Major League Soccer 101: The teams

With the Columbus Crew joining the Fox Sports Ohio family, website editor Barry McBride has asked me to help him and other newcomers get up to speed on MLS. In the first installment, I answered some basic questions about the Columbus Crew. Barry is now seeking help on all of the other MLS teams, so this is a basic MLS team guide for new Crew fans. This isn’t a season preview, but rather a quick, Crew-centric look at the league. 
As a reminder, there are three domestic trophies available to MLS teams each year: MLS Cup (league championship), Supporters’ Shield (Euro-styled championship for best record), and the U.S. Open Cup (single-elimination tournament featuring all levels of soccer in the U.S.) The all-time records vs. the Crew listed below include all competitions.
Let’s meet the MLS clubs!
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CHICAGO FIRE

MLS Cup: 1 (1998) / SS: 1 (2003) / USOC: 4 (1998, 2000, 2003, 2006)
All-Time Series vs. Crew:  CHI leads 23-12-13
Comment: Amazingly won MLS Cup and the U.S. Open Cup during their expansion season of 1998.  Not exactly the 1999 Cleveland Browns, were they? (Or the 2000-2011 Browns, for that matter.) An interesting aspect to MLS is that soccer has a deep global talent pool, so expansion teams don’t necessarily have to suffer out of the gate. As previously mentioned, the Fire are a fierce Crew rival and everything about them is stupid and worthy of scorn and derision.
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CHIVAS USA

MLS Cup: 0 / SS: 0 / USOC: 0
All-Time Series vs. Crew: CHV leads 6-4-4
Comment: Since Mexican club Chivas Guadalajara is one of the most popular sports teams in Los Angeles, their owners decided to start an MLS club in LA. After promising that their Mexican-flavored club would dominate MLS right out of the gate, the Goats (as they are seriously known) managed to win all of 4 games that year.  Chivas abandoned the Mexican conceit after that first season, and are now just like any other MLS team except that they are clumsily named after a Mexican team and exist in the sizeable shadow of Donovan, Beckham, and the LA Galaxy. 
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COLORADO RAPIDS

MLS Cup: 1 (2010) / SS: 0 / USOC: 0
All-Time Series vs. Crew: COL leads 18-12-8
Comment: Traditionally one of the most non-descript franchises in MLS. Until winning MLS Cup in 2010, the most notable thing about the Rapids was their penchant for drastic uniform color changes every few years. From the beginning, the Rapids have always been a team that gives the Crew a hard time. They have even knocked the Crew out of the playoffs the last two years. Saturday’s season opener (6pm on Fox Sports Ohio) will be the Crew’s chance for payback. 


COLUMBUS CREW

MLS Cup: 1 (2008) / SS: 3 (2004, 2008, 2009) / USOC: 1(2002)
Comment: Massive.
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D.C. UNITED

MLS Cup: 4 (1996, 1997, 1999, 2004) / SS: 4 (1997, 1999, 2006, 2007) / USOC: 2 (1996, 2008)
All-Time Series vs. Crew: DCU leads 30-22-8
Comment: We already went over D.C. United’s pompous arrogance in the last article, so let’s instead focus on their arrogant pomposity. They have the word “tradition” displayed just below the neckline on the back of their jerseys. Also, before hosting the 2009 U.S. Open Cup final, they unveiled a website called WeWinTrophies.com. They failed to win that trophy and haven’t won any trophies since. Karma.
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FC DALLAS

MLS Cup: 0 / SS: 0 / USOC: 1 (1997)
All-Time Series vs. Crew: DAL leads 17-16-8
Comment: This team was originally known as the Dallas Burn, but that was stupid, so they changed their name to the generic FC Dallas. They are sometimes referred to as the Hoops because of the hoop-like stripes on their jerseys. (Red hoops as the primary jersey and blue hoops on the alternates.)  One fascinating tidbit about FC Dallas is that their coach, Schellas Hyndman, not only coached team owner Clark Hunt at Southern Methodist, but he is also a Combat Ki Master. In a demonstration of pain tolerance, a YouTube video shows Hyndman unaffected by a full-on kick to the groin administered by former NFL punter Mike Saxon.
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HOUSTON DYNAMO

