Monday, April 18, 2016

[D.C. Untied 7] D.C. United vs Toronto FC, April 16, 2016

The game on Saturday was essentially over when Sebastian Giovinco put Toronto FC up a goal in the first minute. Our defenders had once again emerged from the locker room the same way I emerge from bed--sluggish, caught in a stare, and needing a cup of a coffee--and forced us to spend 89 minutes plus stoppage time chasing a lead. The 2015 team seemed to use the chase as a focusing mechanism, coming back from behind to victory over and over again throughout the year. The 2016 team, on the other hand, becomes dangerously unhinged when they’re down a goal. After Giovinco scored D.C. United attempted to rally. Once the game settled down, about ten minutes in, United played like we saw them last week against Dallas and in the first half against LA. They were dangerous, organized, and prowling for goals. If we’d scored an equalizer then, we probably would have gone on to win. But we didn’t. We went into halftime down a goal and the second half was spent shooting wild shots from increasingly ludicrous distances. Even defender Sean Franklin got into the action launching a rocket so far over the net it seemed ready to enter orbit. They seemed to already have given up the game as lost with 45 minutes to go.


(United trolling us with that smoke.)

To be fair to United, the refereeing was atrocious and Toronto played very rough, doling out body checks like this was ice hockey, at one point sending even poor Patrick Nyarko tumbling into the ad boards behind the goal and off the field to get treatment. If the referee had been tougher on Toronto it’s possible the game would have gone a different way but this is real life not FIFA. You play the game in front of you with the ref you’re given. You can’t restart to get a do-over.

I don’t know what the change is from last year, why we keep giving up when we’re one goal down. Is it not having Davy Arnaud’s grit on the field? Are we missing Bill Hamid’s strength? Does Espindola no longer trust his teammates? Did Chris Rolfe somehow curse the team when he traded his glorious, unwieldly blond mane for that corporate bro sellout cut? Is Bobby Boswell getting too old to play well two games in a row? Whatever it is, this team needs to get it together and fast because morale among the fans could hardly be lower with the front office already doing everything in their power to keep us away.

Which brings me to my second point, actually the game was not over in the first minute when Giovinco caught Boswell napping. For the fans, the game had just begun.

This past weekend marked a second round of protests from fans around North America in support of the District Ultras, who have been unfairly sanctioned by both MLS and D.C. United’s front office for the use of a smoke bomb--a device that features prominently in both MLS and D.C. United’s advertising (as shown above)--in RFK’s parking lot. (There are links to the full story in last week’s entry.) For the second week in a row the Ultras protested the sanctions by leaving our section empty in the first half and jamming the 90 mentality into 45 minutes for the second half.

Last week I stood with the Vancouver supporters. This week I stood somewhere behind the Barra Brava with a cool new friend. I told him I might curse and he said he didn’t mind. “You don’t know how buttoned up I have to be during the week,” I said. And it’s true. It’s a glorious thing to be able to come out to RFK once a week and sing and dance in the stands with friends, drinking beer and yelling obscenities at the opposition players. What about that positive release of energy would necessitate the extra security I saw posted in front of our section during the second half? It was a deliberate insult, a provocation (and not the only one from what I heard). The only violence that was going to happen after the loss was going to be online and, to be quite frank, the online cries for Ben Olsen's head are eternal and mostly toothless.

The front office needs to understand that the support base for D.C. United includes all types of people. Families can happily sit on the quiet side far away from trash talking loudmouths like me. The clean cut K-Street bros and their girlfriends looking for someplace different to drink crappy beer and flirt aren’t going to not come to RFK because there is a corner of intense drumming and flag waving in sections 127 and 128. They’re not going to come to RFK because clean cut K-Street bros think soccer is boring and RFK is old and crumbling down around us. Let us have the Ultras have their fun. I just found this group, front office. Don’t take them away from me yet!

We all need some space in society where we can be ourselves. Cultural expectations for women are strict. Do this. Don’t do that. Dress like this. Don’t wear that. Fit in. Be coquettish but demure. Be some dude’s accessory but still “powerful,” like a deodorant, colorless and odorless. Have no opinions of your own. I can fake it more or less during the week but my insides are riddled with scars from years of society trying to force me to actually fit the mold. I break into a panicked cold sweat at the words “bridal shower;” I start scanning for exits the minute some bro starts talking at me like I’m a “girl” not a person; the sight of a crowd of white people in sherbert colored polo shirts and khakis makes my skin crawl. But when I showed up at the game against Vancouver in an obnoxious blue fur coat, the Ultras petted me like an overgrown kitten and handed me a hammer to play the stump game. And then when I accidentally overdid it on partying, they made sure I got on the Metro home and later (rightfully) busted my balls about it. When I brought my friend A. with me a few weeks ago, nobody looked at her twice when she wandered off to investigate the wildlife down by the river. A. ended up having so much fun that she’s now an official Ultras member. Would she have come back to RFK without that accepting atmosphere? Would I have signed up for seasons tickets if not for the Ultras? A woman like me attending games by herself in a sea of bros in backwards visors and uptight soccer moms with their kids? I don’t think so. Maybe I'd watch the games on TV but with the way we've been playing it wouldn't exactly be must see TV.

Which is to say that if there were any positives to take away from the game this past Saturday, they weren’t on the field, they were in the stands. Making soccer friends is really fun. There are a lot of good people hanging out in Lot 8 before the games. I wandered over to RFK extra early because there was going to be a meetup for all the nerds who hang out on the D.C. United news website Black and Red United. I got to put a face to some familiar screen names and even managed to sniff out another Bollywood fan. Is there more fun to be had on a sunny Saturday afternoon than standing around outside drinking beer, eating brownies, and discussing both Prabhas’s abs and Nick DeLeon’s questionable hair choices? No. No, there is not.

The loss this week was disappointing but I didn’t leave RFK feeling depressed. Even after the team filed off the field back to the locker room, we hung around in the stands singing and drumming until security came to chase us out.

I’ve said this before but it’s worth saying again. It was just about this time last year that I got ill. So ill that I couldn’t remember what it felt like to not be in constant pain. I could barely make it out of bed and into work. This went on for months. And as I was coming out of it, our family was hit hard with a series of deaths over the summer into fall. Last year sucked. Big time. But going to D.C. United games with my brother, cheering for the team, bonding with both the players and the fans… it kept me from falling into depression. Win or lose, there was always another game to look forward to. And now D.C. United is my team. Win or lose. That’s what the front office needs to understand. Message: We care. We’re not customers; we’re fans. Look, front office, I would so much rather be writing about how Toronto FC's Michael Bradley looked like he was wearing JNCOs or gushing over how dreamy Chris Rolfe still is even with that filthy pirate 'stache so why don't you let me. Nobody wants this tension. Not the team, not the fans. Why not end it and let us have fun again?

For the boys.

A video posted by District Ultras (@district_ultras) on

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