Natural Disaster FC- My MLS Journey Continues

It feels like I have been following Major League Soccer for 2 years rather than just 2 months but as an outsider looking in it has been a fascinating football experience. The time has now come for me to note down some of my most useless observations regarding MLS to date. Please don’t bestow them any importance because the likelihood is the only person they hold any significance to is yours truly. However I am your bog standard, run of the mill English football fan and my utterly facetious comments you are about to read might be of some interest to Major League Soccer fans. Don’t hold your breath though as when it comes to football I have some obsessive compulsive problems, nothing is ever good enough for me and winning too much bothers me (hence my decision to support Toronto FC).

First up let us discuss MLS team names. Many will argue they are slightly daft some even bizarre but I like them. I am especially fond of teams named after natural disasters, whoever thought that was a good idea needs his head examined. I half expect there to be an extremely inappropriate sports team called the Florida Forest Fires (in fact I had to Google it just in case). As I see it there are 3 wonderful categories:

1. Sensible, respectable sides with sensible respectable names.

2. Clubs that have changed their names to sound like Europe’s elite.

3. The ridiculous.

Sides that fall into category one include D.C United and of course my beloved Toronto F.C sensible teams with sensible names. Category two holds the likes of Sporting KC previously called Kansas City Wizards and FC Dallas who were Dallas Burn (not to be mistaken for the Florida Forest Fires). Both wisely decided to change their names but unfortunately now sound like English Sunday League teams. Finally we have category three which holds most of the other teams including New York Red Bulls and for me most notably Montreal Impact. I say most notably because 2012 will be Montreal’s first ever MLS season. Unfortunately history suggests (to start with at least) they are unlikely to make any sort of impact. Personally I would suggest a name like Montreal Consolidators or The Montreal Mid-Tables would lead to less embarrassment and perhaps even put less pressure on their side.

One of my frustrations since following Major League Soccer and Toronto FC has been the remarkable effect I have had on their season. I made the decision to follow Toronto because of their average team, and league position and because they are one of my local MLS sides (just 3447.989 miles away from my home address in England). I thought I might witness the odd decent performance scraping a draw here and there but in fact my first game as a supporter was an incredible 4-2 away win against Columbus Crew. Two months later I have still only seen them lose once in the league and the club is through to the quarter finals of the Champions League for the first time in its history. Is this down to me? Yes, oh and maybe partly down to Danny Koevermans et al. It is no coincidence that as soon as I support an average team to watch average football so I can constantly moan and berate players they start winning, as I have already said it makes me uncomfortable. At the time of writing Charlton Athletic the club I have supported since a young boy find themselves running away with England’s League One. What do I have to moan at? I’m left complaining about not being able to complain. I fear if I keep writing Toronto FC will be MLS Cup winners by this time next year in fact I am considering putting all of my savings on it. I’m 100% sure my wife will see the logic in such a brave decision.

My final and least futile of observations is this: Major League Soccer does not need the respect of so called “Euro sceptics” to be a wonderful league in its own right. The long and short of it is the majority of European football fans will never be able to accept the lack of relegation or even the play-off system but that is their problem. Do I agree with giving the worst team a leg up for the following season rather than any sort of reprimand? Absolutely not, I would even suggest it is dangerous for Major League Soccer and at the very least it is nonsensical. However it is one of those MLS quirks I will just have to get used to. MLS does not need to win anyone over it has its own identity that suits the country it is in and the fans that follow it. Brilliant players are starting to take the league more seriously, Theo Walcott has already discussed playing in America and Robbie Keane could be playing for a Premier League side if he wanted to. Anyway I have to finish there as I need to give Aron Winter a call and see what he thinks of a name change. I’m thinking the Toronto Tornadoes for 2012. Until next week.



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22 responses to “Natural Disaster FC- My MLS Journey Continues

  1. How about a category for “tradition”:

    SJ Earthquakes
    Seattle Sounders
    Portland Timbers
    Vancouver Whitecaps
    Montreal Impact

    • Hi Bruce, would love to know the tradition (briefly) of all of those sides when you get a chance.

