Welcome to the end of the decade. It's a time when we should all be taking stock of our lives, our achievements and our growth in the last 10 years. But that's a horrifying thought, so we are going to talk about something else.
Welcome to the Clubs of the Decade series. We will spend five days announcing the top five clubs of the 2010s. The ranking process includes trophy count, consistency, star quality and entertainment product (and other variables I find pertinent to the situation).
One Spot. Three Candidates.
We start with the fifth spot. There were three finalists for the last place on the list, and there wasn't much separating the three so we are going to run through all of them before nailing down out choice.
|5 playoff appearances||2 MLS Cup appearances|
|1 MLS Cup (2015)|
It's been a boom or bust decade for the Timbers. They joined MLS in 2011 and missed the playoffs in back-to-back years. From 2013 on, they've swapped between champs and chumps.
- They finished the regular season at the top of the Western Conference in 2013... then missed the playoffs in 2014.
- They won MLS Cup in 2015... then missed the playoffs again in 2016.
- They finished 2017 as the top seed in the Western Conference + made MLS Cup in 2018... then barely squeaked into the playoffs and lost in Round One in 2019.
Applause for years in trophy contention, jeers for inconsistency. Bonus points awarded for signing two of the best players in league history, Diego Chara and Diego Valeri. More bonus points for the Timbers Army, one of the defining fanbases of the league.
|4 playoff appearances||3 MLS Cup appearances|
|1 MLS Cup (2017)||1 Supporters' Shield (2017)|
|6 Canadian Cup trophies|
If we are talking about the second half of the decade only, Toronto would be an easy pick for this list. Three MLS Cup appearances, one victory, one record-setting Supporters' Shield, plus that Concacaf Champions League run. They recruited three of the biggest, most expensive signings in league history, in Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, and Sebastian Giovinco. By himself, Giovinco created a new paradigm, one in which in-their-prime stars could play in MLS. Good TFC provided both substance and style.
Unfortunately, though, there are 10 years in a decade, not five. And for the first half of those 10, TFC were, as their star forward put it, the "worst team in the world" (if we end up doing "Quotes of the Decade", that will definitely be on the list). Zero playoff appearances, many gaffes. Bad TFC were so bad it was actually endearing.
So we have the worst team over the first five years as also potentially the best team over the second five years. Where does that leave us?
|7 playoff appearances||1 MLS Cup appearance|
|1 US Open Cup (2016)||1 Supporters' Shield (2016)|
Unlike Portland and Toronto, Dallas have been one of the more consistent teams in the league. Only one team outside the top four of this list had more playoff appearances than Dallas this decade and, unlike Real Salt Lake (8), Dallas have won two major trophies. Along the way, David Ferreira won a Most Valuable Player trophy, Mauro Diaz stole hearts and Fabian Castillo stole souls.
Also for consideration: The club has built a clear identity. If we were to go through the league and I were to ask you "Who are (Team X)?" you'd struggle to find an answer for most clubs in MLS. You know what you'd say about FC Dallas, though. They prioritize youth development and Homegrown talent. Is that worth bonus points, especially considering they have yet to sell an academy product who has played for the first team or have yet to produce a mainstay on the full national team? That's a matter of preference.
...So who gets the #5 spot in our Clubs of the Decade series?
5. FC Dallas
FC Dallas is my pick for the fifth-best MLS club of the Decade. Toronto won the most trophies and hit the highest peaks, but they only had three good years and if I were to pick a team based on a three-year span, Atlanta fans would ruin the comments section.
Portland had a few elite years, but I can't include a team on this list that only competed in 50% of playoffs. FCD have combined peak years with steadiness.
Check back Tuesday to find out No. 4 on our list of Clubs of the Decade.