Friday, May 30, 2008

FC Dallas 2 -2 Houston Dynamo

New (interim) coach. Same shit.

For the second time this year, the Evil Orange Menace manages a last-second goal to salvage a point against the Hoops. Also, for the third consecutive game, FC Dallas has a player sent off for a straight red, this time for a very silly Drogba-light face slap. Still, we're back up to second place in the (very weak) Western Conference and at least the swamp-dwellers haven't been able to beat us this year; steal a win in Houston next month, and El Capitan will finally be spending some quality time in North Texas.

Finally, to continue a running theme, attendance was awful. Naturally, given the current state of the team, its modest place in the larger Dallas-Fort Worth community, and the mid-week timing of the game, that's not surprising. What is troubling, and should be another nail in the professional coffin of FC Dallas general manager Michael Hitchcock, is the fact that this game, against an important Western Conference opponent and the fans' most-hated rival, was supposed to be a Saturday night game later in the season. It was rescheduled after the regular season had started. Now, this is not uncommon in soccer land. In England, matches get rescheduled all the time for unexpected Cup runs and even, in some older stadiums, for water-logged pitches. So then, what was the soccer-critical reason that caused the FC Dallas front office to reschedule an important game for midweek, giving their own team three days rest, versus the opponent's six, and meaning that for the Hoops' next game, they'll be on four days rest and the other team will be on seven? Why, Ozzfest, of course!

Now, I understand the realities of Major League Soccer and Pizza Hut Park: concerts and other events are necessary to make the economics of the thing work. It's not like I could forget; for god's sake, there's a giant stage on one end of the damned stadium. I further understand that FC Dallas will not get all the prime dates that the fans and soccer-side employees might want; such is the price for having the team as a going concern. What is an unacceptable crossing of the line, however, is rescheduling an important match to an entirely soccer-stupid date after the schedule had been released in order to tack on one more concert. Many fans, including me, have complained about the schedule when it was released, but I've always considered that garden-variety whining, and nothing that a competent group of players and coaches can't work around, especially with eight of fourteen teams still making the playoffs, but when a front office chooses to make a last-second money grab that puts its team at a competitive disadvantage and makes it more difficult for hard-working fans to get to the game, it tells the team and fans where they stand in the grand scheme of things.

FC Dallas fans understand that concerts and other events are necessary to keep the soccer team in business. What this front office and general manager have failed to understand, however is that we need to believe. We need to believe that this team, those players and colors, that crest that the fans pay money to wear, that they all mean something. MLS is not the highest level of soccer that we could watch, but we do, because, glib stadium announcements notwithstanding, it really is our team.

The ownership and management of a sports team are stewards over a cultural patrimony, whether they want to be or not. This is especially true of a soccer team which wants rely on the grass roots to build its fan base. Stunts like the rescheduling of this Houston game are a slap to the face, reminding us that our stewards may not be particularly good ones.

We all know we need concerts and other events at the soccer stadium, but I guess I thought that those events were to make the soccer a successful business, not that the soccer was a tolerated nuisance to the management of a suburban concert venue.

These Hoops are still my team and will be as long as they're around, but Mr. Hitchcock and Messrs. Hunt, please remember that it will never be because of you, and right now it's most certainly in spite of you.


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

FC Dallas 2 - 1 Real Salt Lake

So, did something happen this past week?

Fortunately, the Hoops decided to that they did in fact have some heart, beating Real Salt Lake in the first game after the surprise firing. If this year is salvaged, then Steve Morrow, wherever he ends up, will deserve a large amount of the credit for putting together the young, talented roster. As for this game, Dominic Oduro deserves a lot of the credit. I hope the Birdman is showing true development, and not just a temporary jump in form. Either way, I'll take it.

Also, count mine among the voices calling for the head of Dallas GM Michael Hitchcock. Hitch is generally understood to have been behind some of the ill-considered, less-successful (yet ridiculously expensive) signings the team has had to endure. He has precious little experience with the playing and coaching of the game, and he has repeatedly taken steps that reinforce the team's reputation for not understanding the fan base, and therefore not growing the fan base (just take a look at a few of the comments in that last link). Even this firing, as Steve Davis eloquently points out in the Soccernet article linked above, reeks of desperation and clumsiness. His contract is up at the end of the year, and the sooner he's gone the better.


Monday, May 19, 2008

Fairweather fan?

So, my post yesterday has generated a pretty animated response in my estimated readership of one. My wife has told me in no uncertain terms that she is disappointed in the defeatism of the post, and especially the bit about looking forward to the gridiron season. She even went so far as to imply the "FF phrase."

I must insist that a downcast blog post written in the lingering hangover of a weekend of two big losses (one big because of the occasion, the other because of the score line) does not a fairweather fan reveal. I followed the Jaguars when they were 4-12, and when the roster was gutted due to the salary cap sins of the father being visited upon the metaphorical son. When I became a fan of the Atlanta Braves in the 80s, they were mired in years of playing some of the worst baseball the National League has ever seen. In my brief tenure as a soccer fan, I have withstood two straight fizzled promoion campaigns and two straight first-round exits from the MLS playoffs. For god's sake, I even endured the Zook years!

So, for the record, I can't see ever giving up on my Hoops, my Bluebirds, or any other team I follow, and certainly never for a reason as silly as losing games. If I get smacked around by the football gods on some weekends, I might let off a little psychological steam, but these teams are stuck with my grumpy ass for the long haul.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Portsmouth 1 - 0 Cardiff; FC Dallas 1 - 5 LA Galaxy

Not a good soccer weekend for me. At least Cardiff kept it respectable and had some chances, but the magnitude of the loss is still quite the bummer. The Hoops, on the other hand, have me doubting the legitimacy of MLS as a competitive entity. Seriously... 5-1? I can't be the only FC Dallas fan who found himself wondering if the fix was in. The silver lining, if there is one, is to here the (remaining) crowd booing every touch of the World's Biggest Soccer Starafter he displayed some not-so-classy behavior in the wake of a tough tackle (but one that deserved a yellow at most, if you ask me).

So, when does (American) football season start?


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Real Salt Lake 2 - 1 FC Dallas

What's worse than a sister-kisser? Losing last Saturday because of a defensive clusterfuck on the worst artificial turf used for professional soccer since, well, since ever; it's bad. This game is a confusing one, as RSL may actually be getting better, and injuries screwed with the FCD lineup a bit, but it's still frustrating. Next up is Goldenballs and the Galaxiscrubs (featuring Landycakes). Let's see how that one goes.


Monday, May 5, 2008

San Jose Earthquakes 0 - 0 FC Dallas

This is a game the Hoops should have won. San Jose is a brand new expansion team wrapped in the garb of the old Quakes, most of the roster of which now constitutes the unholy Orange Menace. FC Dallas once again failed to pick apart a defensive-minded opponent, and dropped points against a club that should end up on the bottom of MLS. Still, the play of young Anthony Wallace was impressive, and the Hoops did manage to take a point on the road, something which should not be overlooked. But man, this should have been a win. Damn.


Cardiff 3 - 0 Barnsley

No revenge for Barnsley.

In a meaningless but fun end to the league season, Cardiff climbed a little higher up into mid-table mediocrity. Frankly, I'm ready for the next game.