For American sports fans, March is a month usually devoted to college basketball and spring training baseball. But for some special weirdos out there, March means Major League Soccer. I’m not going to lie, I’ve never given a shit about MLS. Maybe it’s because I live in Atlanta and there’s no local team to support. Maybe it’s because there are literally dozens of superior leagues going on all over the world to follow instead. Maybe it’s because I’m a hipster Europhile douchebag and I secretly hate America. Maybe it’s all of the above. But now that I’m a serious Internet journalist, I’ve decided that this year I’m actually going to give a shit. Or at least try really hard to give a shit.
With this series, I’m going to attempt to chronicle my journey down the MLS rabbit hole. Hopefully by the time I reach wonderland, I’ll be a full-fledged fan of some team or other. But which team will it be?
Since MLS for whatever reason hates the southeast, there’s nobody to choose on a purely geographic basis. The closest MLS city is Columbus, nine fucking hours away. The next closest are DC at ten and Houston at twelve. Those are all equally impractical to choose solely for proximity. So I’m going to do a little research and pick out some pre-season possibilities. But I don’t think I’m going to pick a team before the season starts; that would just feel arbitrary. I’ll make my final decision after watching teams play for a few weeks and I’ve gotten a feel for their style of play.
To start, I’m going to be like a girl filling out a March Madness bracket. Mascots, logos, and team colors. These are the things that matter. I’ll also turn to wikipedia to find out about things like personnel, history, and any random cool shit associated with the clubs. My initial inclination is to choose an Eastern Conference team, purely for timezone and TV scheduling purposes. So without further ado, let’s see the pros and cons of these teams.
Gut Reaction: I think that’s a pretty cool logo. It looks like a firefighter logo, which I imagine is the point, and firefighters are goddamn heroes (“No, ma’am. I’m not a hero. But we would all be heroes if we could stop using petroleum.”). Chicago’s an awesome city, and I wouldn’t hate going there to watch them play if I adopted them as my team. One of my best friends lives in Chicago, so I’d even have a place to stay. But then I’d have to hang out with him, and he’s not really that cool. I’m actually not sure why I’ve been friends with him for so long.
Personnel: Looking at the squad, Pardo is the only name I recognize, and I remember him being good in his time at Stuttgart. I know they used to have Cuauhtemoc Blanco, and fuck that guy. A quick googling suggests Argentine Sebastian Grazzini is a big player for them. Maybe BG can tell me more about him, since all I know is that he has (or at least had) an awesome mane of hair. Some pictures show him with short hair. I’m going to assume those are older, because otherwise he’s significantly less cool.
History & Trvia: They’ve only won the MLS Cup once, in 1998, and have made another two appearances in the final. That seemed decidedly mediocre, until I realized it made them the 5th most successful team in MLS Cup history. Also, their one victory came in their first season ever, which is pretty badass, but suggests they’ve declined significantly in the intervening years. They wear red like Arsenal, so that’s a big negative. But they also wear blue, which is fine. Their mascot is a dalmatian named Sparky. Which reminds me of the dalmatian named Sparkplug at the end of Royal Tenenbaums. And that movie kicks ass.
Gut Reaction: Uh. I think this logo is weird as hell. I can’t think of another club in the world that has photorealistic people, or people at all for that matter, on their badge. That just screams wrong to me. Also, Ohio? Seriously? I’m not going to Ohio. Ohio sounds terrible. If you’re from Ohio and you’re offended by this, I promise, I do not care. You live in Ohio.
Personnel: Captain Chad Marshall is the only player I recognize, from his brief forays with the USMNT. Based on those performances, he’s not that good. But he is the captain, and this is MLS, so he’s probably awesome in the league. Or at the very least not terrible. New acquisition Milovan Mirošević from Chile looks like he has the potential to be a badass, having banged in 46 goals in 108 games in the Chilean league.
History & Trvia: They won the MLS Cup in 2008 on their only appearance in the final. They wear yellow, which I’m not a huge fan of, but my girlfriend really loves (and if I was the kind of person to care about that, that might matter. But I’m not, so it doesn’t.) Their mascot is called Crew Cat, but he looks more like a giant badger to me. And that honey badger shit is played out. They apparently participate every year in the Trillium Cup against Toronto, which sounds like it’s made out of some really cool space rock mined by space miners in space, but is actually just a flower, so that’s kind of disappointing.
