To all my American soccer supporters, Happy Thanksgiving. To all my Canadian soccer supporters and anyone who doesn’t celebrate this particular holiday, happy Thursday.
Here’s a fun Thanksgiving thread I started earlier this week when I was bored. If you want a laugh, click here for the near triple-digit responses from people bursting with creativity and pettiness.
I strongly dislike turkey, but I could see others, depending on perspective.— Andrew Wiebe (@andrew_wiebe) November 20, 2018
TFC ... bad forever, then good for a couple years, now you're used to more but it still disappoints.
CHI ... used to be good, but bad for as long as you can remember. Good one year, bad again.
For what it’s worth, I am making pulled Italian beef for dinner. It won’t be traditional, but it will be delicious. If you want to be sincere about the spirit of the day, tell us why you're thankful for the game we love in the comments section or on Twitter with the hashtag #ThanksToSoccer.
I put myself in the shoes of all 24 clubs in Major League Soccer – I’m including FC Cincinnati in this list, they’re part of the MLS family now – and came up with a reason to be thankful for every single one. Your takes, as they always do, go in the comments. Feel free to @ me on Twitter.
Here we go, in reverse order of the Supporters’ Shield table.
The wait is over … and the Charleston Battery, Tampa Bay Rowdies and New York Red Bulls II aren’t in MLS.
The first part is serious. The next game Cincy plays will be as an MLS team, a little more than three years after the club was founded, and that’s real reason to be thankful, as other expansion hopefuls know all too well.
The second part is a joke. Those teams knocked the upstart giants out of the USL Cup Playoffs the past three years. Which is to say FCC aren’t exactly Orlando City, who dominated the lower division before moving to MLS. Maybe that’s a good thing…
San Jose Earthquakes
Time for a new leader, a new culture and a new era in San Jose. It goes without saying that attracting Almeyda – a proven winner, as a player and a manager – is a massive win for the Quakes. The Argentine has a big job to do.
Logic says there’s only one way for the Earthquakes to go in 2019, which their fans are thankful is just around the corner.
Orlando City SC
Orlando City supporters need a palate cleanser after four years of gradually declining mediocrity and seemingly constant instability. No telling whether that’ll end in 2019, but at least they’ve got Dom Dwyer, a tireless goal hound who Orlando ought to say thanks for every single day.
He’s not the soul of the club, however. Orlando City ought to be most thankful this year for their supporters, who still pack the stadium and haven’t been shy about demanding more from the players and front office. Time to give them something to be proud of next year.
In July, the Rapids managed to swing a trade to land a 23-year-old US national team midfielder with loads of potential, a deal that didn’t cost them seven figures in allocation, as you’d expect for a player of his stature and age.
That’s truly something to be thankful for, but it’s not enough. Time to shed some contracts and build around Acosta. Big transfer window coming up.
Kid can ball, and it’s a shame we lost nearly a year of his teenage years to a torn ACL. But Mihailovic is back, and he dropped a goal and four assists in less than 600 minutes at the end of the year.
A 20-year-old American and Homegrown No. 10 could get the keys to the Fire attack next year. Give thanks that he came up in your club, Fire supporters.
A real break for the first time since 2015.
Just be thankful 2018 is over, on the field at least. There’s plenty of time for Toronto FC to rest their legs (and their minds), and plenty of reasons to believe 2019 will be a bounce back year.
More importantly, Reds supporters should be thankful that they have a front office and coaching staff with the track record to ensure this year was a blip on the radar and not a return to the basement. Not every club at the bottom of the table can credibly say that.
Minnesota United FC
Though product on the field may not yet match the glittering new home for the Loons and their underrated supporters, the feeling of walking through those doors for the first of many true home games in 2019 will be a moment to savor.
U.S. Open Cup and CCL in 2019.
There’s nothing like winning. It’s the feeling that every team is chasing, and only four teams experience it each year in MLS. The Dynamo were showered in confetti, they popped bottles and they paraded the Open Cup around BBVA Compass Stadium to the delight of their supporters. Their prize? An opportunity to chase more glory in the Concacaf Champions League.
New England Revolution
Not gonna lie, I had to stretch here. Brad Friedel’s first year in MLS was rough, from Lee Nguyen’s holdout to signings that fell flat to results that just weren’t good enough. Penilla was almost always fun though!
I could have gone with the Impact’s young Canadian midfield rock, Samuel Piette. I could have gone with Saipher Taider, an inspired if underpublicized DP signing. I could have gone with Remi Garde, who got the team turned around after an awful start.
