This is one of the busier weeks in American soccer that I can remember. At least five stories would be red-letter above-the-fold clickbait any other week.
But I researched an insanely boring topic, and just to be unusually horrible, I will lead off with it.
TOPIC ZERO – Singular Team Nicknames!
For about two-fifths of a hot minute, the big news was that the mythical Miami MLS franchise had registered “Miami Freedom” as a trademark. I doubt the team, let alone the name, will ever see the front side of a shirt. But if it did, it would be a revival of the singular name craze that Major League Soccer helped club to death in the 1990’s.
Major League Baseball has never had a team with a singular nickname. The National Football League has not had one since the Providence Steam Roller. (They won the league championship in 1928, before becoming what they are today.)
The NBA and NHL each have several singular nicknamed-teams. The New Orleans Jazz (now the Salt Lake City Fighting Thompson’s Gazelles) were first. The Orlando Magic and Miami Heat followed their example a couple of decades later, as later did the Artists Formerly Known as the Seattle SuperSonics. The NHL boasts/quietly allows the existence of the Avalanche, Lightning and Wild.
As of this moment the NCAA – told you I wasted time on this – boasts a handful of singular nicknames: Crimson Tide, Big Red, Big Green, Crimson, Mean Green, Red Flash, Red Storm, Cardinal, Orange, Green Wave, Phoenix. Weirdly, three of these are in the Ivy League. Even more weirdly, only one of those is not based around a color: UW-Green Bay Phoenix.
Meanwhile. All but four WNBA teams have singular names. So do all but three NWSL teams. The NASL, WFL, USFL and XFL were littered with them. (The AFL, ABA and WHA, all of which survive in some form to this day, had no singular-named teams. Just pointing it out.)
And Major League Soccer? Only seven of their teams have ever done without a singular name. Four of those are NASL throwbacks. One is a corporate sponsor. One is kind of iffy, since it’s supposed to refer to a flowing river or waterfall. The seventh was Chivas USA.
This is all, of course, literally trivial. Singular nicknames are a sign of an outsider league, but that doesn’t mean wackster nicknames prevent a sport from becoming mainstream. It just means it hasn’t happened yet.
TOPIC TWO – The Freaking FCC
Speaking of FC City United dullness. FC Cincinnati. And they have a lion on their crest. Why are they even bothering to copyright this stuff?
Clumsy origins aside – gee, who knew John Harkes wasn’t indispensable? – adding FC Cincinnati is so clearly and obviously a correct move that we have to conclude Don Garber and MLS were somehow forced into it. Because the Sacramento Republic is also clearly and obviously a correct move. Cincinnati didn’t invent crowds of 20,000+ in the USL, after all. Sacramento did enough to warrant instant approval into MLS, if we were still using the standards a hundred years ago, when this current expansion process started. Somewhere along the line – well, Nashville, Detroit and Cincinnati along the line – there came along two ownership groups with a lot more money than the Republic had. I had predicted Sacramento and Tampa Bay when this all started, and I still don’t think those were stupid picks in the slightest. It wasn’t as if the Rowdies were junk. Owner and stadium were there from day one – still are. Admission to the ride went up halfway through the line, that’s all.
The other thing that stood out was that Cincinnati, exactly one year from now, will be a third of the way through their first MLS season. That’s a huge compliment to FCC ownership, and it is richly deserved. I think Cincinnati was the only bid that could have started as early as 2019.
Which tells me Miami is two years from happening, at best.
You remember when LAFC was officially announced? October 1938, during the Munich crisis. No, but seriously, October 2014. That’s so long ago, the Galaxy were good. David Beckham exercised his MLS option eight months later.
Oh, wait, I’m sorry – eight months earlier. February, 2014. Landon Donovan was still on the national team. FC Cincinnati had their inaugural game two years earlier. Oh, wait, I’m sorry – FC Cincinnati had their inaugural game two years later.
Here, have another amusing headline about Miami, this one from 2016. I have been assured that the sorry-ass excuse for a rug that Nippert Stadium has the nerve to call a playing surface will be remodeled. They should think twice about this, though. Since no Designated Player, or any player with either wit or influence, will voluntarily play on that surface, the MLS team might have an even better home record than the USL team.
David Beckham’s failure was Cincinnati’s opportunity. It was either FCC, or another year of an odd number of teams. Or another year of fewer than 24 teams, which suggests to me the steady toe-tap of an impatient national broadcaster or two.
