Jones: When LA-Timbers set a new standard for the MLS social media clapback

Some of the best dunking happens in soccer.

There’s a growing sense of style and art to team accounts finding ways to harass each other in MLS. Everything from simplistically brutal postgame jabs to elaborate haymakers have become more and more ingrained in the MLS social media culture. Not all of them are winners (oh man, trust me, we’ll get there), but there’s a regular amount of objectively clever content that creates conversation and helps build the community around the sport. Which is a good thing. I promise.

And something about MLS lends itself nicely to these kinds of things: There’s enough downtime for ideas to go through a full creative process, and a small enough sample of games for individual moments to carry weight in the season as a whole. Or at least for the moments to be dissected.

Say, for example, in a closely contested game a key player maybe or maybe doesn’t, but almost definitely, does take a dive and a player is sent off for the team that goes on to lose. Maybe not a huge deal overall, but still, for at least the week, an important moment. Which means…..well, it means this:

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Like many good things, the idea to give an opposing player the “Shooting Stars” treatment started as an office in-joke.

“It was something we were talking about doing for a few months. It was a thing we kind of enjoyed in the office and something we tried to do in preseason. We almost did it then and then that kind of moment with the Timbers game totally fell in our lap,” Galaxy Senior Director of Digital Media & Marketing, Chris Thomas said. “We were kind of joking after the game about actually using it for that. And our videographer at the time was like, ‘Should I do it?’ We said, ‘Yeah. Whatever. Just go for it.’”

“Yeah. Whatever. Just go for it” led to a video that has been viewed nearly 4 million times. It’s been over two years since it posted and you know what the joke is each time it plays. But when the music drops and Diego Chara goes flying through space and time and slip and slides, it’s funny every single time. Even people like World Champion Alex Morgan are in the replies just to say how good it is.

The good news here for Portland fans is, first off, scoreboard (they won the match 1-0 on a Chara goal, of course). Secondly, the Timbers social team had plenty of time between the next meeting with the Galaxy to hit back.

THE PRODUCTION VALUE.

Look, one video has nearly 4 million views, the other one has 80,000. There’s a clear winner in terms of reach. But that is extremely solid from Portland. And numbers don’t mean everything. Imagine Dragons have sold 12 million records.

Either way, the great “Shooting Stars”ing of Diego Chara has staying power. Enough so that when another Galaxy opponent — I am not DisCo absolutely do not @ me — went airborne last weekend it only made sense to bring back a classic...With a bit of an Easter Egg at the end.

Did you catch it? I missed it the first time so I’ll help.

DIEEEEEEEEGGGGGOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

Just in time for LA Galaxy vs. Portland (Saturday at 10:30 pm ET on FS1, FOX Deportes, TSN4).

Whether it’s FC Dallas tempting fate by provoking Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Minnesota United accentuating a win over FC Dallas with “Dallas,” Sporting KC make some alterations to the Real Salt Lake logo, Atlanta United going full Nintendo, or Philadelphia recruiting a guy in a funny shirt and a giant blue demon snake with arms to destroy a Red Bulls-themed car before the demon snake destroys us ... and uhh, there’s the Illuminati ... apparently, or……uh……. Brisket Bob.

[Hey, remember when I said that we would get here?]

Anyway, there is a purpose and a philosophy behind the team-on-team social media violence. When Portland takes an opportunity to celebrate ruining Scott Frost Seattle Sounders FC Day, they do it with a few key ideas in mind, which at their heart come back to one thing: This is fun, y’all.

“I think for me at the end of the day, sports are entertainment and it's fun to be fun,” Kayla Knapp, Portland’s senior manager of social content and strategy said. “It's about humanizing it, but it's about entertainment and about making it fun to follow all the accounts. Whether it's us, the Galaxy, Seattle, whoever, just making it a positive experience for all the fans across the league.”

Fun gets people to pay attention. And while the club standing under the metaphorical basket on the dunk may not exactly enjoy being there, being upset is, in a weird way, one of the most enjoyable parts of following soccer and sports in general. It distracts us from the every day, and when it’s finally our turn to enjoy things for a while, it makes it feel that much sweeter. If these interactions are bringing more people into that fold then, according to Portland’s senior VP of business operations and marketing, Cory Dolich, even better.

“It's trying to introduce the club and the brand to people that might not necessarily know it,” Dolich said. “Creating content that isn't always just about the competitive aspects of the organization and just about soccer, I think it has the potential to reach outside your traditional audience.”

There is always the danger of overdoing it though, and teams will admit that constantly clapping back can become grating. It’s all about knowing how to pick your spots. Some teams will do it better than others, but it's all a small part in helping to further that connection between the league's clubs and their fans while hopefully entertaining the rest of us along the way.

But mostly lol look at Portland doing the LAFC hat thing. Hahahhahahaha.


EDITOR'S NOTE: J. Sam Jones is a soccer writer and columnist and regular contributor to DirtySouthSoccer.com. You can listen to him stumble through discussions about Atlanta United on the Dirty South Soccer podcast network and follow him @J_SamJones if you don’t mind occasional ALL CAPS YELLING about American Football and Pitchfork reviews.

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