      • TFCRegina

        Impact have been around for at least a decade. They’ve had some mixture of success at various levels and were the first Canadian team to make it to the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League.

        Considering the fact that they were discussing slapping the Olympique name on Montreal, i’d take the Impact any day. I find the Championification of team names is pretty lame. Even DC United…heh. They didn’t take their name after my beloved Newcastle.

        And how about Real Salt Lake. That’s perhaps the most ridiculous name in MLS. Consider the fact that Real means Royal and Salt Lake City is located in Utah, which was initially the Republic of Deseret and is now a member of a different Republic. I ask, where is their royalty?

      • TFCRegina

        As for Whitecaps FC, they’re a team that harkens back to the days of the NASL.

        Same with Timbers, Sounders, Earthquakes

      • All five of these teams have carried their names over from separate teams in their respective cities from previous leagues and incarnations. “Most notably” are the three Cascadia sides, who go back 40 years in their rivalry (which culminated nicely in their MLS matches this year, check out MLS highlights). It’s part of why the game is so big in the area.

        Portland’s name comes from their logging industry (AKA STUMPTOWN).

        Seattle’s comes from the body of water the city is situated on, the Puget Sound (though it’s become a reference to the noise created as well).

        The Whitecaps name comes from the peaks of the mountains shadowing the city of Vancouver, as well as the caps of the frothing water.

        It all goes together quite nicely. Trees, Mountains, Water. it’s a perfect representation of the region.

        In head to head competition, the Sounders have been most successful, though the Whitecaps have been the better team overall. Portland’s been kind of a whipping boy for their whole existence, their greatest achievement being knocking the Sounders out of the playoffs one year in the mid 70s.

      • tallwhiteninja

        The NASL version of the San Jose Earthquakes even had George Best on their roster for a while (well past his prime, of course).

    • GZA

      Those names are all crap, tradition or not.

    • Roman

      Hey, while you’re on a call with Aaron Winter, can you suggest a name change to Toronto Snowstorm FC? On a side note, loved the blog, especially the three naming categories. Keep it up!

  2. In the old days of the North American Soccer League the Dallas franchise were the Tornado and Toronto were the Blizzard…

  3. They’re all clubs that have continued in to MLS under the names they used in the, now defunct, NASL in the 1970’s and in the lower leagues such as the USL.

    You could argue that the names were originally a bit daft, but they all have some meaning to the local area.

    The only MLS names I don’t get on with are Chivas USA, which means absolutely nothing to most people, and Real Salt Lake, which took Euro-posing to a new level. Salt Lake City Royals or Royal Salt Lake would have been a nice nod to the ‘Real’ moniker without looking a bit daft.

    Still, clubs in Europe have daft names too, or even dafter nicknames. Everton Toffees, Fulham Cottagers, Manchester Red Devils. Silly stuff.

    Also, I hope you’re enjoying the TFC t-shirt you purchased off me! I kind of suspected you’d buy it when I listed it.

  4. prizby

    i believe chivas usa is or was owned by chivas guadalaraja hence the name

    Jimmy, would you rather a league of partiy (hence the rewarding the worst team) or a league of the same teams in the top 4 (ala the premier league up until 2009)

    • Excellent question Michael. The truth is I prefer the premise of a more competitive league where more teams are capable of success, but I would suggest that rewarding the worst team is not a legitimate way to create such a league. I personally believe if the Premier League was to adopt Major League Soccer’s wage structure and salary cap system it would lead to a much fairer EPL.

  5. N

    There was a great rant by Peter Schaad (Whitecaps play-by-play guy, he’s excellent) about the playoff format and I like his idea: get rid of the regional conferences and whoever tops the league (in this case it’d be LA Galaxy) gets to (1) Host and (2)play in the final playoff game for the MLS cup. Spots 2-10 battle each other to get the other spot. Makes the regular season meaningful and stays true to the playoff tradition in North America.

  6. Danny Bale

    Jimmy, I’m looking for your take on a few things, that I’ve observed (and that drive me absolutely nuts) about MLS.

