Turning 18, MLS & its supporters are entering a brave new era

by DFE



NEW YORK – Over the years, I’ve written this kind of MLS season-kickoff essay often. Part preview, part pep rally, each one expressed a sense of pride in the state of the league, the progress of the game, and the development of a cool, uniquely North American soccer culture.

More often than not, these thoughts came under immediate fire. Seemingly from all directions. Longtime American soccer observers accused me of being naive. Europhiles questioned if I had ever seen a game at Highbury or San Siro or the Camp Nou. Latin American aficionados sent me YouTube clips of Boca Juniors-River Plate or Club America-Chivas and suggested I watch them before I ever dare write again. And one guy insisted I was a “moron” because I continued to use “the American word (soccer) instead of the real English word: FOOTBALL.” Yes, he used all caps.

The reaction, as enlightening as it was from a journalistic perspective, jabbed at the fan in me. It made me feel as if all my fellow soccer fans in the United States and Canada actually disliked their own league, our league, the only viable top-flight league many of us had ever known. Or even had the chance to know.

My initial counter-reaction was to get defensive. I didn’t understand why we all weren’t trying to help this young league we’d all craved for so long. Why weren’t we together? Why did they feel the need to diminish something that they should care deeply about: the development of the game and the establishment of a league of our own that can stand next to any other league in the world?

Today, when I look back on those essays, I have to agree with the critics. I was naive. I was half-blinded by hopefulness for a league I’ve been involved with – as a player, a fan, and a journalist – since its inception in 1996.

But not anymore. My eyes are wide open. And as MLS enters its 18th season – opening weekend is March 2-3 – hopefulness has given way to reality. And the reality is: MLS, our league, has become one of the strongest soccer leagues in the world.

Now, before you scoff at that with some snarky tweet or some comment about how I have no idea how good Manchester United and Barcelona and Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain are, let me explain.

To me, the quality of a modern league goes beyond the transfer value of its top 20 players and the record of its top two or three clubs. And so I have no problem saying the following:

  • MLS is the most competitive major league in the world. In its 17 seasons, MLS has hadnine different clubs win the championship. That’s the same number of title-winners Spain has seen since La Liga was established in 1929, and four more than the Premier League has seen since its founding in 1992.
  • MLS is stable and growing. The many financial difficulties seen in European and South American leagues are well documented, from Portsmouth and Rangers to Valencia and plucky little Real Oviedo. Meanwhile, the value of MLS clubs has continued to rise; the total number of clubs in the league has nearly doubled since 2005; and most MLS clubs now play in their own soccer-specific stadium. Plus, MLS now boasts the seventh-highest average attendance in the world, among soccer leagues.
  • The quality of play MLS is vastly underrated. There’s a reason foreign scouts keep a keen eye on MLS: They know the level of play is better than people think. Beyond the obvious Henrys and Keanes and Nestas, there is world-class talent in such players as Graham ZusiBoniek GarciaDwayne De RosarioKyle Beckerman, and Mauro Rosales, not to mention newcomers like Diego ValeriDaigo Kobayashi, and Diego Calderon. And that doesn’t take into account recent exports like Geoff Cameron, Roger Espinoza, Brek Shea, Kei Kamara, and Andy Najar, who didn’t miss a beat when they moved abroad.
  • MLS will develop the long-sought “American Messi” soon. No, the academy system is not perfect. It’s not turning out world-class geniuses like the Barcelona or Ajax academy do. But give it time. It’s still in its infancy. Plus, MLS’s Homegrown initiative hasn’t done too badly, bringing up the likes of D.C.’s Bill Hamid and Andy Najar, Toronto’s Ashtone Morgan, New England’s Diego Fagundez, and Philadelphia’s Zach Pfeffer.
  • The world is embracing MLS’s innovations. Many critics have complained about MLS’s decidedly un-European playoff structure and lack of a single table. But the truth is, the European leagues are embracing playoffs. Sometime after MLS’s inception, nearly every top European league has instituted a playoff of some kind, from the promotion playoffs in England, Germany, the Netherlands, Turkey, etc., to the Greek playoff system for their second Champions League spot. Then there is the debate over the so-called international schedule. Well, a few weeks ago, Bayern Munich President Karl-Heinz Rummenigge suggested that Europe would do well to consider a spring-to-fall schedule, rather than the traditional fall-to-spring one.
  • North America has a true supporter culture. Go to a match in Seattle or Portland or Salt Lake or Kansas City or Montreal or Philadelphia, and you’ll join in a soccer experience every bit as vibrant as matches around the world. A growing legion of supporters who chant, raise their scarves, and create tifo is embracing a bold, creative, accepting, and uniquely North American soccer culturalism. It’s not only about supporting our clubs and our players (full disclosure: I’m a Chivas USA fan), but also about supporting the soccer community, as a whole. This can be seen in the nearly universal congratulations extended to Robbie Rogers after he announced he is gay (with nearly universal disappointment at his decision to step away from the game) or by helping the community’s many cultural endeavors: Rise & Shine: The Jay DeMerit StoryHowler Magazine, XI Quarterly, and Branden Steineckert’s anthem “Believe RSL,” to name a few.

