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.
Sometimes, when a goalscorer is in a slump, they just need one to get back in the groove. A cross might ricochet off their ass into the net, and it’ll be good enough. That’s kind of how I look at the game in Ft. Lauderdale this past Saturday night.
Was it pretty? Absolutely not. Did it come with an extra helping of good fortune? Absolutely.
But this team hadn’t had a clean sheet in 12 matches dating back to last season, so a 1-0 win in which Inter Miami squandered chance after chance and VAR — for once — decided not to bone FCD with a dubious late penalty was good enough. Take the three points and move on.
EL SUPERCLÁSICO DEL SIGLO (de la semana)
LAFC vs. LA Galaxy (Fox, Sunday at 3:30)
This weekend features both this game and Portland-Seattle. And while I generally cast a skeptical eye toward the games that the league office wants to hype, I am going with this game for this slot for a few reasons:
- This a now-uncommon Sunday afternoon game, which MLS should have more of. The alternatives — actually spending time with friends and family and doing other more interesting and productive things — have been too awful to bear.
- This matchup has produced some delightfully stupid games in its brief history.
- LAFC is the defending champion, is cruising into the CCL semifinals, is undefeated in league play, and is generally humming like a well-oiled machine. Meanwhile, the Galaxy are winless, are 13th in the West at the moment, and are a model of dysfunction.
That last point may sound like this is not going to be compelling TV. It sounds like it’s a candidate for Snuff Film of the Week, but this is a rivalry game, and this is MLS, so it’s tailor-made for something dumb and unpredictable to happen.
The Galaxy are desperate right now. The fans hate their management, and even Greg Vanney, who is normally buttoned-down and professional in public settings, cut loose in front of the media this week. Props to fellow native Texan Charles Boehm for recognizing the importance of watching out for bovine excrement:
I have a soft spot for Greg Vanney. He’s a former FCD player, he was a real pro as a player, and as a manager, he turned Toronto FC into something other than the backfiring clown car that it had been for most of existence.
And it’s gotta be tough to return to a former team, to preside over a backfiring clown car, and to be winless in your first six games of the season, while your crosstown rivals are literally doing everything right at the moment. So I’m rooting for him.
Jefe the Hater’s rooting pick: LA Galaxy. Plus it would just be plain funny if they got their first win of the season while handing LAFC their first loss of the season.
Little Brother Game of the Week
Austin FC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (MLS Season Pass, 7:30)
It’s a perpetual joke among those of us who follow MLS that Vancouver is the most forgotten team in the league. But it’s funny because it’s true. They play all their home games — like the other West Coast teams — late at night when only sickos and degenerates and gamblers are watching. But unfortunately for them, they share a time zone with four other teams who win stuff (No, not you, San Jose) and they don’t win stuff other than the Canuckistani knockoff of the US Open Cup.
So… nobody watches them and they’re forgotten. Their biggest moment as an MLS club was selling Alphonso Davies to Bayern Munich. Hell, FCD played them a few weeks ago and I struggle to remember any of their players. Whenever I’m forced to write about them in this column, I usually crack wise about their coach’s attire.
But I’m an idiot who writes mean things on the Internet. Surely, other smarter people have more intelligent things to write about them:
Huh. I guess not.
Jefe the Hater’s rooting pick: Vancouver. I hope that What’s-His-Name runs wild all over a team that I did not even refer to by name this week.
“Let’s Pretend to Care About the Eastern Conference” Game of the Week
Columbus Crew vs. New England Revolution (Apple TV+, 6:30)
If anyone asks why I love this league, I tell them it’s for a few reasons.
First, I don’t need to pay for an international flight to watch their games in person. Second, you don’t have to get up at the ass-crack of dawn to watch their games on TV. Third, you don’t have as many of your fellow Americans watching it who try to impress no one in particular by using words like “mate” and “arse” and “gaffer” while watching it.
But most importantly, it’s because it’s so dang unpredictable because the talent differential between teams is so thin.
Take New England. They won the Supporters Shield in 2021. They finished outside of the playoffs in 2022. And so far in 2023, they’re second in the Eastern Conference and cookin’ with Crisco.