But c’mon, Montreal have one of the five most dynamic players in MLS. They get to watch him every single week. After a season without a playoff berth, Piatti deserves the gratitude.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
Duh. A year of pure brilliance from one of your own, a 17-year-old with the world at his feet? Every other club in MLS would get down on bended knee for player like that. Not only did Davies shine, he generated a huge windfall via the sale to Bayern Munich that will fund the Whitecaps’ efforts for years to come, now with fellow Canadian Marc Dos Santos at the helm.
Zlatan and a somewhat clean slate.
The Zlatan part is obvious. He always made it interesting, and more than a few clubs can’t say that about their seasons.
As for the “somewhat clean slate,” it seems the Galaxy are on the brink of a restart on the technical side. Pete Vagenas is out, same for Sigi Schmid, and a new coach is a certainty. I used the word “seems” for a reason. The restart depends on who is hired and how they’re empowered. Let’s just say that part is all TBD.
Real Salt Lake
The LA Galaxy.
How much different would this year have felt had RSL missed the playoffs? No epic Knockout Round win against LAFC. No Damir “Karate Kid” Kreilach. No Albert Rusnak pile driver. No postseason home game.
So while Mike Petke and his guys had to do plenty to make the dance, the LA Galaxy had to fall short to push them above the line. They did, and Claret-and-Cobalt supporters ought to be thankful for that.
No matter what the more cynical side of the fanbase says, 2018 was a good season for the Union. They enjoyed a difference-making No. 10, found the center-back tandem for the future, got results when they needed them and almost won a trophy. Now new sporting director Ernst Tanner has control, and it will be interesting to see where the process takes Philly next.
Columbus Crew SC
I’ll just leave this here.
Audi Field is the obvious answer here. We all know how long D.C. waited to get their own home. Now that they have it, we’ll be giving thanks for a couple decades.
We won’t have that long to watch Wayne Rooney and Luciano Acosta together. LuchoRoo brought us so much joy this season, whether you’re a D.C. fan or just a fan of fun soccer. Duos like that don’t come along often. Give thanks that 2018 brought us another great one in MLS.
I went off the beaten path with this one, but Valentin has been a perfect fit in the Rose City. From his charitable efforts to a career-high 30 starts to explaining the away goals rules to his teammates after the final whistle against the Sounders (LOL), the 27-year-old gave the Timbers Army lots of reasons to embrace him this year.
New York City FC
Patrick Vieira and David Villa.
Here’s what I wrote about Orlando City, in case you need a refresher: “four years of mediocrity, gradual decline and seemingly constant instability.”
NYCFC might have gone down the same path if not for Vieira and Villa. One or both may be gone in 2019, but their legacies at the club speak for themselves. The blue side of New York ought to be very thankful indeed.
He may be gone, but Pareja will never be forgotten in Frisco. On the academy fields and with the first team, he built what is now the foundation of the club. It hasn’t been flashy, but it sure has been effective, and the pipeline is in place for years to come.
Los Angeles Football Club
LAFC’s ownership had one, and they executed on it. From Banc of California Stadium to John Thorrington to Bob Bradley to Carlos Vela, what came to pass created a club with an identity and a future to be proud of after just one year on the field.
Seattle Sounders FC
The summer transfer window.
The Sounders are one of MLS’s elite clubs. They have an awful lot to be thankful for, even though they won’t be going to their third MLS Cup in three years. They ought to be most thankful for the summer window, for it consistently brings difference makers and a turnaround in fortunes.
Sporting Kansas City
I already wrote this column. Sporting have great players, an amazing fanbase and a stadium that deserves meaningful games in November and December. They have the opportunity to play those games, this year and in the future, because of their flat-topped soccer czar.
Atlanta United FC
Look, the real answer here is “everything,” but I’m going with the man who made “everything” (and more) possible. Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Darren Eales. Supporter culture that’s vibrant and unique to the city. Tata. Miggy and Josef. A future that’s blindingly bright despite the fact that the club could bid adieu to those last three names in the very near future.
That’s thanks to Blank, and even Atlanta’s rivals can’t tear their eyes away.
New York Red Bulls
Just about everything.
If you thought I was gonna jinx the Red Bulls, you thought wrong. I won’t utter one word about MLS Cup here.
That singular historical failure aside, Red Bulls supporters have so much to be thankful for this year. Chris Armas, who took the reins from Jesse Marsch and didn’t miss a beat. Tyler Adams, who grew into a Best XI quality player under their gaze. Bradley Wright-Phillips and Luis Robles, leaders and players that the club can build around. The best backline in MLS. A USL team that spits out MLS-caliber players.
I could keep going, but you get the picture. The New York Red Bulls have an identity and the full weight of the club is thrown behind staying true to that ethos. I wish every supporter in MLS could say the same about their club.