Now all of this is not to say that MLS is perfect. Far from it. But from what I can tell, no one knows this more than the people in the MLS front office.

But all of that is irrelevant. Because ultimately, soccer is about love, as cheesy as that sounds. You either love your club or you don’t. Sure, you may rail against this or that on Twitter, and you may give “constructive criticism” when you’re in the stands. That’s part of being a supporter. That’s part of your love. But it goes even further. Being a soccer supporter today is a mindset, reminiscent of the alternative rock and hip-hop communities of the late ’80s, that says you care about something that is rarely on the front pages, and that you’re okay with that.

Because this is 2013. This is the year that we US and Canadian soccer supporters accept who we are and what we love, proudly. No more half-blind hopefulness. No more defensiveness. Just soccer.


Preseason, So far what do we know?

by DFE



Senior Roster (18 to 20)

MLS rosters hold at up to 30 players. Players 1 to 20 are on the senior roster and have to fit in the salary cap. (MLS teams may carry only 18 players on this senior roster if they wish.)

FCD has 8 international slots in 2010 with 8 possibly filled.

1 David Ferreira 33, Colombian F/M (8/9/79) Green card
2 Blas Pérez (I1) 32 Panamanian striker (3-13-81)
3 Kenny Cooper Jr US F Trade from NYRB.
4 Eric Hassli (I2) 31, F. Not at DP.
5 George John 25 US CB. (3/20/87) re-signed.
6 Zach Loyd 25, US Nats M/D (7-18-87)
7 Andrew Jacobson 27, US DM (9-25-85)
8 Raul Fernandez (I3) Peruvian GK, 27
9 Fabian Castillo (I4) 20, Colombian M/F (6-01-92)
10 Matt Hedges 22 UD D (4-1-90)
11 Jackson (I5) 24, versatile
12 Jair Benitez 33, Colombian LB, (1/11/79) Green card
13 Michel (I6) 31 left side player, D/M Brazilian.
14 Je-Vaughn Watson (I7) Jamaican MF.
15 Chris Seitz 25, US GK (3-12-87)
16 Stephen Keel 29 US D (4/11/83). 2012 re-entry draft
17 Bobby Warshaw 24, US M/D (11-21-88)
18 Peter Luccin (I8) 33, French D-mid. Knee injury is a problem.
19 Ramon Nunez US M. Coming off ACL injury.
20 Unknown Brazilian? (I9?) Claivjo made a quick trip to Brazil, is he bringing back a player? Please say Chico.

Ugo Ihemelu 29, US D (4/3/83) Health in question…

Players occupying roster spots 1-24 will earn at least $42,000 in 2011.

