lot. I respect that.
I also respect that their fans aren’t simps. When said comical rebrand took place, those fans were the first to tell them how bad it was.
So I couldn’t really wind up the hate for them, and if they had to be the ones to knock out Papi, so be it.
Their opponents? Yes, I can wind up the hate for them. They are the North American branch of an Emirati sportswashing operation with branches in Manchester, New York, Melbourne, Montevideo, Yokohama, and elsewhere. They’re run as the farm club for the Manchester branch. They’ve got actual-factual white supremacists fan groups at their games. The priority list for their actual home stadium appears to be as follows:
- A baseball stadium
- Another baseball stadium
- An actual soccer stadium
The soccer stadium is 3rd on the list because it happens to be in New Jersey, which brings me one of the most hatable things about NYCFC: Their origin story.
They exist because some entitled New Yorkers couldn’t condescend to getting on the PATH train and head over to Harrison to watch live professional soccer.
Look, I get it. It takes a hot minute. And yeah, I know, you don’t like Red Bull and don’t want to support the soccer team that Red Bull owns. You know who else forces their fans to spend a hot minute getting to the stadium to watch a team owned by a team that the fans don’t really like? EVERY OTHER TEAM IN THE LEAGUE.
So it seems fitting that those clowns are consigned to watching Manchester City’s AAA team at an ever-changing home stadium which is usually one of two local large baseball stadiums, surrounded by their fellow clowns, some of whom might be neo-Nazis.
2Pac had an immortal line in his diss track “Hit ‘Em Up” about Mobb Deep, Biggie Smalls, and Bad Boy Records. I’m not quoting it because Buzz lets me drop some four-letter words in this column, but not the one the in that particular lyric, so you’ll have to google it. But it pretty much sums up how I feel about New York City FC. They’re a bigger embarrassment to this league than Chivas USA was.
Jefe the Hater’s rooting pick: Montreal, because their hatability might be just as high but at least it’s in French, which I don’t speak.
Western Conference: #2 Austin vs. #3 FCD (ESPN, 7:00)
Here’s the thing about Austin FC: The team isn’t that hatable on the field. They’re fun to watch, they score a bunch of goals, and they even have former FCD (and Houston and Montreal and Portland and Toronto) fan favorite Maxi Urruti in the squad. And hey, they had a great turnaround from last season. That’s always a great story!
It’s just that they’re surrounded by more jackassery than can be adequately summed up in one column.
Let’s start with the owner, who was originally Columbus’ owner until he decided that he wanted to be Austin’s owner, so he tried to Rachel Phelps the Crew out of Columbus (Seriously, watch Major League. You’ll be glad you did.) until the Crew fans and the people of Columbus had the temerity to make that very difficult for him and the league, which resulted in his selling the Crew, and getting an expansion in Austin. And I don’t usually have much love for San Antonio, but they were done dirty.
And let’s move on to the city. Austin sucks. It used to not suck, but it sucks. Hard. “Keep Austin Weird” used to be a vibe, now it’s trademarked. The city itself has turned into a crappier version of Houston or Dallas, with more expensive housing, worse traffic, worse food, and way too many 1%er dipshits making the place even worse. As America has gotten more diverse, Austin is actually getting less diverse. It is where Alex Jones started and where Elon Musk has landed.
That city has given birth to the corniest, the cringiest, the tryhardiest fanbase in all of North American professional sports. Members of this fanbase came to Frisco when they thought they were getting the Crew to support “their future team,” they brag about how much they had to pay for playoff tickets, they make t-shirts that commemorate the preseason predictions of MLSsoccer.com writers who predicted bad things for them, they will unironically call the shopping center across Burnet Road from their suburban stadium “a second downtown,” they lifted the oh-so-biting “FC Frisco” from Houston fans without the self-awareness to realize that their home stadium is closer to Pflugerville than to downtown Austin.
Gentrification FC’s fanbase is if you took “social media influencer” and turned it into a fanbase. They don’t know shit about soccer, they didn’t give a shit about soccer until they thought that they could steal the Crew, and they are every bit as plastic as their hometown. (Well, not their hometown per se, since they all live in Round Rock and Wells Branch and Pflugerville and Leander and other Not Austin towns in central Texas, but you get the idea.)
I know a few former FCD fans who live in the Austin area who jumped ship to the Vurrdee and Black. They’re cool. I kinda feel bad for them that I’m going to be rooting for FCD to inflict pain and suffering on them on Sunday night.
But the rest of the dipshits around them? Bring the pain, baby.
Unleash the Jesús Ferreira golazo bonanza. Turn their team into a meme. Give me the crowd shots of people in green looking very, very sad. Bring on the Galaxy or Sons of Chivas USA.