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.


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