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.
Look, let’s all agree that last week was crummy. Not only did FC Dallas lose the game in LA, but it also seemed that there were greater forces arrayed against them. When…
- you get three VAR reviews that go against you — all of which were correct, by the way,
- you have the opposition’s best player literally get off a plane from Africa, head straight for the stadium, and score the winning goal at an amazing angle through the legs of the center back and keeper
- you have the referee only signal five minutes of second-half stoppage when he certainly should’ve signaled 10,
…well, you can only conclude that it just ain’t gonna be your night.
Oh, and how can I forget… when one of your starting center midfielders misses the match for “personal reasons” because his super-famous fiancée learned about his sending nekkid pictures to a random woman that he met in a club in Madrid, it really isn’t gonna be your night.
Thank God all that’s behind us.
EL SUPERCLÁSICO DEL SIGLO (de la semana)
St. Louis City vs. Minnesota United (MLS Season Pass, 7:30)
It seems like St. Louis has been making an appearance more often than not in this column, but to be honest, being 5-0-0 in your first five games ever as a club will tend to have that effect. And let’s be real, would you rather I were writing about LAFC or Seattle? Of course not.
Another thing that has happened more often than not is that I’ve been writing something to the effect of “Oh, this week is when they get got.” Nope. And one reason for that is that more often than not, an opposing defender has been willing to pass the ball straight to one of their attacking players in a rather unfortunate part of the field. Austin did it in the opener, Charlotte did it a few weeks ago, and Salt Lake did it last week. (By the way, losing 4-0 at home to an expansion team? Way to send folks home happy, Salt Lake.)
And here I am again, ready to get burned again by one of St. Louis’ opponents by foolishly proclaiming this the week where the Toasted Ravioli Enthusiasts finally get got. (I’m still workshopping the nickname.) But I’m not gonna do it, partially because I’m a smart guy who only needed three or four times touching the stove before I finally learned.
The other reason is that they’re playing the Loons. Look, I’ve got nothing against the fine people of Minnesota. But their local professional men’s soccer team is garbage. And the head garbageman is Adrian Heath, a walking throwback to a bygone era of American soccer.
Back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, all sorts of English people came over to America to teach us benighted people the ways of association football, sneer at us for using their term “soccer” to refer to the game and make good money playing and coaching the game in the NASL.
Then, after the league died, they somehow managed to stick around in the country, making good money coaching youth teams and running youth camps. And as a result, American soccer was plagued by ideas about how the game should be played that came from English people who taught the game when the English game was at its zenith and its most unwatchable.
Anyway, Heath didn’t play in the NASL. He didn’t coach in the NASL. But he’s nonetheless a throwback. His origin story is straight out of the NASL:
I don’t want to sound like Paul Gardner, but really? This soccer nation needed a return to this sort of nonsense? But we got it, and now, MLS is plagued with his brand of kick and rush coaching in Minnesota.
Jefe the Hater’s rooting pick: St. Louis. They already got the record, so let’s get nuts.
Little Brother Game of the Week
San Jose Earthquakes vs. Houston Dynamo (Apple TV+, 9:30)
Austin is off this week, which means two things:
- The number of people streaming the FCD game will be higher. 3rd Degree is the #1 source for FCD news and analysis, but the Austin fan sites are #2.
- Houston slides into the Little Brother slot by default.
This was once a slight rivalry 15 years ago or so. Houston got the relocated Earthquakes in 2006, fresh off MLS Cups in 2001 and 2003 and a Supporters Shield in 2005, and proceeded to win MLS Cups in 2006 and 2007. This was an endless source of “born on third base and thought they hit a triple” jokes around the league and an endless source of bitterness in the South Bay among fans who rightfully saw the team that was stolen from them having success elsewhere.
So when the Quakes returned in 2008, their fans circled the date on their calendars when their current team would face off against “their old team.” Of course, the new Quakes have spent most of the last 15 years being terrible and the Dynamo joined them in terribleness over the last 10 years, so any heat in this game quickly cooled off.
But in the year 2023, this game can be called the Failing Upward Derby. Both teams feature new coaches, one of whom presided over the decline of the once-mighty DC United for a decade and the other who led FC Dallas to their second-worst season in club history. And yet, here we are, with both guys somehow not out in the coaching wilderness for very long before landing new head coaching gigs.
And here’s the real upset: Both teams are actually not terrible at the moment! And both of them are actually above the playoff line at the moment, if you care about that five games into the season. Now, neither has shown that they’re actually good, but it’s good to acknowledge progress, amirite?
Should you as an FCD fan actually watch this game? Maybe. If you want to look in and see how our old friends Luchi Gonzalez and Carlos Gruezo are doing, sure. If you want to keep tabs on our pals from Houston, I guess so. But we’ll get to a better game in that time slot in a moment.
Jefe the Hater’s rooting pick: San Jose, of course. Even if they weren’t employing Luchi and Carlos.
