David Beckham, Landon Donovan embrace after 2012 MLS Cup
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY

Five MLS teams deserving of “The Last Dance” treatment | Charles Boehm

ESPN’s “The Last Dance,” a documentary mini-series on the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls, has thrilled sports fans around the world since its first two episodes debuted on April 19. With little in the way of live sports to view while millions stay home due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 10-part saga figures to keep doing so for the foreseeable future.

The combination of inside access and the final hurrah of the Bulls dynasty in Michael Jordan’s final season is making for addictive viewing. So naturally we wondered: Which MLS teams do we wish had gotten this treatment?

There’s lots of right answers here, and I’ve probably overlooked some worthy ones. But this is my list of the top five.

5) Tampa Bay Mutiny, 1996

This is the team that won the first-ever Supporters’ Shield, though technically that honorific moniker didn’t even exist yet. With Carlos Valderrama elegantly pulling the strings and Roy Lassiter racking up 27 goals – a Golden Boot record that stood until Josef Martinez’s unreal 2018 campaign – coach Thomas Rongen’s boys in lime green were a blast on the field.

And an even better afterparty, based on what rugged defender Cle Kooiman told me a couple years ago:

“Not only did we rock it on the field, but off the field we were a tight group, most living at a complex called Parker’s Landing, and “the Sunday Barbeques” were pretty crazy. Valderrama would bring the Black Label whiskey, [Giuseppe] Galderisi would bring the homemade sangria and everyone else would bring their appetite for fun to our all-day pool party, cards, food, lounging, overlooking the lake…..the best team and greatest memories.”

4) D.C. United, 2013

An upset win in the 2013 US Open Cup final was a rare positive for D.C. United that year | USA Today Sports Images

Who owns the unwanted distinction of the worst season in MLS history? Huge variances across eras – even the manner in which standings and statistics have been kept – deny us a clear, obvious, objective metric by which to assign that label, but many longtime league observers will point to this side.

The Black-and-Red found ‘13 a very unlucky number indeed, winning just three league matches all season, averaging 0.47 points per game, scoring a measly 22 goals in 34 games and suffering through a seven-game losing streak in the spring – all just months removed from nearly reaching MLS Cup 2012.

That’s not exactly what makes this “30 For 30” fodder, though. The coup de grace of this little story? D.C. were a completely different team in the US Open Cup, tearing through four MLS counterparts, capped by a stunning, gutsy road win over heavily favored Real Salt Lake in the final. If you like “Sunderland Til I Die,” this might just provide the riveting-train-wreck viewing you crave.

3) Real Salt Lake, 2010-11

The tiki-taka soccer. The magic 4-4-2 diamond. The marathon, incredible, ultimately agonizing run to the Concacaf Champions League final. “La Mormonera.” Jason Kreis’ coaching star on a meteoric rise. “The Team is the Star.”

In so many ways, this vintage of RSL did things few other MLS teams ever have. And they did it with a balanced, wildly diverse and often combustible mix of players and personalities, from genial characters like Nick Rimando and Javi Morales to the ferocious Kyle Beckerman and volatile Argentine striker Fabian Espindola.

Both the league and team websites covered the CCL campaign admirably, but this squad merited even more immersive treatment, especially during this snapshot of a groundbreaking project in MLS annals.

2) Toronto FC, 2017

This is TFC’s treble team, for me the greatest side in league history by the single-season criteria, an overpowering and aesthetically enjoyable juggernaut that won every trophy it was eligible for, and generally on its own terms. Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore were reliably unstoppable, Michael Bradley anchored a stacked midfield and their city exuberantly embraced their excellence.

Perhaps even more importantly, based on several data points it could be a circus – in the best sense of the word – behind the scenes, from stories of Giovinco and Bradley arguing heatedly in high-volume Italian during some halftimes to the boozy victory parade that followed their emphatic MLS Cup win over Seattle at BMO Field.

1) LA Galaxy, 2012

David Beckham is one of a precious few who can claim Jordan’s level of global fame and success – note Goldenballs adopted the No. 23 shirt on his MLS arrival in a nod to His Airness – so his last year with the Galaxy, a repeat of their 2011 title, is a no-brainer here.

Plus you had Robbie Keane and Juninho in devastating form, the great Landon Donovan putting in his final shift before that infamous sabbatical, Mike Magee being Mike Magee… and Bruce Arena herding them all through a woeful start to a relentless stretch run that concluded with a cathartic conference-final defeat of the Seattle Sounders and a comeback MLS Cup win over the Houston Dynamo on home turf.


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