    First of all, I agree wholeheartedly that the names in MLS are totally absurd. What really gets me, honestly, is the whole “F.C.” obsession. Seattle Sounders F.C., F.C. Dallas, and, yes Toronto F.C. The league is Major League Soccer (also an absurd name). The fans debate (and facebook and blog) about Soccer, the commentators talk about soccer. So why does every team have to incorporate Football Club into their name? Yes, Toronto S.C. sounds absolutely ridiculous, but at least it’s consistent with the “soccer” theme. Either Americans need to change the name of Soccer to “Football” or MLS clubs need to drop the F.C. garbage. (I am not Canadian, so, if in Canada Soccer is Football then TFC has a very good name, and I apologize for using that example).

    Then there are the fans. First of all, any stadium that can get more than 15,000 fans chanting their club’s name gets huge kudos from every commentator/reporter around. Get them all to sing an actual song (no, not something relevant to the match at hand, just something memorized like “You Are My Sunshine”), and we can actually write articles about how their so totally like English fans.

    Then, everyone claims to be die-hard fans of their clubs, yet there is still this odd ‘support the league’ vibe going on too. I’ll take Real Salt Lake’s CONCACAF run as evidence. In the week leading to the final everybody was giving RSL support. MLS even made a little MLS4RSL campaign trying to get the league behind RSL. Let me ask you, as a Charlton supporter, would you cheer for Millwall should they play, say, Arsenal in the F.A. Cup? As a way of supporting Football League One? If you would, then I’m completely wrong, here; but I want a league where fans hate other teams and who cares if the MLS isn’t the EPL.

    That leads me into my last issue: we’re always trying to compare MLS to the major teams in Europe. Personally, I want(ed) to enjoy MLS and the level of soccer that it provides without worrying about if we could compete with Barcelona. But I feel like we always are trying to catch up to Europe, and it bugs me (Americans do like to be the best at everything, but in soccer… it simply will never happen; and it doesn’t need to).

    Sorry about the rant, but these things have really gotten to me this season. All of these are just personal pet-peeves, but throw in the fact that most matches are decided by a bad call from the ref, and the commentating (I think they are paid by how many times they can throw “on frame” into a sentence), not to mention everyone trying to create rivalries for every match played, and it all adds up. I had season tickets to Real Salt Lake, this year, but I just don’t think that I can keep following the league.

    I don’t know… what do you think?

    • Alonso

      “Football” and “Soccer” have a long tradition in both Canada and England. In fact the first Gold medal won at the Olympics by Canada was won by Galt F.C. at the third Olympiad in 1904 in St. Louis (Galt is now Cambridge, Ontario).

      The first Football Association in Canada was founded in 1880 in Berlin, Ontario (Now Kitchener, Ontario, and my home town :-)) and was called the Western Football Association.

      Football and Soccer have been pretty interchangeable terms here in Southern Ontario for over 130 years.

    • Hi Danny, you raised some very interesting points.

      Regarding the support the league nonsense I would agree with you. Rivalries can only be good for Major League Soccer, they add an extra something to games that perhaps otherwise wouldn’t mean as much. Saying that I still don’t want to see trophies handed out to the winners of derby games (see my Trillium cup post!). I personally have never been one to hate other teams but I take your point and I certainly wouldn’t would take no pleasure in the success of a local rival.

      I hope I have addressed your last issue to some extent. MLS does not need to compete with Europe’ elite leagues but it is a sad fact that all leagues are constantly compared with each other. Most commonly of course La Liga with the EPL. What is important is MLS retains an identity and keeps improving and moving forward. Perhaps one day La Liga & the Premier League will be playing catch up to MLS but it is not something the league and it’s supporters should worry about for now.

      I think you should renew your season ticket for one more year at least. Whilst parity exists next year could be a completely different kettle of fish!