Gut Reaction: Their crest would be cool looking, but unfortunately it looks entirely too much like the Nazi eagle for me to ever be entirely comfortable with it. Fascist iconography aside, D.C. is relatively close by and it’s a cool town so I wouldn’t mind going there to catch a game.
Personell: This is the first team where I’ve recognized more than one player on the roster, so that’s good. Dwayne De Rosario has been a stud wherever he’s gone in MLS. Andy Najar was hyped as the next big thing for the USMNT for a while, and then he stabbed us all in the back and decided he was Honduran instead. Jerk. They also have two designated players including new acquisition and Albanian (seriously?) national team striker Hamdi Salihi, formerly of Villa-tormenting Rapid Vienna, where he seemed to score a lot of goals. So that’s neat.
History & Trivia: United are the most successful MLS team ever with four MLS Cups and one loss in the final. But they haven’t won the league since 2004. Their mascot’s name is Talon and he’s presumably an eagle. He’d be cooler if he were a chicken, but this will have to do. I’m a sucker for bird mascots. Their nickname is black-and-red, which is very Italian of them and sounds like a backwards Rossoneri (Nerorossi?), only not as cool. That shit sounds way better in Italian.
Gut Reaction: Their logo is fairly innocuous. I don’t have any strong feelings about it either way. I’ve driven through Houston one time and the traffic was terrible, but I did have really good barbecue. I have no idea what the city is actually like, but I’ve been to Austin and really liked it and been to San Antonio and really disliked it, so I’m going to arbitrarily decide Houston falls somewhere in the middle.
Personell: Brian Ching plays there. Ching’s never really impressed me with his appearances for the National Team but he’s had a great MLS career. Expensive flop Carlos Costly has left the team, which is probably good news. They made the final last year, so they probably have some players who don’t suck, but nobody who stands out to me.
History & Trivia: The Dynamo have won the MLS Cup twice and lost it once. I like the orange, but their kits this year are absolutely atrocious. Their mascot is a fox named Dynamo Diesel. That’s a really stupid name, but foxes are awesome. I’m a big cussin’ fan of foxes. There’s also another team in Texas, so that means derby match, and derby matches are always cool.
Gut Reaction: This is by far my favorite logo so far. Classic yet modern all at the same time. The blue and black and white/silver looks sexy as hell. I like how they have their motto on there, but it means “Everyone for Victory” which is kind of lamesville. “Everything for Victory” would have been cooler. Another downside–they’re in fucking Canada. I’d feel a little strange starting a series about following Murricah’s Game only to follow Murricah’s Hat instead. And to top it off, they’re not just regular Canada. They’re Quebec-wah (fuck your French, I shall use English phonetic spellings).
Personell: I recognize a couple names, so that’s a good sign. Or maybe a bad sign. I don’t know. But it’s certainly a sign. Justin Mapp is a guy who I vaguely remember was supposed to be good for the US but never turned out to actually be good. Davy Arnaud is a name I only recognize from Jimmy Conrad’s time writing for ESPN. Since they both played together at the Wiz, his name got mentioned a lot. Also, he’s made a couple appearances for the USMNT, but never set the world alight. I remember Matteo Ferrari from his time at Roma, and I imagine he has what it takes to succeed in the MLS. But it’s surprising that he’s not a DP. You’d think a guy who played in Serie A for 12 years would get a DP paycheck, but I guess not. They also have a guy named Ubiparipović. I have no idea if he’s good, but that is a killer last name.
History & Trivia: The Impact are new to MLS and this is the first year they’ll be playing. I really dig the idea of following a team right from the beginning. Their mascot is a dog named Tac-Tik. That’s the facepalmiest, most headdesk inspiring soccer mascot name pun ever. Shame on you, Montreal. Shame on you.
Well that’s enough learning for one day. I’ll be back every day this week with another five or so teams until I get through them all. So far, Montreal, despite their Canadianisity, are my early favorites. But Chicago, Houston, and DC all look promising too. The Crew are gonna have to prove pretty awesome on the field to overcome my initial reservations. If you have any suggestions as to why I should follow one team or another, leave your thoughts below!