Off-Budget Roster (10)

Roster Spots 21 to 30. Generation adidas, developmental players, and home grown. Players 24 and under that don’t count on the salary cap. MLS teams can have a maximum of 10 off-budget players.

21 Victor Ulloa (HG1) 20 US MF (3-4-92)
Moises Hernandez (HG) 20 US D (3-5-92) on loan, not on FCD roster
22 Jonathan Top (HG2) 19 US F (1-26-93)
23 Richard Sanchez (HG3) 18 Mexican GK, US Citizen (2-28-94)
24 Kellyn Acosta (HG4) D/M (7-25-95)
25 Bradlee Baladez (HG5) Signed Home Grown deal Dec 2012
26 London Woodberry (HG6) Signed Home Grown deal Dec 2012
27 Walker Zimmerman FCD’s 1st rd pick, Generation adidas
28 Kyle Zobeck GK from Valpo.
29 Cam Wilder Former US U18, MF Kentucky.
30 TJ Nelson Former US U17. D/M SMU

Ryan Hollingshead FCD’s 2nd rd pick. Finishing school?

Players occupying roster spots 25-30 will earn at least $32,600 in 2011.

Other Players

Anyone connected, rumored, tried out, waived, training invited, or signed short term.

Mickael Tavares 30, French d-mid. Spring camp for 1 week.
Ryuta Sasaki Japanese forward, in spring camp.
Cameron Brown First rookie cut. Local kid w/ knee troubles.
Pipico Signed winter. In camp for 2 weeks before being cut.
Brek Shea Sold to Stoke Jan 2013 $4mil
Ricardo Villar Waived Jan 2013.
James Marcelin Waived Jan 2013.
Julian de Guzman Canadian D-mid. Not returning.
Yomeri Reyes U18s. Academy player.
Hernan Pertúz Loan deal not extended, returned to Colombia.
Kevin Hartman Contract expired, no new deal.
Daniel Hernandez Retired end of 2012 to be a coach… 3 weeks later was out.
Carlos Rodriguez Released 11/19/12. Panamanian D.
Bryan Leyva Home grown player, 2013 option declined.
Ruben Luna Home grown player, 2013 option declined.
Matias Jara 2013 option declined.
Bruno Guarda 2013 option declined. Green card.
Scott Sealy 2013 option declined.


The FC Dallas 4-4-2 is still a work in progress, as is the roster, frankly. For now this is how we see things laying out.

Depth chart for a diamond 4-4-2.

Striker A
Blas Perez
Eric Hassli
Bradlee Baladez

Striker B
Kenny Cooper
Jonathan Top

Attacking Mid
David Ferreira
Ramon Nunez
Je-Vaughn Watson

Left Mid
Fabian Castillo
TJ Nelson

Right Mid
Cam Wilder

Holding Mid
Andrew Jacobson
Peter Luccin (Injured)
Bobby Warshaw
Victor Ulloa

Left Back
Jair Benitez

Center Back
George John
Walker Zimmerman

Center Back
Matt Hedges
Stephen Keel

Right Back
Zach Loyd
London Woodberry
Kellyn Acosta

Raul Fernandez
Chris Seitz
Richard Sanchez
Kyle Zobeck

Some notes and thoughts:

I’m still putting players at one spot and one spot only. In the real season it won’t work that way.

I listed Eric Hassli as 2nd behind Cooper and Perez, but really 2 of the 3 will be starting any given game depending on health, callus, etc.

We really need to see where Je-Vaughn Watson ends up playing in the FCD system before we judge his spot. He’s typical a more central player and has played both attacking and holding mid. Since Ramon is hurt I put Watson at attacking mid for now as it’s his more natural position.

Ryan Hollingshead as of now isn’t really in the mix and won’t be till we see him in camp. So I took him off the chart till he shows up and makes the roster. Ugo Ihemelu is also not on the chart.