MLS Cup: 2 (2006, 2007) / SS: 0 / USOC: 0
All-Time Series vs. Crew: CLB leads 3-2-5
Comment: Speaking of kicks to the groin, the Dynamo won back-to-back MLS Cups their first two years in Houston after relocating from San Jose. They also advanced to MLS Cup last season. That success helped pave the way for their brand new soccer stadium opening in downtown Houston this year. The Dynamo are easy to identify because of their creamsicle orange uniforms. 
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LOS ANGELES GALAXY

MLS Cup: 3 (2002, 2005, 2011) / SS: 4 (1998. 2002, 2010, 2011) / USOC: 2 (2001, 2005)
All-Time Series vs. Crew: CLB leads 17-14-8
Comment: The Galaxy are undoubtedly the glamour club in MLS. Not only are they the reigning MLS Cup champions featuring stars like Landon Donovan and David Beckham, but they have been a major player throughout most of the league’s history. Of the 16 MLS Cups, the Galaxy have played in seven of them. Many expect an eighth MLS Cup appearance in 2012. Many more hope that it doesn’t happen.
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MONTREAL IMPACT

MLS Cup: n/a / SS: n/a / USOC: n/a
All-Time Series vs. Crew: 0-0-0
Comment: Montreal is entering MLS for the first time this year, so there’s not much to say. One interesting tidbit for those of you in Northeast Ohio: The Impact began play in 1993 in the minor leagues, and even briefly switched to an indoor soccer team, before returning outdoors. In 1999, the Cleveland Crunch defeated the Impact in the first round of the 1999 NPSL playoffs, en route to the Crunch’s third championship of the decade. So when the Crew face Montreal in their home opener at Crew Stadium on March 24, there will be a “six degrees of Kevin Bacon” type of link between the Crew and Crunch. (One other fun link: The Crunch won that 1999 title the night before Crew Stadium opened. I was at both games. That was a good weekend.)
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NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION

MLS Cup: 0 / SS: 0 / USOC: 1 (2007)
All-Time Series vs. Crew: CLB leads 28-19-13
Comment: The Revs are the Buffalo Bills of MLS. They have appeared in four MLS Cups, winning none of them. After losing MLS Cup 2002 in front of over 61,000 home fans at Foxboro, they also went on to lose three consecutive MLS Cups from 2005 to 2007.  Those were their glory days. The team has struggled in recent years, and their championship-losing ways seem to have infected the 2007 and 2011 Patriots. Between the Pats and Revs, the Kraft family has seen its teams lose five straight league championship game appearances.
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NEW YORK RED BULLS

MLS Cup: 0 / SS: 0 / USOC: 0
All-Time Series vs. Crew: CLB leads 28-23-8
Comment: Yes, the Red Bulls are owned by the energy drink company. The team was formerly known as the MetroStars before becoming the ultimate product placement. The Red Bulls have the distinction of being the only original MLS team to have never won any of the three domestic trophies, which is hilarious considering how desperately the league has wanted a successful team in New York. From a Columbus perspective, they will always be the team that the Crew beat 3-1 in MLS Cup 2008. For everyone else, they are the team that employs English Premier League legend and razorblade pitchman Thierry Henry.
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PHILADELPHIA UNION

MLS Cup: 0 / SS: 0 / USOC: 0
All-Time Series vs. Crew: CLB leads 3-1-0
Comment: The Union are a hard-nosed team built in the image of their hard-nosed coach, Piotr Nowak, and their hard-nosed president, Nick Sakiewicz. Games against the Crew always have a little extra tension as Nowak and Crew head coach Robert Warzycha hate losing to one another.  Polish pride is at stake. The Crew once beat Philly with midfielder Eddie Gaven playing goalkeeper for the final several minutes after William Hesmer broke his shoulder and the Crew were out of subs. That was…interesting. Gaven allowed one goal but also made a nice save.
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PORTLAND TIMBERS

MLS Cup: 0 / SS: 0 / USOC: 0
All-Time Series vs. Crew: Tied 1-1-0
Comment: The Timbers sold out their inaugural season in MLS and have some of the most passionate fans in MLS. The Timbers have what is undoubtedly the most peculiar tradition in American professional sports. When they score a goal, a man named Timber Joey revs up a chainsaw and saws off a slab from a log located at field level. The log slab is then paraded through the crowd and presented to the goal scorer in a postgame ceremony. Seriously. This actually happens. It’s incredible.
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REAL SALT LAKE

