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View From the Beer Garden: Week 6

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Our steady ascent to the summit takes a slight detour, the Clint Dempsey edition.

Cooper Neill

"See I'ma just do it like Nike
Spit it so nicely
When I'm done some ain't gon' like me
I'ma try to say it politely
So I might come across a tad bit feisty"

-Deuce AKA Clint Dempsey "Don’t Tread"

I think I get used to the EPL and how the team that I follow, Arsenal (please, no jokes), has to win almost everything if they want to have a chance for the league title. They can look like the second coming of the 1954 Hungarian National Team for half the year, and then, fall apart a few games in a row, leaving them struggling to stay in the top four. The half-heard whispers that whistled through the wind in October, mocking me by saying this is "the same old Arsenal," have become the booming catcalls of red-faced Chelsea fans as spittle and the remains of last night’s meat pie fly from their cow-like mouths, "SAME OLD ARSENAL!" The doom of that feeling overwhelms me every match that Arsenal lose, and the only feeling I feel when they win is relief.

The MLS season isn’t like that. This loss shouldn’t mean anything in the grand scheme of this season. Yes, it is three points dropped, but we do not lose the Supporters’ Shield, or a spot in the playoffs with these three points. We lose it during the withering months of July and August, the sweltering 5PM game on a Sunday against Vancouver or DC United, followed by a tiring match in the Open Cup, finishing with a despairing loss on Saturday away. So, we shouldn’t be too concerned with this one.

That is one reason why I love this league. One loss doesn’t kill you. One loss could come at any time from any team. Even the teams that spent big this year, like Toronto, will occasionally have to test their depth due to injuries, suspensions and national team call-ups, and start a couple players that may be better suited for the NASL. Winning the MLS Cup doesn’t depend upon one game, but a long run of games. If this loss leads to more losses of a similar variant, then we should be concerned, but until then, I’m going to chalk this one up to the 6.5 million dollar man, Clint Dempsey.

The tactical reasons why FC Dallas lost this match were covered really well by Owen and Drew earlier this week and are probably exactly why the Hoops came away with zero points. The shift of Dempsey to higher up the field made him no longer Hendry Thomas’ problem which meant that he was alone between Hedges and Benitez. It gave him space and caused the FC Dallas defense more grief than previously when Thomas was limiting his service. However, that doesn’t take into account the fact that Clint Dempsey is Clint ‘Deliverance is based on my life story’ Dempsey. This guy can take control of a game with a shrug and a half-spoken, syrupy growl. He doesn’t have to be the best player for 90 minutes, because he can beat you with one touch and a finish. I know that as an FC Dallas fan, I must hate all other players and begrudge their mothers for their birth, but I have a hard time hating Dempsey. Every time I see him play in the MLS, I am torn about my appreciation of him. I know that he is the enemy when he is in rave green, but he is our heroic captain when he dons the stars and stripes. It is difficult to make the two feelings fit together in a cohesive way. How do I make the two views coalesce?

In the beer garden this weekend, there was an evincive moment. It was about midway through the second half, with Dempsey near the corner flag. The play was stopped, and the Lone Star Legion were hurling invectives (as any good Supporters Group does) at Dempsey, as they had all game. At once, he turned around; like it was the first thing he had heard all night. He moved cautiously with a confused look on his face, almost as if to say, "What have I done to deserve this?" It was as if he forgot for a second that he wasn’t playing at home in front of his own fans. He looked shocked and also a little hurt, like this actually reached inside his heart like one of his custom hooks reaching inside a bass on Lake Nacogdoches. And, almost as soon as this shock appeared, it vanished, leaving behind a look that was half school yard pick-up game, and half Matt Damon from Good Will Hunting.

About two minutes later, he shot from almost the same area, leading to Stephen Keel’s own goal. Immediately upon scoring, he turned to our section, raised his arms and smiled, as if to say, "How ‘bout them apples?"

I hated him in that moment. I hated all things in that moment. Hell had risen up and overtaken the Earth in that moment. All happiness had died, leaving behind only a wasteland of despair and ash. But then, I recovered, and all I could do was appreciate Clint Dempsey and the way that he could do that. He went on to score one more, sealing our fate with the confidence of a man who actually believes his own rap lyrics.

The reason Seattle won this match doesn’t have anything to do with any of the other twenty-one men on that field. Dallas played well in the first half and would have survived the second if not for one man. That man nailed our coffin shut, dug the grave, and buried us. I hope he does the same thing against Germany in June.

Cheers from your man in the beer garden.