Castillo: It's not too early to hype the Fire, Dynamo, and Quakes

With week two of the 2017 MLS season in the books, we’ve already celebrated a deliciously fiery Overreaction Monday. After two matches, by everyone’s hand-wringing, you’d think some team’s seasons are over. Not so, at all (uh, just see how 2016 ended).

I prefer not to dwell on the negative, anyways. Instead, let’s talk about the teams you can jump on the bandwagon for right now, just in case you get to savor that sweet “I told you so” at the end of 2016. Okay, okay, maybe not bandwagon, with all that word’s negative connotations. But this could be the season to start really paying attention to three teams who could be turning things around early in 2017: the Chicago Fire, the Houston Dynamo, and the San Jose Earthquakes. Choo-choo, all aboard, punch your ticket for the hype train!

The Chicago Fire

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If you were a Dax McCarty fan before, he needs you more than ever after the surprise trade. But any remaining feelings about that, he’s channeling into serving up more firepower for his new squad. He and Juninho absolutely ripped it up vs. Real Salt Lake this past weekend, making life easier for both new striker Nemanja Nikolic and even MLS vet Arturo Alvarez. Also, the Fire still have David Accam!

Culture to know

Well, spend some time surfing the #cf97 hashtag and you might find some folks who have full-on adopted the philosophical concept that life is suffering. Fire fans have been through the ringer for a couple seasons, and they’ve developed a gallows humor to match it. The upside? They can take a lot and still stick through it all. This means that, if the Fire get really good this season, a paradigm shift might be in order – and that could be fascinating to watch.

Predictions to make

There’s no way to sugarcoat the fact that the Fire finished dead last for the past two years. Still – that only makes a potential comeback tale that much better. With so much improvement on the attack, it’s really on the defense to stay strong; Johan Kappelhof’s flashes of brilliance show that might be possible. It’s MLS – the Chicago Fire have as much of a chance at the postseason as anyone else, especially at this point.


The Houston Dynamo

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Now that he’s back in MLS, Cubo Torres is already killing it, tallying a goal each in the Dynamo’s two matches so far. But let’s sing the praises of the other emerging stars around him too – Romell Quioto and Alberth Ellis, who also both tallied in their last match to take Houston to a 3-1 win over Columbus. Those two, along with teammate Boniek Garcia, will also represent Honduras in their upcoming World Cup Qualifying matches. Houston’s front line is serious this year and it’s totally fine to start stanning for them now.

Culture to know

Through the tougher times, the regular rank and file may not have always supported the Dynamo – boo! But supporters like the Texian Army, the Firm, and El Batallon have always held them down, and with a fairly upbeat demeanor, even through the longest slogs. Other fun stuff? Hang in Houston and you’ll get to sing along to this Celia Cruz classic, and hang with a fox mascot. Supporters are also still enjoying the new “Zona Naranja” built for them last year, which promises some more new possibilities for tifo this year.

Predictions to make

The retooled Dynamo have already laid waste to both Columbus and even defending champs Seattle. Whoa. The thing is, they’ll have to duke it out with monster talent packing the Western Conference – but these early flashes show that a playoffs spot isn’t unlikely. #ForeverOrange!



The San Jose Earthquakes

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The Quakes are already home to the legend, Wondo. But if you’re looking to work yourself up into a new lather based on the season’s first two matches, look no further than Anibal Godoy and Nick Lima! “Panamaniac” Godoy managed to chip in the only goal in his team’s opening match vs. Montreal, and contributed the game-winner in the Quakes’ stunning, come-from-behind 3-2 win over the Whitecaps.

Back on defense, it’s cool to breathe heavily over Lima. Not only did he manage the tough task of shutting down Ignacio Piatti in that first match … but he also netted the equalizer in that match against the ‘Caps. What? (Our beloved Wondo managed the third of the Quakes’ three goals in that game, naturally.)

Also, while the Tommy Thompson hype train has been slowly chugging along for a couple years, his preseason performance means it could soon speed up.

Culture to know

Quakes internet is a deeply sardonic place, too, but their memories of greatness aren’t so far away. The fandom also comes with a little bit of fun punk rock flair, and they boast arguably the scrappiest, most legendary mascot in MLS, Q. To get fully immersed in Quakes world, you should also probably go check out the Britannia Arms burger (I’ve been told).

Predictions to make

The Quakes scored 32 goals in 34 games last year. That is … not great. But thanks to a little TAM infusion and some other roster tinkering, the squad is back with some younger blood and a refreshed outlook. If all of them work together, and there’s more of a managerial focus on the attack, the Quakes could cause some rumbles. Go Quakes!


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