Or take Columbus. Champs in 2020, two straight seasons out of the playoffs in 2021 and 2022, and now fourth in the East after hiring a coach that you’d have been damn foolish to let go.
And here both teams are, in what is probably the best game of the weekend. If it weren’t for actual rivalry games being played this weekend, I would’ve put them in the previous slot, but this is one that you’re gonna want to watch, either live (if you can) or later (if you can jump through all the hoops on the Apple TV+ app).
Jefe the Hater’s rooting pick: Columbus, by a whisker, mostly because I enjoy it when a coach has success after his previous employer let him walk and then hired Hernán Losada. Plus, a Columbus victory would increase the odds of a catty comment about Columbus by Bruce Arena.
Bumfight of the Week
Charlotte FC vs. Colorado Rapids (Apple TV+, 6:30)
The other thing about MLS’ rather thin talent differential is that a bad team can pick up a few victories and suddenly, they’re in the playoff hunt. That’s about how it went for CLTFC in their inaugural season.
Their first coach, Miguel Angel Ramírez, talked preseason about how crappy his team was and got fired 14 games into it with 16 points after he allegedly lost the locker room.
Interim coach Christian Lattanzio did a creditable job, then got them another 26 points in the final 20 games, which put them at 42 points and ninth place in the East, six points out of a playoff spot. And they did that by getting results by hook or by crook and by being hard to beat.
Not bad for an expansion team in its inaugural season and with a salary outlay that was one of the lowest in the league.
Of course, they’re still not very good, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that when a few results don’t go their way, they’re 14th in the East after seven games. Being “hard to beat” is not a permanent condition. Other teams have coaches who’ll figure you out, and ultimately, you have to have players that can render opposing coaches’ game plans null and void.
Their opponents have been light-spending, had whatever success they’ve had by being hard to beat, and usually finishing just outside the playoffs for over 25 years. Their opponents likewise are owned by someone who also cares a lot more about his other teams in town, and likewise also wears another local team’s colors. And their opponents likewise also only have a single win this season.
So when the Soccer Panthers host the Soccer Avalanche on Saturday night, it will likely be a soccer vulgarity that should not be televised at all but will be televised, because of contracts and stuff. But you don’t have to watch it.
Jefe the Hater’s rooting pick: Charlotte, because the Rapids are a Western Conference rival and can suck it.
Good Guys Game of the Week
FC Dallas vs. Real Salt Lake (MLS Season Pass, 7:30)
This game will be a confrontation of styles. By that, I mean this:
FC Dallas Head Coach Nico Estévez is a student of the game with a keen tactical mind and a clear vision of how the game should be played. It is not always successful, but it propelled FCD to third place in the Western Conference in 2022 and has them in fourth thus far in 2023.
Real Salt Lake Head Coach Pablo Mastroeni has a different approach:
Look, I’ll be straight with y’all. I don’t really want a coach who I feel is bullshitting his way through a job interview. I’ll put up with a lot, mind you. I’ve heard some pretty outrageous quotes come tumbling out of coaches’ mouths over the years. I’ve heard defenses of rather indefensible tactical decisions. I’ve grandiosity. I’ve heard players being thrown under buses.
But I’ve never seen any coach embrace the “fake it til you make it” philosophy more than Pablo Mastroeni.
Does it work? I dunno. He made the playoffs once in four seasons in Colorado, but he made it in 2021 and 2022 in Salt Lake. People who are paid to write deep thoughts about soccer are often left befuddled when confronted with his team’s successes, resorting to phrases like “xDAWG” and “tactics-free zone.”
In the end, his team often resembles him as a player: A general pain-in-the-ass who annoys and pesters you and gets you to make a mistake. He was a prime practitioner of Hack-A-Ferreira in the 2010 MLS Cup Final and one should expect that he’ll have his charges attempt to do the same on Saturday night with David Ferreira’s son.
But in the end, he’s a half-wit and his team’s xDAWG needs to put down like xOLD YELLER.