Given how many central type mids we see and no pure flank players, I think the diamond 4 will look like it did at SMU, with the width out of the back and the “wide mids” more central. Recall Hyndman saying Ihemelu would play wide if he comes back… just like he did in the SH diamond 4 at SMU.

Raul Fernandez and Chris Seitz are still in a battle for the starting keeper spot. I listed Fernandez first cause he’s the new splashy signing.

1st Annual FC Dallas Supporters Cup!

by DFE

Los Angeles Galaxy v FC Dallas

This year FC Dallas and the supporters have decided to put on a charity soccer match, on Saturday March 9th, at FC Dallas stadium. The match will kick off at 3:30 pm, and our very own Supporters will get the chance to play the front office staff for FC Dallas. The Beer Garden will be open and serving! The DFE will have eleven of our very own members playing in this match and teamed up with the other supporter groups they will get the chance to not only represent the DFE on the pitch, but all supporters of FC Dallas. 


Congratulations to our very own Dallas Football Elite members that were chosen to play! Our players were chosen off their contributions to the DFE and DFE athletics over the past three years! 


1. Sean Dorwaldt #14 


2. Bryan Jones #13 


3. Aaron Wessner #24 


4. Chris Lankford – Keeper 


5. Mallory Rickert #33


6. Julianna Jackson #19


7. Ross Elder #13 


8. Matthew Carothers #8 


9. Charles Mitchell #11 

charles2 (1)

10. Dustin Parrish #4 


11. Jeff Henderson #1 


Season Ticket Winner!!

by DFE

Last week the DFE ran a contest with our new George John is my homeboy t-shirt!

All you had to do is purchase a shirt and have your

name entered into a drawing to win free season tickets in section 103! 

Congratulations to Julianna Jackson for winning the DFE season ticket!!



Julianna will get a chance to experience all the fun that goes into being a DFE season ticket holder! 

Thank you to everyone who supported the DFE and George John! 
We look forward to seeing you in his shirt around the stadium! 



The DFE hits, and passes, a 100 Season Ticket Holding Members!!

by DFE
Last season at this time, the DFE were only at 36 season ticket holders!
The DFE is excited to announce that we are now at 103 season ticket holders for our section, the snake pit!! 
FC Dallas announced earlier that when the DFE hit 100 season ticket holders they would give that member a FREE Blue FC Dallas kit, with the #100 on the back!
After a thorough Florida re-count, FC Dallas & The DFE announced that Aimee Herring was our 100th member!
Congrats to Aimee Herrin for winning!!! We are excited to have you back with us this season!!!

FC Dallas making moves!

by DFE


FC Dallas is bringing back former All-Star forward Kenny Cooper in a trade with the New York Red Bulls.

The deal announced Monday sends allocation money to New York for Cooper, a former Dallas high school standout who scored 11 goals in 29 starts when he made his MLS debut in 2006.

Cooper had 18 goals and three assists in 30 starts 2008, when he was an All-Star and the league’s comeback player of the year after an injury-shortened 2007 season.

Cooper was transferred to 1860 Munich during the 2009 season and was limited by injuries in two seasons there. The 28-year-old returned to MLS with Portland before getting traded to New York.

FC Dallas also acquired forward Eric Hassli from Toronto for a conditional second-round pick in 2014.

Toronto FC traded designated player Eric Hassli to FC Dallas on Monday in exchange for a conditional second-round selection in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft.

“Eric requested a move for family related reasons and we committed to him we would make every effort to do so, providing the deal was favorable for the team,” Toronto FC president and general manager Kevin Payne said. “We are satisfied with the terms of the trade. If Eric has a productive year for Dallas the consideration paid to us will be greater.”

Hassli, 31, was acquired by Toronto from the Vancouver Whitecaps FC on July 20, 2012 and made eight appearances, scoring three goals and adding two assists in all competitions for the club.

“We’d like to thank Eric for his contributions to our club and wish him all the best with his new team,” Payne added.