The stakes of the Texan trio of Major League Soccer


Through Jason davis – WASHINGTON, DC (September 1, 2021) American Soccer Players – As tourism efforts like to remind us, “Everything is bigger in Texas. The phrase is probably rooted in the size of the state, but it applies to many areas of Texan life. No one does it bigger than Texas, with “it” for food, football and more.

Football, however, probably doesn’t make the list. At least not if we’re talking about the 2021 Major League Soccer season. The MLS team contingent is larger by one. Austin FC joined MLS originals, FC Dallas and the league’s only outsourced club, the Houston Dynamo. None of them are in a playoff spot when September arrives.

The best of the Texan trio is FC Dallas. It’s still a balance for the club formerly known as Burn. The twin goals of winning games and developing players don’t always work together. The institutional commitment to giving young players a chance with the club’s senior team is admirable, but it makes it more difficult to succeed in the league.

FC Dallas’ fortunes are largely defined by what the club can get out of their academy-developed players, even if they are actively engaged in selling those same rising stars, and their effectiveness in bringing in more veteran players to lead. load. After a crazy 5-3 victory in Austin, they overtook LAFC and took 10th place in the Western Conference. The victory was notable for being the club’s first in Austin in what should turn into a natural geographic rivalry, for the boost it provided in the standings and the performances of a few of these local stars.

The main one is striker Ricardo Pepi. He’s made headlines three times in the past week: first for scoring the winning penalty for the MLS All-Stars in their win over the Liga MX All-Stars on Wednesday in Los Angeles, and then for his decision to play for USMNT against Mexico. , and finally for the two goals, an assist for FC Dallas in the victory against Austin.

While there is hope in Dallas that the season will not be a lost cause, it rests on the shoulders of young players like Pepi, Jesus Ferreira, Paxton Pomykal and Edwin Cerillo. They all have the chance to prove themselves with the senior team. Whether or not that turns into a successful playoff push, there is a countdown hanging over the team members.

This is the situation for all young talent, with MLS embracing the concept of being a sales league. A player like Pepi becoming a star comes with the reality that the more successful he is, the shorter his stay will be.

Pepi isn’t going anywhere this season except for international service. Being part of the USMNT player pool complicates the club’s push for the playoffs, starting this weekend when it travels to Utah to play a six-point game against 7th-place Real Salt Lake. . FC Dallas isn’t the only club lacking important players, as MLS schedules games in another international window. Still, losing Pepi is a big blow.

The odds of the other two Texas teams making their way into the playoff table seem much smaller. FC Dallas’ traditional rivals, the Houston Dynamo, are having a tough season under the guidance of second-year head coach Tab Ramos.

Houston’s home loss to Minnesota United on Saturday left the club rooted at the foot of the Western Conference table alongside Austin FC. The club went more than three months without a win, their last date of May 22 against the Vancouver Whitecaps.

What afflicts Houston is both obvious and frustrating. The club rank in the last quarter of MLS for goals, expected goals and goals conceded. The Dynamo is not the victim of bad finishes or unlucky rebounds. Instead, they’re below the league median on both sides of the ball. A redesign of the offseason did not live up to expectations.

Houston’s low-end performance has already taken a toll. The club fired general manager Matt Jordan on Tuesday, ending his seven-year tenure in Houston. During Jordan’s run, the Dynamo, operating as a “small market” team despite the size and richness of the Houston-area football market, made the playoffs only once.

The ouster of Jordan by Dynamo follows a change of investor / operator. New York financier Ted Segal took over the club on June 22 after buying the club’s majority stake from Mexican billionaire Gabriel Brener. There are reasons to see the Dynamo undergo another overhaul this offseason.

In Houston, it’s just about improving results on the pitch. This is not the case in Austin. While some MLS expansion teams tell a different story, it is expected to take time to get it right.

Austin FC is tied with Houston for the fewest points in the Western Conference. They have a small advantage thanks to play in hand via a quirk of the calendar, but that can’t be much comfort for a team hoping for better in their debut season.

There were good times. Knocking down Portland 3-1 at home a few weeks ago certainly counts. Stage Q2 is special. Regardless of the club’s arrival at the end of the regular season, the atmosphere in Austin is something the new team can build as 2022 approaches.

At the moment, the MLS is not bigger in Texas. If the state is to live up to the famous phrase when it comes to its fastest growing sport, there is a lot of work to be done.

Jason Davis is the founder of and the host of The United States of Soccer on SiriusXM. Contact him: [email protected] To follow him on Twitter.

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Photo by the Houston Dynamo


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