This week, FC Dallas conquered the Portland Timbers, and in doing so, continued to prove that the Pareja experiment is becoming more and more effective after each successive test. The brightest spots for Los Toros were Mauro Diaz (again), Jair Benitez, and Kellyn Acosta, but the whole team seemed up for the task on Saturday night. The only thing that would have made the game better would have been if I would have been able to see it in real time sitting in the beer garden.
I missed the match live due to a wedding for a good friend of mine. It was tough to miss; as this is the first season that I have written about the Red Stripes, and I feel that I should be there to witness the joy, despair and all the beer showers in between (I heard that beer sales increased dramatically in the beer garden this week). In fact, as one commenter put it last week, technically, this could actually be called View from the Sofa this week, as I recorded the match and watched it on Sunday.
At that point, I knew the match like I know the plot of an action movie from the 80's that I haven't seen. I knew the good guy wins at the end and that Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn't die. I just wanted to see the explosions. And boy, were there some explosions! The double red card in the 39th minute, and the 22 total fouls in the game led to a choppy first half, and a really wide open second half. In addition, FCD had more shots on target; more passes, better passing percentage, and better possession than the Rose City did while matching their aggression. The team looked ready to give everything they had to win this match. Every player on the field was making tackles, trying to win the ball back, and sacrificing their bodies or Portland bodies to make it happen. You could tell that the passion was there, and that they felt the urgency of the situation. They never relaxed.
That can be good and bad though. That passion has two sides to it. In a lot of ways, we, as fans, want that single-minded aggression, that ability to act like a Viking full of bloodlust raiding a town, or like Roy Keane playing for Manchester United, hacking ankles and stopping counterattacks. We love when a player is a warrior for the team, and while occasionally, he may see a red card, we love him for his aggressiveness. In some ways, a team needs that type of player to be successful.
For instance, in seven of the last eight years, the team with the most fouls in the league made the playoffs. They break up the run of play, can intimidate the other team and be the rock calming the stream. But, that player is risky and that passionate aggression can be a problem almost as much as it is a boon for the team. When that player does see the red mist, he is uncontrollable, and can hurt the team more than he helps. This balance is really difficult to achieve, the balance between aggressive play and dangerous play. Everyone loves a bad boy, but they hate a villain.
It was interesting to read the comments on my post last week. I could read the passion that people felt, and was happy that a column of mine inspired such vigorous debate. It made me think about fans and about the different types of fans out there. The fans that never miss a match, wear a full kit and sing loud for all to hear, but also the quiet fans with kids who make the occasional match, but check this blog every day to catch up on all they missed. It was interesting to see the different opinions of all the fans. I wondered then, where FC Dallas is, and in relation where MLS is in terms of fan culture. Watching the growth of the Beer Guardians, and the DFE, and the continued presence of El Matador, one can see that the supporters sections are getting more and more passionate. They are fired up about FC Dallas and they show this regularly. They sing, they stand for the match, and they actively push their team on like any true 12th Man.
In addition, they continue to add traditions to the ones already established by past iterations of supporters groups (RIP Inferno). This is awesome, and will continue to help this team's fan base grow to new heights. What I hope to see come from all this is that the passion of the fan base extends out from the beer garden into the East and West Stands. The only way that happens though is if the supporters sections are seen as those lovable bad boys (think Riggins in Friday Night Lights) and not the villains (King Joffrey in Game of Thrones)?
If that passion is unbalanced, or skewed towards the aggressive side of passion, it can lead to a lot of negativity. Think about the hooliganism in the English game during the 80's, the riot at Port Said Stadium in 2012, or the myriad examples of fan violence in South America happening every weekend. One could also look at less extreme examples where a team's fan base has dwindled due to the way the team has stopped providing an inclusive environment for fans. The road to true fandom is too long and tortuous to be taken so the fan leaves for another team or another sport.
I keep thinking about the NFL season, when men will do whatever they can to see their team play. Many can't make it to the match, but they find a way to show their support, whether that's through getting updates from their phones, sneaking a radio into church or going to a store in the mall that they would never be caught dead in, because they might have an electronic section, that might have a TV, that might have the game on. I wonder when MLS and FC Dallas will get there. I'm at that level, but how many other people are? What can the team, or the already committed fans, do in order to get the MLS where it is a must see event each weekend? I don't have an answer, but I think we must not do anything that will discourage the growth we have already seen. We must remain inclusive while looking like the coolest place on earth every Saturday night. People must feel like they could join us, while we look like we don't care if they do. Just like on the field, we must balance the aggressiveness of our passion, with the importance of our goal. Otherwise, we could be just like Je-Vaughn Watson and see a red card.
Cheers from your man in the beer garden.