“Let’s Pretend to Care About the Eastern Conference” Game of the Week
Chicago Fire vs. DC United (MLS Season Pass, 7:30)
Did you know that the Minnesota Golden Gophers were the national champions of college football in 1960? Did you know that it was the most recent of six national championships that they’ve won in college football, which is a tally that is greater than many programs that we today consider to be “blue-bloods”?
In a completely unrelated story, the Chicago Fire and DC United face off on Saturday night at (pause to check the location) Soldier Field. These two teams were two of the biggest monsters of the first decade or so of Major League Soccer.
DC won MLS Cup in 1996, 1999, and 2004, the Supporters Shield in 1997, 1999, 2006, and 2007, and the US Open Cup in 1996 and 2008. Chicago won MLS Cup in 1998, the Supporters Shield in 2003, and the US Open Cup in 1998, 2000, 2003, and 2006.
I don’t know if this is a correlation or coincidence, but the two clubs have won a grand total of one trophy since the inauguration of Barack Obama as President in 2009, but a combined five Wooden Spoons. Still, an unironic “Thanks, Obama.” (Amusingly, that one trophy was DC United’s 2013 US Open Cup, which they won the same year they won the Wooden Spoon.)
But since this is throwback week in the Hatewatching Guide, put on your favorite teal shirt, crank up the Spice Girls, walk to a gate at the airport without needing a ticket, then turn on this game.
Is either team worth watching in this, the year 2023? Oh no. They’re 12th and 13th in the Eastern Conference at the moment, a very familiar position for them over the last 15 years. And this year appears doesn’t appear to be a dramatic departure from that pattern. But nothing embodies the spirit of Jack Donaghy’s “Make it 1997 again through science or magic” pie chart better than this tweet:
Think about where this league is now and where this league was “DC was good” and ask yourself the following question: In what possible way was the league better 15 years ago than it is now?
These are the good old days, y’all.
Jefe the Hater’s rooting pick: Draw, after which both teams’ fans can tell themselves and their children and grandchildren about when their teams were good back in the day.
Bumfight of the Week
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. CF Montreal (MLS Season Pass, 9:30)
Vancouver and Montreal, located at opposite ends of Canada, seem so different in many respects. Yet, they have at least one thing in common: They are completely secondary characters in Canada’s Toronto-centric media culture.
MLS isn’t too different in that respect. Toronto FC has been feted as one of the league’s most important and “ambitious” clubs, while these two are most forgotten until either one wins the Canadian Championship — a store-brand US Open Cup — and qualifies for the CONCACAF Champions League.
Of course, it’s easier to ignore you when you stink. And both of these teams stink. Vancouver’s under the playoff line in the West, while Montreal is at the very bottom of the East, each with three points after five games.
And yet, if you’re at home late on a Saturday night, if you’re someone who would spend his Saturday night watching MLS on Apple TV+, and you want to watch some disgusting soccer, this is the game for you.
Your other alternative is the San Jose-Houston game, and sure, that game’s got Cade Cowell and Carlos Gruezo and Hector Herrera and their teammates doing competent things. But at 9:30 on a Saturday night, you’re not wanting that, you pervert. VAN/MON is the game you want.
So get a bottle of cheap hooch, pour yourself a nice, tall glass, tune in, and get ready for a soccer horror show. Or go out on a Saturday night, like a normal human being. Your choice.
Jefe the Hater’s rooting pick: Montreal. Extra points if you can remember who their coach is this week.
Good Guys Game of the Week
FC Dallas vs. Portland Timbers (Apple TV+, 7:30)
To wrap up throwback week, we have this matchup of one of MLS original clubs against one that claims that they were founded in 1975. Personally, I’m a little skeptical about that claim. Let’s have a look at the Portland Timbers disambiguation page on Wikipedia:
Please note a couple of things here.
- First, the phrase “four distinct professional soccer teams.”
- Second, the gaps.
The original team lasted from 1975 to 1982. Then after the NASL died, three years passed before another team named “Portland Timbers” played in the alphabet soup of beer-money soccer leagues of time. That team lasted until 1990. And then, another 11 years passed until we got another “Portland Timbers,” which we’ve had ever since.
The point here is that the original Timbers were born 48 years ago. In the last 48 years, there have been 12 years (1983, 1984, 1991-2000) without a “Portland Timbers” in existence — a quarter of that time.
I guess what I’m saying is that they’re a fraud when they claim that they were founded in 1975. They’re like this Mustang Mach-E from Ford:
That car is a fine car but it is not a Mustang:
Does the fact that the current Timbers were actually founded in 2001 make them any less of a club? Of course not. In fact, the current Timbers have done something that the original Timbers never did: Win a championship and play in two other finals.
Maybe FC Dallas should start counting the years of the Dallas Tornado as their history as well. Sure, there were those 20 years between the end of the Tornado and the Hunts’ acquiring the Burn, but hey, the same family-owned both teams. That’s gotta count for something!
And if means the return of the goal monkey, so much better.