So Sacramento should not be completely discouraged, although they should also not be particularly couraged. The top bar on Major League Soccer Soccer lists twenty-three teams, and two spots for Nashville and Miami. If, for some reason or another, Miami isn’t able to take the field in 2022 or even 2024 – I know, what are the odds?! – then a popular team with its own stadium will come in extremely handy.
And what of the remaining expansion candidates? San Antonio hops back in front after Columbus-to-Austin finally fizzles out. The last spot – well, we know the recipe. REALLY rich owner plus no takesie-backsie stadium approval. Nashville has it, Cincinnati got it, Detroit didn’t have the latter, and here we are. I don’t think it will be the same group that started the process, and given the bizarre time frames we’ve seen, it’s possible some billionaire currently walks among us who does not realize that in five years or so he or she will be the proud owner of FC Wherever United.
TOPIC THREE – Kids in America
I wonder what the US men’s national team record is against teams that didn’t bother to put their names on the back of their jerseys. I’ll bet it’s phenomenal. I’ll be the women’s national team is undefeated against that kind of opponent, too.
Bolivia didn’t have names on the back of their jerseys, and it’s barely possible none of them actually have names. They may have been hired in a casting call, or called up by a temp agency. Thanks to some laughable goalkeeping, Josh Sargent is now our new hope at forward – he should find a club of some sort. Thanks to an attack roughly as lethal as Metro Playoff Fever, Antonee Robinson is our new backline godsend. And thanks to the Tahuichi Academy apparently having been converted to a medical office park, Dave Sarachan is now genuinely in the conversation for US men’s national team coach.
Maybe. I hope they all have long and fantastic careers. But Sargent isn’t going to see that kind of poor goalkeeping in his entire career, unless he plays in the Champions League final. I don’t think there are three reserve teams in the Premiership that wouldn’t have shut out Bolivia. It’s nice to see we have at least a plausible group of young players, and I’m glad they didn’t play down to the level of their opponent. At some point, we will ask these guys to hold Mexico scoreless in the Rose Bowl, and that will – oh, really? Wow, Wales must be pretty good.
The main reason we should support the new group of players unhesitatingly is that I never want to see or hear from the old group ever again. I assume you all read Jeff Carlisle’s article on what went wrong with the 2017 campaign.
I did, too. It was enough to remind me that I don’t give an ant’s crank what these flopwaffles are selling. Not even the anonymous source had the decency to be scandalously interesting. So German-Americans didn’t like traveling to Central America. Well, neither Columbus nor Trinidad are in Central America, and those were the two places that made a difference. So into the sea with the whole pack. (We can fish out Pulisic and Brooks after a minute or so.)
The Bolivia game gave us hope to one day be truly excited about the men’s national team again. That day has not arrived.
Oh, as far as Dave Sarachan - well, you can't blame a guy for trying. If Carlos Cordeiro is willing to put up with the backlash, there are worse choices than Sarachan. But before he's picked, I would enjoy hearing a long and detailed explanation of why Sarachan was not chosen to succeed Bruce Arena when the job in question was the Galaxy and not the United States.
The answer might easily be something like "Chris Klein thought Curt Onalfo was a genuinely better coach," which would raise a series of new questions, of course.
TOPIC FOUR – Do the Continental
Speaking of selling. Congratulations on the American Outlaws and their new careers as tire salesmen. Maybe I need to give the background, since I have no intention in hell of linking to it – Continental Tires has an ad featuring a couple of the American Outlaws talking about all the wonderful work they’ve done as fans. The ad ends with an example of work that the American Outlaws were in no wise responsible for – the “HOME” tifo in Columbus.
Those of us with adequate memories might recall that American Outlaws, at least the Seattle branch, spent the days before that particular game wondering aloud whether Seattle, and not Columbus, would be a better choice to host qualifiers of magnitude. Those with unreliable memories will recall the constant articles and messages of support for keeping the Crew in Columbus, because none of that has happened. Using a picture of Columbus for an American Outlaws love letter is gloriously ironic.
There have been devoted and dedicated fans who over the years made extraordinary personal and financial efforts to support what was once a very niche sport. They didn’t ask to be introduced in a nationwide television advertising campaign. If they had, I hope they would have said no. Because they weren’t representing themselves, and all the fans along the way weren’t doing it for themselves either. It was about American soccer. And it for god-damn sure wasn’t invented in 2007. Go through the archives of This Very Site. Follow the adventures of the Big Ass Flag and the Baby Ass Flag. Read about the people who went to Columbus, Mexico City, Jeonju or, heaven bless them, Lyon in 1998.
I guess I should be happy these guys achieved their dream of becoming professional fans. But they didn’t make it, and it’s not theirs to sell.