The 2021 Guide to Triumph, Misery, and Apath
At long last, MLS has revealed the 2021 schedule for the FC (and all of the lesser MLS teams). Hot on the heels of the online-dating based Brenner announcement, the FC continued its trend of couching its news in cultural references that I don’t understand by posting a video based on the well-known (I assume) website series Chess Girl.
I will say, it was very impressive how she was able to visualize how things happen on certain days on one month, and then different things happen on different days on another month. I am very excited to watch this show in three months, after I’ve finished the #SnyderCut.
As you might have expected, FC’s schedule is jam-packed with games against other MLS teams, from Nashville to Houston, back to Nashville, to Orlando, and then back to Nashville, and then Orlando one or two more times, with a few other teams sprinkled in. While, of course, we expect the FC will be favored in all of these games (except maybe Columbus on the road, but more on that later), the more important thing is to know how to feel about each game. Other than full of anticipation.
(I’m pleased to announce that my wife and I are expecting. Well, expecting to expect. Which means - *fist bump* - yeah, we’re totally doing it.)
So, I’m happy to provide the completely uncomplete (incomplete?) guide for The FC’s 2021 MLS season.
Game One: at Nashville SC, April 17, 2021
MLS knew what it was doing when it scheduled us on the road against Nashville SC in the first game of the season. Already our biggest MLS rivalry will be off to a hot start as we walk into Nashville’s home, with them cocky from an inaugural playoff season, and knock them down a peg or two with a resounding victory that includes goals from Brenner, Acosta, and Locadia. Or we lose, with a team that is still building chemistry, and with two more chances to make it right later in the season, and no reason to lose the optimism from the free-spending offseason.
So, the first game is a classic win-win situation. Unless there’s a tie.
Game Two: at NYCFC, April 24, 2021
This is a classic confidence builder. Sure, we might be coming off of a convincing win against the pretenders in Nashville, or an understandable loss by a team still learning how to play together, but this will be the game that really sets the tone for the season. NYCFC is decidedly not as good as they were in recent years, and they should be easy pickings for a second (or first) win of the season (or second tie, or first tie?). Regardless, it will be a great chance for Matarrita to tour Allan Cruz around Brooklyn childcare centers before he’s traded.
And that part about NYCFC not being as good as recent years? That’s subject to revision until they’re released an entire XI of Manchester City’s top academy prospects in the second week of April.
Game Three: at Orlando City SC, May 1, 2021
We will lose this game. Orlando is coming off of a great season, bringing everyone back, with another full offseason with one of the best managers in MLS. The only saving grace is that they might still be missing $10 million+ strike Daryl Dike, who totally could have been ours if we hadn’t dumped our draft pick last year in exchange for (I’m not Googling it) a Disney+ membership.
But that’s OK. A loss in week three only sets us up for a redemptive victory in…
Game Four: Inter Miami CF, May 16, 2021
This is it, what we’ve all been waiting for. The opening game of the West End Stadium brought to you by (*Litigation Pending*).
Miami has had legal problems, is in the first season under a chronically underachieving manager, and throwing money at that manager’s prior contacts. But that’s not all they have in common with FC. They also cut Victor Ulloa after one season and sent a Jamaican to Sudan.
In other words, there’s no way we lose this game.
Game Five: at CF Montreal (but really in Miami), May 22, 2021
We might lose this one. I assume the team will stay in Miami for the week, which means everyone will be tuckered out carrying Jurgen Locadia’s camera equipment around South Beach.
Game Six: New England Revolution, May 29, 2021
The second home game in the West End Stadium, in the weekend that would have included Taste of Cincinnati. Ordinarily I would be concerned, but knowing that Taste will probable be canceled means that the team won’t be weighed down by eating too many goetta balls.
4-1 to the Foosers (blech).
Game Seven: Colorado Rapids, June 19, 2021
I listened to an interview one time where Andre Shinyashiki said he wouldn’t have liked to have been drafted by FC Cincinnati because the city “wasn’t the best.” Screw these guys. Let’s kill them.
