Image: (@HORSE_GOD) via Twitter
FC Dallas ended a disappointing season with a 1-1 game against the San Jose Earthquakes. The draw puts Dallas at a 7-12-15 record for 2021, the second worst record in their history. The rise of Ricardo Pepi and Nkosi Tafari and the comeback of Jesus Ferreira gave supporters something to look forward to on match days, however, to an otherwise forgettable season.
In an effort to save the season, third year coach Luchi Gonzalez was relieved of his duties as manager and the job was given to long time FC Dallas front office man Marco Ferruzzi. Under Ferruzzi the club went on to have one win, three draws, and four losses for the second half of the season.
The lack of improvement caused frustration among Dallas' supporters. El Matador, the oldest FC Dallas supporters' group, took to a public protest on their October 2nd game against Minnesota United. Armed with signs demanding "Hunts Out" and "Invest in Us", pictures of the protest filled Twitter as fans looked to make their voices heard. This was not the first time fans have called for Clark and Dan Hunt to sell FC Dallas, however.
The lack of investment seen in the club, no noticeable marketing, the Front Office's relationship with the fans, and Dallas' near empty trophy cabinet has been a source of consistent frustration for longtime fans of the club. The play of Dallas this year was the final straw for many as they took to social media and an in-game protest to repeatedly demand the Hunts to sell or invest in the club.
FC Dallas is not known as a club to spend money. They've mostly filled their rosters with free or cheap players from South America and most recently homegrowns. They've found some diamonds in the rough in South America, such as Michael Barrios, Fabian Castillo, and Mauro Diaz to name a few. For every one great player though, they've also brought in countless duds such as Getterson, Erick, and most recently Freddy Vargas.
On the homegrown front, they've now brought up difference makers from their academy like Ricardo Pepi, Jesus Ferreira, and Paxton Pomykal to be key members of the roster, but the success of the homegrowns is fairly recent. Before Oscar Pareja became the head coach in 2014, Dallas did not invest in their youth and players like Ruben Luna and Danny Garcia did not progress with the first team.
The lack of investment carries over to the marketing side as well. Few in North Texas are even aware that there's a professional soccer team in Frisco. Save for a digital billboard on 380 (A long road connecting several other cities of North Texas to Frisco), FC Dallas is rarely spotted on signage along the highways and interstates in North Texas, and even then the 380 rotates between ads so it is not constantly visible.
The relationship between the Front Office and the fans, particularly those of El Matador, has been poor. Security and the FO have a history of clashing with El Matador and this season it seemed to have gotten worse. Members of the group have mentioned that they've had security stop any open criticism in stadium. They've also mentioned that the FO has tried to stop complaints made on social media. The "Hunts Out" signs, for example, were reportedly not welcomed at the October 2nd game and they did not allow fans to bring them back into the stadium for their next game.
In addition to being unable to express negative opinions of the club, seeing Texas' newest MLS club Austin FC offer their full support for fans has furthered strained their relationship. Austin FC, despite their terrible record this year, made a name for itself by aiding their supporters with travel and other expenses.
"The FO (Austin FC) has been cooperative and communicative with us. Overall I would say the relationship is positive," -TwinOaks TV (Austin FC contributor)
Back in September, El Matador tried to get a bus so they could offer the team support against their rivals in Houston. Despite the club giving them no help in renting a bus, they continued to try to a find a way to bring fans to Houston and even their independent effort was shot down by the FO.
FC Dallas supporter Theo Melillo voiced his many reasons on why he believes the Hunts should sell the team:
"The Hunts have repeatedly shown a disinterest in competing for an MLS Cup. Every time they get the opportunity, they say how MLS Cup is their goal. Time and time again though, they show through their actions the only real concern they have is the money they make from the hard work of the Academy. They have continually failed to meaningfully invest the necessary resources into the first team, and the results on the field speak for themselves. They have gotten away with the bare minimum for years, somehow barely making the playoffs only to be beaten immediately, which they then turn around and call “mission accomplished.” The fans aren’t ignorant. You cannot expect your fanbase to support this obviously neglectful approach, or eventually we’ll be seeing a lot more former FCD fans at Q2 Stadium (Austin FC's stadium) in the future."
On the marketing aspect:
"The approach to marketing, local and statewide, is utterly abysmal and unacceptable. In this regard they really have no argument to hide behind. They’ve never tried to boost the club’s profile in the immediate area. I myself live in Houston, but have for YEARS listened to some of the most diehard supporters complain about how they have never seen a billboard, or TV ad, or even merchandise at local stores. If you lived in DFW you’d be excused for not even knowing the team existed. That shouldn’t be the case for a team in a major media market. I know the other teams take a LOT of attention, especially America’s Team (The Dallas Cowboys), but that’s no excuse for not even trying in the first place."
Thoughts on if he believes the Hunts try to win trophies-
"I do not at all believe the Hunts truly care about winning trophies. I believe it’s a nice side objective for them but they’ve shown too many times that they simply don’t care, at least don’t care enough, about winning an MLS Cup (which should always be the goal.)"
Thoughts on FO relationship with supporters-
"Do they care about the fans? Let me ask you this. Does a front office who actively works to sabotage the efforts of independent supporters to get transportation to support their team for a crucial away game care about those fans? Does an FO that fails to clear away dangerous metal knots and forces supporters to use bike racks tied together with zip ties in the supporters section care about fans?"
Months prior to Dallas' first match of the season, El Matador and the Dallas Beer Guardians (Dallas' 2nd supporter group) were promised a safe standing area. When it came to the opening game on April 17th, a temporary solution was offered but it left much to be desired.
Does an FO that threatens to ban anyone who brings a sign to a game expressing their frustration with all the points I’ve listed above care about the fans?"
This season the front office has been at war with the supporters. Any time fans were publicly voicing their criticisms and concerns, they were shut down."
"They have shown a pervasive hostility towards supporters in particular on numerous occasions. They’d rather have a dead atmosphere that panders to conservative Frisco soccer moms than an atmosphere led by the loyal supporters. So no, they absolutely do not care about the fans."
Other clubs like the Houston Dynamo and Chicago Fire have made changes to revive their franchises for the upcoming season, giving fans more reason to put the pressure on the Hunts to sell or invest in the team. 2022 will be the start of a new era, with the club needing to hire a new head coach. That will be the first chance for the Hunts to show fans that they listen to them.