MLS Cup: 1 (2009) / SS: 0 / USOC: 0
All-Time Series vs. Crew: CLB leads 10-7-2
Comment: That’s “Real” as in the Spanish word for “royal,” not “real” as in “existing.” There aren’t any Spanish kings or queens in Utah, but owner Dave Checketts is a huge Real Madrid fan, thus the dumb name. RSL caught fire in late 2009 to eke into the playoffs, and then went on to stun the Crew, Fire, and Galaxy to win MLS Cup. Since then, they have been one of the more entertaining teams in MLS, although further trophies have not followed. Rio Tinto Stadium  is a tough place to play. The Royals hold the MLS team record for home unbeaten streaks in league play (29 games) and in all competitions (37 games.) Both streaks were snapped in 2011.
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SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES

MLS Cup: 2 (2001, 2003) / SS: 1 (2005) / USOC: 0
All-Time Series vs. Crew: CLB leads 20-15-2
Comment: The original Earthquakes relocated to Houston after the 2005 season, but San Jose was given the “Cleveland Browns plan.” All records remained in San Jose and Oakland A’s owner Lew Wolff bought an expansion team that began play in 2008. Their new stadium was approved a few weeks ago, and is expected to open at some point during the 2013 season. For now, they play in a 10,000 seat college soccer stadium in Santa Clara. Intimate.
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SEATTLE SOUNDERS

MLS Cup: 0 / SS: 0 / USOC: 3 (2009, 2010, 2011)
All-Time Series vs. Crew: SEA leads 4-0-3
Comment: After the Crew won MLS Cup 2008, the expansion Sounders lured Crew coach Sigi Schmid to Seattle, where he built an instant contender. The Sounders have won three straight U.S. Open Cups, including a victory over the Crew in the 2010 final. Most irritatingly, Sigi and his Sounders are undefeated against the Crew. Last season, they extended the streak to seven games when they laid a 6-2 spanking on Columbus. The Sounders averaged 38,496 fans per game last year, so there were lots of people there to revel in the massacre. Cleveland icon Drew Carey is a proud and vocal minority owner of the Sounders.
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SPORTING KANSAS CITY

MLS Cup: 1 (2000) / SS: 1 (2000) / USOC: 1 (2004)
All-Time Series vs. Crew: CLB leads 22-18-6
Comment: The former Kansas City Wizards were renamed the Euro-poseur-ish “Sporting Kansas City” last season to commemorate the opening of their incredible new stadium, Livestrong Sporting Park. As a spoof on the name, they are sometimes referred to as the Sporks. The re-birth of Kansas City has been nothing short of amazing, considering they used to be perpetual attendance laggards playing in oversized Arrowhead or an undersized minor league ballpark. With a new stadium, big crowds, and a talented roster on the upswing, the Sporks are consensus Eastern Conference favorites this year.
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TORONTO FC

MLS Cup: 0 / SS: 0 / USOC: n/a
All-Time Series vs. Crew: CLB leads 5-1-7
Comment: We already addressed Toronto’s perpetual horridness in the last article and how, last fall, they finally beat Columbus for the first time in 13 tries. Another TFC fun fact is that the Hosers have failed to make the playoffs in all five of their seasons. This is the one and only 5-year playoff drought in the entirety of the league’s history. This makes sense when you learn that TFC is owned by the Toronto Maple Leafs, who are on a six-year playoff drought of their own. (And they’re working hard on #7 this spring.)
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VANCOUVER WHITECAPS

MLS Cup: 0 / SS: 0 / USOC: n/a
All-Time Series vs. Crew: CLB leads 2-0-0
Comment: The Whitecaps struggled in their expansion season, but defender Jay DeMerit is a terrific story. A Green Bay native, he played in the Chicago Fire system, but was not drafted or signed by any MLS club. He moved to England in 2003 and began playing semi-professionally in a 9th-tier league, earning less than $100 a week. By 2006, he was playing in the English Premier League and went on to start all four games for the U.S. in the 2010 World Cup. Last year, he came home to MLS, nine years after nobody drafted him.