    • John

      “First of all, I agree wholeheartedly that the names in MLS are totally absurd. ”

      Manchester United are neither officially in Manchester nor are they united from multiple teams

      Newell’s Old Boys are a Argentina Primera team with an English name in a Spanish speaking country whose nickname is “The Lepers”

      Real Salt Lake has a professional relationship with Real Madrid since 2006 and was named so because the owners wanted a name that conjured up associations with soccer.

      “Either Americans need to change the name of Soccer to “Football” or MLS clubs need to drop the F.C. garbage.”

      Soccer and Football are both English words. Soccer in certain areas was primarily used to differentiate between Gaelic football or Rugby Football from Association Football. Soccer is easier for Americans to use as a descriptor because we have American Football and Association Football. Since our history says American Football is “Football” that means that most people use Soccer to describe the game. This doesn’t mean that Toronto FC or Sounders FC is incorrect.

      “But I feel like we always are trying to catch up to Europe, and it bugs me”

      Support your local team, stop worrying about what other leagues/teams do and enjoy the game purely for the game and the camaraderie with the fans. Why should you care that we aren’t the BPL? The wholesale fawning over two teams and revenue problems that La Liga currently has would be the worst possible thing to happen to the MLS. We should luxuriate in the fact that anyone’s team can get better through smart drafting, correct front office decisions and the ability to unearth talent. Rather NOT who has the most oil sheik money.

      “In the week leading to the final everybody was giving RSL support.”

      No they weren’t. There were quite a few people, but then again it was only a small sample size of twitter. Most Colorado fans that I noticed wanted RSL to lose horridly and celebrated when you lost. From what I understand most Sounders and LA fans wanted you guys to lose as well. I am pretty sure I watched 200 Sounders fans turn their back on your team when they entered during the playoffs recently and give them the finger.

      “Get them all to sing an actual song”

      Timbers fans sing: You are my Sunshine, I Can’t Stop Falling in love With you, Anarchy in the UK, Viva Voce’s Rose City, and etc
      Sounders fans sing: Take Em all (A Cock Sparrer song)
      Colorado fans sing: Glory Glory Colorado

      I could go on, but every team has songs they sing, but other teams have latin influences you would NEVER see in the UK, Barra Brava, La Barra Norte, El Batallon, La Bateria.

      I do not want MLS to become the Barclays Premier League or La Liga. I want it to be MLS and grow as it has been. The best thing about this league is the youth and the ability to grow based on how YOU support it. Right now you could start the supporters group that is the one group in 100 years that everyone remembers. No club is a behemoth. You can go visit Robbie Keane signing items at a Home Depot and walk straight up to the table to talk to him.

      • Danny Bale

        Big thanks to Alonso, Jimmy, and John for giving me some new ideas/insights. I would like to address a few things that John said to make sure that I was interpreted correctly, and that I am interpreting him correctly.

        The most important issue, in my opinion, is the fact that “I feel like we always are trying to catch up to Europe, and it bugs me.” I’m not sure if you meant to agree with me (your approach certainly did not make it look like you were), but I think we have pretty much the same views on this topic. I now realize that I should have replaced “we” with the MLS community in general (and I know, I know, it’s not every single person that has ever watched an MLS match ever that feels/acts this way). For a number of people (that I’ve seen posting on, or talked to at matches, or listened to as they provided commentary on TV/Radio; but not all of them, of course), the fact that the league is progressing in talent and following is a very important thing. Some (not all) reporters/commentators seem to talk a lot (or a little, in some cases) about the fact that this progress is helping us to close the gap between soccer in America compared to Mexico, or England, or Spain. I was proposing that this is unnecessary and maybe even harmful to the league (the “it bugs me” was a hint towards my stance). I want(ed) an experience very much like the one you described, where I can go and watch Salt Lake play D.C. and not have to worry about what is happening across the Atlantic. I feel like some (not all) fans would do well by simply being proud of their club no matter how they would fair against Real Madrid. I, personally, don’t care the MLS isn’t the BPL (not sure what that acronym stands for, by the way), or the EPL or La Liga or any other league in the world. In fact, I don’t want it to be.

