Soccer….Family Style

My Relationship With MLS: “It’s Complicated”
August 15, 2012, 5:17 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I got a message via Facebook the other day from my friend, Richard Hayes, a Richmond, VA, DC United supporter whom I met last year while he was representing American Outlaws RVA chapter. He’d been reading my blog about my MLS Roadtrip and after apologizing and respect for my love of soccer, he wrote:

“What confuses me is your chameleon like attitude with visiting other teams and supporters on your recent MLS Roadtrip. Is it the supporters atmosphere that attracted you to this trip? I have tons of respect for all the supporters that spend time, money and passion supporting their team but I can only do the same for my team. Last month I visited family and friend in Seattle and enjoyed a Sea vs. Col game but I couldn’t jump into the Seattle chants cheers could it would have felt like cheating on a lover. Don’t get me wrong I had a good time and enjoyed the beers and companionship but I think I enjoyed the glares for wearing my DCU gear just as much. Do you not have an MLS team that is truly close to your heart?”

With his permission, I’m reposting so I can answer publicly. I’ve thought about my answer for a few days, and the shortest answer I’ve come up with is my relationship status with Major League Soccer would be “It’s Complicated.”

I’ve lived in Des Moines, Iowa since the beginning of MLS, but I’d just moved here in December, 1992 and had no intention to staying when the league was launched in 1996. Kansas City Wiz had nothing to offer my Jersey girl self-image, and there wasn’t another team within a reasonable drive. I made a point to go see the New York Metrostars while I was refereeing a tournament in DC, thinking it made sense for a Jersey girl to root for them, but even year 1, DCU had some great supporters (and I’m not just saying that because I know all of RVA DCU will read this). I had such a great time with them, I immediately switched allegiance and became a DCU fan.

That lasted until the Chicago Fire launched in 1998, when my husband played the Jersey and local angle: Chicago was about a 5 hour drive, and they were initially coached by Bob Bradley, who is from my hometown, Montclair, NJ. We went to a few games, and again, I was won over by the supporters club, who would get the whole stadium involved with their chants from the various color seats of Soldier Field (now East and West sides of Toyota Park, and let’s not forget the upper deck!)

I stayed with the Fire until April 2007, when they did something absolutely unforgivable. They signed my most hated player, Blanco from the Mexican team. I can’t really express how much I hate Blanco, but in my estimation, he is the dirtiest tackling, diving, whining jerk of the team I hate most as a USMNT fan. I sat next to a German during the 1998 World Cup who was watching England play Romania because he couldn’t stand to watch the German national team because they were all the players he hated from Bayern Munich’s opponents. I couldn’t understand what he was talking about until the day I learned that Blanco was in a Fire jersey. I broke up with the Fire and vowed to never fall in love in the MLS again. The US national team was my lover, and I was done opening myself up to the risk of betraying them ever again by cheering for a club that might one day hire a mortal enemy of my beloved.

Then I started writing this blog, and people started to ask me which clubs I supported, and you all don’t like the answer “none.” Plus, my kids started getting older, and I wanted to take them to MLS games. I’d already had an amazing experience with Portland Timbers while they were in the A-League, and of course I should interview the two closest teams to me, Chicago Fire (despite their past transgression) and Sporting KC (who mercifully ditched their less marketable names).

I re-evaluated what I was looking for in an MLS team. My passion has to be directed at the supporters, not the team. I try to not even look at rosters, so that I don’t get angry at some USMNT arch-enemy joining the ranks, and I can be pleasantly surprised if a USMNT hero joins the team, because I’ll recognize him. I wanted to find a team that made me want to go see games because of their fans. I wanted to look forward to the next tifo, the next original song, and the coolest traditions.

My recent road trip confirmed my suspicion: Portland Timbers are the team for me. Going to their game as part of my 2012 MLS Roadtrip made my supporter heart want to burst. I wanted to soak it up from start to finish. Timbers Army members were so friendly, they have so many great traditions, great songs, an unbelievable resilience in the face of going down a goal, great tifo, and let’s just say it….Tetris freaking rules. I’m gone for them, and that’s all there is to it.

There’s just one problem: they’re ridiculously far away from where I live.

I need a second team, one that I can hope to bring my kids to with some frequency and little expense. I’d been going to Fire games and really didn’t think Kansas City could hold a candle to their atmosphere. I’d been to a few Wiz/Wizards games at Arrowhead and Community America Ballpark, and frankly, the atmosphere sucked. But after a few Twitter conversations with members of their SG, the Cauldron, I felt I had to give them another try.  To watch a mercy game, before committing myself back to the Fire.

So when the MLS Roadtrip pulled into the Open Cup final of SKC vs Seattle Sounders, I thought I was being very fair, humoring Sporting at their little championship game. Don’t worry Sporting fans, I’m going to give you your on blog post for the show you put on, once I come back to my senses, but it’s enough to say for now that I underestimated you, and I apologize. If you haven’t seen Sporting KC lately, you haven’t seen them at all. Sporting, I stand corrected.

Where am I then? I love a team a VERY long drive or expensive flight away, and as for Chicago and KC, well, it’s complicated. All I can say for sure is if you’ve got an SG with great fans pouring their hearts out for their soccer team, chances are I’d be willing to stand and scream with you for a game somewhere on your schedule.

3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

New England til I die – It’s that simple.

I can’t even believe the amount of wishy-washy, back and forth here. You sound like you’re test driving cars – not throwing your heart behind your team.

Seriously – face it – You don’t have an MLS team. There’s no shame in that – you’re a National Teamer! Knowing that – it’s ok to like one, some or no clubs with abandon. (Just don’t let the kids turn into Chivas USA fans)

Comment by Brock

I can’t enjoy New England sitting with Monty, Brock!

Comment by soccerfamilystyle

All kidding aside, the “til I die” sentiment is interesting. I think my point is that there’s more to enjoy in the MLS than being til I die for it. For me, absolutely and obviously, I’m USMNT/WNT til I die, but I’m not really looking for that level relationship in the MLS, or any other league. I like hanging out with supporters almost anywhere, some more than others. I agree, for Nats fans, there doesn’t have to be a heart and soul connection to one team in particular.

Comment by soccerfamilystyle

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