5-0 good guys.
Game Eight: at Chicago Fire FC, June 23, 2021
An away game at Chicago is an awesome opportunity for FC fans to travel. Especially as they’ve moved to Soldier Field, rather than wherever they played previously (Gary? East St. Louis?).
So of course MLS put it on a Wednesday.
Anyway, Extratime rated Robert Beric as a top five striker, ahead of Brenner. So our Brazilian wunderkind has a chip on his shoulder.
3-0 to the FC. (I’m not going to predict every game.)
Game Nine: at Toronto FC (or somewhere), June 26, 2021
I don’t have a lot to say about Toronto, except that the game won’t be in Toronto. Could be in Miami, could be in New York, or it could be in Buffalo for all I know
Michael Bradley sucks, Altidore did worse in EPL than Locadia, and they have a first-year coach.
Game Ten: at Houston Dynamo FC, July 3, 2021
Hell yeah, a Western Conference game. But it’s in Houston, the worst place in America to play, in early July.
But Brenner has been complaining about the cold here, which means he will thrive in the dry heat in Houston.
Game Eleven: Columbus Crew SC, July 7, 2021
Another impressive MLS scheduling feat – the first Hell is Real in West End Stadium on a Wednesday at 7:30. Obviously, it’s not a problem that Crew’s fan will have difficulty traveling to the game, but I’m not super thrilled about hustling out of work and deciding whether to wear my suit to the game or jamming it in a backpack for the walk up to Northern Row.
While I would prefer, for dramatic purposes, picking an early loss to the Crew that can be redeemed later in the season, it would kill me to lose this game.
Don't be shocked when MLS realizes their mistake and reschedules this one.
So I choose life: 3-2 FC. (I swear I will stop picking results.)
Game Twelve: at CF Montreal, July 17, 2021
Back to a multilingual city (Miami) to play a team from a multilingual city (Montreal). But the game is actually in Ft. Lauderdale. I don’t know much about Ft. Lauderdale, except that there’s an airport there. The airport probably takes charter flights, so the team will probably fly to Ft. Lauderdale.
Game Thirteen: Atlanta United FC, July 21, 2021
Here we go, the first test of the season. A new and improved Atlanta up against what will surely be the team to beat in the East. I will say that although Atlanta has had many highly touted signings, I have not heard of any of these people, so I assume they suck. No match for Brenner or Acosta. Unless they are.
Game 14 (no more spelling): at Nashville SC, July 24, 2021
Another road game against Nasvhille. Time to either entrench our dominance or even up the season series. Or tie.
Game 15: D.C. United, July 31, 2021
Lucho’s homecoming. Except he’s coming to his current home stadium, West End Stadium, against his former team that he (I assume) hates. Expect Lucho to show PSG what D.C. United deprived them of (by scoring lots of goals against them) or saved them from (by disappearing). Either way, we will surely know how to feel about the season by the 15th game.
Game 16: at New York Red Bulls, August 4, 2021
The team will finally have the chance to visit a stadium that is almost, but not quite, as good as West End. The other New York team, that is ignored by a slightly worse team that ignores the other (other) New York team. That might not have made any sense, but neither does it make sense for MLS to put two third ponies in the Greatest City in the World.
Game 17: Orlando City SC, August 7, 2021
I hope Daryl Dike isn’t back by now. Fun fact: it's pronounced Dee-Kay. Don't mess that one up.
Game 18: Philadelphia Union, August 14, 2021
This is the Haris Medunjanin revenge game. Unless we buy out his contract or trade him by them. Anyway, Philadelphia is ripe for the picking. They’ve lost McKenzie, and they’re playing a lesser Aaronson (Paxten, not Branson or Brandon Brendon or Brendan or whatever). I’m feeling pretty good about this one.
Game 19: CF Montreal, August 18, 2021
Whatever happened in those two games in Miami/Ft. Lauderdale don’t matter anymore. Now Montreal has to come to our town, where we only speak one language. English (unless it’s a sign around Findlay Market in OTR, in which case there’s a German word next to an unrelated American name).