        The rest is more just personal interests/likes (it would be impossible to debate which club names are good and accurate and which are “absurd” and I apologize if I made it sound like my way is the only way of seeing things; which I’m sure I did). I feel like it might be worth pointing out that:

        1. I didn’t literally mean “everybody” supported RSL (I hope I did better at not over-generalizing things in this post); and, in fact, I appreciate the fans that wanted them to lose (after all, that’s what I said that I want in the league).

        2. I don’t actually want Americans to call Soccer, Football. I just find it interesting/slightly amusing that even though soccer is usually used to describe the sport in America, a few clubs don’t seem to want “soccer” in their name.

        3. As for the singing, I was trying to point out that in England, a lot of the songs (not all) are used to taunt the players competing or the other fans and can change according to the latest headlines; whereas the best we have here (for the most part, apart from a few with which a may not be familiar) are simple chants or memorized songs, with lyrics (and I know, I know, there is some of that in England; Liverpool does sing “You’ll Never Walk Alone”).

        I’m sorry if I offended you, John (I’m a assuming that I may have by the way that you insultingly quoted things that I had written and then specifically tried to prove them wrong). My views are ever-changing, and this thread has brought some things to my attention that I had never considered before.

      • John

        Danny, you most certainly did not offend me. Moreso, I just want people to look at the way things are in the US as a positive, not a negative. Sure we aren’t watching Silva and Messi run around in MLS, but the thing is…

        I know what RSL’s stadium feels like, or Colorado, or Portland. I know what they look and smell like in spring and autumn. I know how the diametrically opposed fan bases in the south end of RSL’s stadium come together and split apart. While a fan of English football, German football/world football… I don’t know what it feels like to sit in the San Siro, or with the Ultras in Dortmund or in the second deck of Old Trafford. I don’t know what it truly feels like in regards to the political machinations between Barcelona and Madrid. MLS is the chance for fans here to actually experience coming up with songs, chants, flags, and their clubs weird traditions, literally from the ground floor up. It isn’t the name of the club, as much as it is the fans behind the club. There are teams the world over named Dynamo, but none have the same combination of fans that attend Houston games.

        The thing about the Premier League as it is structured in England today is that it offers absolutely no hope to win the league to almost every team save for 5. Even among those 5 most are accepting of their fate as not having a chance. That isn’t competitiveness or intriguing, it is bordering on hegemonic domination.

        I take your point on #3 as this way… The singing in the MLS tends to verge around supporting your club rather than tearing down the other club or supporters. You can only look at Chelsea fans recently as an example of why I tend to think this is better. Of course that changes with huge rivals and will definitely change with time (I have heard RSL/COL antagonistic songs, and POR/SEA antagonistic songs) however, I tend to like the fact that quite a few of the supporters groups focus on their team rather than the other team/fans.

        FYI: I use BPL instead of EPL simply because the actual name of the league is the Barclays Premier League. The EPL in my mind would be used primarily if you were talking about other leagues that had premier in the name. However both are interchangeable much like football and soccer (hah!)

  7. Jimmy, if you ever stop writing about Toronto FC I will be very upset! You’re the only thing keeping Toronto in the win column!

    I agree about the names, but its important to North American culture to have a memorable name, especially with a plethora of other sporting options: when one city has the Maple Leafs, Raptors, Blue Jays, Marlies, Argos, Rock, etc, naming a team Toronto FC isn’t always the best option. Though it worked here. the problem Toronto FC had too in its early inception was no one knowing what FC stood for.

    I remember being at BMO Field in year 1 and hearing two grown men arguing whether FC stood for “FIFA Canada” or “Football Canada.”

  8. Dave

    Good stuff. Love the blog. I’ve been mostly a fan of the EPL for 15 years but decided to get into the MLS when my hometown Sporting KC beat Man U, built a fabulous new stadium and convinced me to buy season tickets. I love it now. And I’ve often wondered what an Englishman might think of our league.
    If you ever happen to be in Kansas City, let me know. We’ll take you to a game and introduce you to the best part of the MLS–quality barbecue and cheap beer at a pregame tailgate party.

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