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.
This is really the play-in round, but MLS calls it the “Wild Card” round, so sure, I’ll call it that. If the NCAA and their band of lawyers, who can only really enforce trademarks and screw college kids, didn’t exist, we could call it the “First Four,” but alas.
Maybe call it the Crappy Cuatro.
Eastern Conference Wild Card
New York Red Bulls vs. Charlotte FC (MLS Season Pass, Wednesday at 6:30)
These two teams have a few things in common:
- They’ve never won MLS Cup.
- They play their home games in front of thousands of empty seats.
- They were both on the outside of the playoffs a week ago and got in on the strength of improbable Decision Day wins, combined with CF Montréal’s loss in Columbus.
But that’s where the similarities end.
The Red Bulls have a long and mostly hilarious history dating from Day One of Major League Soccer and have had over the course of that history such star power as Roberto Donadoni, Branco, Lothar Matthäus, and Thierry Henry. They’ve made the playoffs 14 straight years. That’s half of the team’s existence! They’ve also given MLS fans one of the most beloved memes in league history, Metro Playoff Fever.
Charlotte FC, on the other hand, is utterly forgettable. Quick, name a player or coach. I bet you can’t. If you can, you probably have a Bojangles location close to your house and can get Cheerwine without smuggling it across state lines. They’re located in a city whose entire vibe is “bank branch,” they’ve got an utterly generic “FC” branding that is identical to that of half the league (including our beloved team), their uniforms are intended to remind you of the NFL team with whom they share a stadium, and even their mascot is generic… a soccer ball wearing a crown and cape.
Who do I want to win? I have no idea. Does it really matter? The reward for winning this game is to get ham-blasted by your newly-crowned Supporters Shield winners FC Cincinnati in the next round.
Jefe the Hater’s rooting pick: Red Bulls.
Western Conference Wild Card
Sporting Kansas City vs. San Jose Earthquakes (MLS Season Pass, 8:30)
The really great thing about this game is that FC Dallas isn’t in it. Despite spending the last several weeks in either eighth or ninth, Bernie Kamungo’s going Beast Mode on the Galaxy, combined with Little Brother Orange’s win in Portland, lifted FCD out of this game and into seventh.
The really bad thing is of course that Sporting Kansas City is in it. I haven’t confirmed this, but I’m pretty sure that this is literally the first time in the entirety of the 2023 Major League Soccer season that they were in a playoff position.
Peter Vermes just mirrored a lot of the classes in my college career. I too was below the pass/fail line for most of the semester and only got above it at the very end.
This is annoying to me because I personally believe that Major League Soccer is much better when Sporting Kansas City stinks. Not only did they qualify for the playoff at the very end, but they managed to make it into eighth place, so they’ll be hosting this game across the street from the Nebraska Furniture Mart.
It’s extra annoying because of how badly SKC teased us. We all saw the video! Johnny Russell was looking so defeated after their 10th game without a win to start the season!
But enough about those clowns and their Lazarus cosplay. The Quakes could’ve been hosting this game if they had managed to hold down a 1-0 lead at home to Little Brother Green. A Luchi Gonzalez-led team unable to hold down a lead? That doesn’t bring back any bad memories of 2021 AT ALL.
At least we got some good comedy out of that game:
The winner of this game will get to play St. Louis City in the next round. And while the dorks at MLS headquarters, most prominently Andrew Wiebe, are gonna be shaking their baby blue pom-poms to get a St. Louis-Kansas City matchup, all of us MLS fans with taste know that SKC deserves nothing good.
Jefe the Hater’s rooting pick: San Jose, of course.