Game 20: at New England Revolution, August 21, 2021
After three games in the comfort of home, FC will be back on the road against Bruce Arena’s crew. I don’t really know any of the players on New England, except I vaguely remember a Polish guy and I think they have some South American attacking players. But I’m going to assume that Bruce will play the weakest possible lineup on purpose based on who was nice to him that week, so FC will surely have a chance for victory.
Game 21: at Columbus Crew SC, August 27, 2021
MLS knew what it was doing when it made FC’s game on the road against Columbus on a Friday afternoon. They wanted to preserve the Crew’s home field advantage by preventing FC fans from traveling. But the joke’s on them: None of us have jobs anyway.
FC will surely pack the stadium with fans, securing a second home-field advantage in the Hell is Real Derby pronounced Darby, and we will unsave the Crew as they fold to USL.
Game 22: Inter Miami CF, September 4, 2021
Sure, maybe you can win a game in Miami/Ft. Lauderdale, but can you do it on a September day in Cincinnati? Maybe! But probably not.
Game 23: Toronto FC, September 11, 2021
There’s no way a US team loses to a foreign team on September 11.
Game 24: at Atlanta United FC, September 15, 2021
No joke, it would be great if people could all get jabbed by them so that there’s a full visitor’s allotment at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, because I would love to go there.
*Checks calendar, figures out it’s a Wednesday*
Screw it. Root for a fifth wave, empty stadium.
Game 25: New York City FC, September 18, 2021
This should actually be a pretty good game, because whoever they’re loaning from Man City will be recalled.
Game 26: at D.C. United, September 25, 2021
My team strategy for this game would be to fly in the same day as the game, so that Lucho doesn’t have the time to reconnect with any lost loves in D.C.
Game 27: at Toronto FC (TBD), September 29, 2021
Niagara Falls is nice, but more from the Canadian side, which you can’t get to, so it’s really not worth visiting right now.
Game 28: New York Red Bulls, October 2, 2021
Ben Mines revenge game.
Game 29: Orlando City SC, October 16, 2021
Daryl Dike will surely be sold by then.
Game 30: at Inter Miami CF, October 23, 2021
I’ve lost track of where these games are. My in-laws live in Naples, so maybe that’s close enough?
Game 30: Chicago Fire FC, October 20, 2021
So, I misread the schedule. This is actually game 30, and the Miami game above is game 31. My computer doesn’t do backspace, so I don’t know how to delete it. I’m sorry!
Game 32: Nashville SC, October 27, 2021
Finally, a home game against Nashville, so they can see actual fans in an actual soccer stadium. We should get our Tifu made at Kinko’s just to troll them.
I’m genuinely excited that we play Nashville three times this year, but a little miffed that we play Crew only twice, and both games are on weekdays.
Game 33: at Philadelphia Union, October 30, 2021
This game will occur at Subaru Park, which is somewhere near Philadelphia, I’m sure. By then, Paxten Aaronson will surely have been sold to a team in Sweden or Korea, and Philadelphia will be running on fumes. I think Alejandro Bedoya plays there too? I don’t know, I don’t watch a lot of MLS to be honest.
Surely, this game will have playoff stakes, because there’s no way that we’re out of the playoffs three seasons in a row. Right?
Game 34: Atlanta United FC, November 7, 2021
I really hope that we have the playoffs sewn up by now, because I genuinely think Atlanta will be hella good this year.
So that’s it. That’s the whole season. I hope you read the analysis all the way through to the end, because it means you will have wasted at least half as much time as I did writing it.
Sure, I have some complaints here and there about the schedule, and I don’t love playing some teams three times and having no shot at the Western Conference. But doesn’t it feel good to be looking at real games, on real dates, that almost certainly will actually happen with fans in attendance? And now that you’ve imagined going to games, haven’t you already gotten the benefit? Can anything match your imagination?
If not, then winning doesn’t even matter. If so, then you need a better imagination.