The bus ride home from Yankee Stadium was quiet, everyone cold, sad, and lost in their own thoughts. Two games into the season and D.C. United are winless and goalless. How do we make sense of a 4-0 loss when it’s too early in the season to fit it into a narrative? We don’t know what the loss means yet, if it means anything. Is it a harbinger of a really shit season, early chaos as the team sorts itself out, or another unfortunate experience playing on the postage stamp sized field at Yankee Stadium?
Initially I’d thought about going up a day early and spending some time wandering around New York looking at stuff but then I got the flu and then people asked me to do things on Saturday--1) Record a podcast talking about MLS, which you absolutely should listen to and 2) Attend my very first WWE event--which is why I found myself on a frigidly cold Sunday morning on the Screaming Eagles bus leaving from Arlington with a bunch of other D.C. United fans heading up to Yankee Stadium.
After a couple hours of early morning drowsiness people began opening coolers and popping beers, getting revved up for the game. Most of the people I knew had ended up on the other bus leaving from RFK so I got down to doing what I do best: making bus friends. Soon enough we had some good banter worked up in the back and after revealing my snazzy new Jared Jeffrey away jersey, I struck up a bet with one of my new bus bros over who was going to score the first goal of the season: If it was Jeffrey, I got three shots; if it was literally any other player, I owed him a beer.
The bet would not be decided that afternoon.
Excitement really began to build as soon as the skyline of New York City came into view. Now matter how many times I go to New York, there is something about the skyline. A beauty that goes beyond cynicism. I forget that much of Manhattan and Brooklyn have been colonized by the ultra-wealthy, that disgusting creatures on Wall Street have trashed our economy, that coked-up trust fund assholes with ironic facial hair and vintage coolots working unpaid internships now dictate the cultural conversation. The skyline of New York City still has a romance to it, despite all that.
The original Yankee Stadium is gone--replaced with a shinier version, full of modern conveniences like heated bathrooms--but there was still enough of the old design incorporated into the exterior of the new building to lend it an air of dignity missing from most modern stadiums with their office park mentality. Much like the city itself, Yankee Stadium still has a romance to it despite the stench of corporate America.
Some confusion with the buses meant we were dropped off on the opposite side of the building from the away fans entrance and slightly tipsy from beer and adrenaline we marched around through the crowds and inside.
Yankee Stadium is huge. Built for many more fans than an MLS game can pull in, especially a frigid, early season game. Wind whipped through the empty upper deck, where we away fans had been placed, up high, somewhat opposite to the NYCFC supporter sections. The field felt distant. My brother reported later we had not been on TV. Then again, they had no reason to film us. We had nothing to cheer for.
For a precious few seconds it seemed like we might be in for a romp as United pressed early and went right for goal. But Taylor “Shooter” Kemp seems to have lost all his mojo since he got married and the shot went over the crossbar. Then it was 1-0, New York thanks to former D.C. United player Rodney Wallace. How dare he?! United looked lost. After a Lloyd Sam goal was ruled offside--despite our protests and the fact that it was not offsides--the game collapsed.
We weren’t coming back from this. I’d seen United collapse like this before. A 5-0 loss in Columbus in 2015. The 3-0 loss in Philly last year when Kofi Opare got the red card. It wasn’t for lack of effort. United never stopped trying--especially Patrick Nyarko, who seemed like the only one of our guys on the field who knew what he was doing, racing up the wing, dangerous on the attack--but it was like there was no connection, the pieces didn’t fit. Jared Jeffrey got yanked off early in the second half to avoid a red card. Marcelo was two steps behind the play the entire game. Young Ian Harkes seemed so young. Bill Hamid was dialed out. Patrick Mullins hung out to dry without service.
High up in the stands, our singing gradually faded out into banter as we tried to keep our spirits up. It was so cold. The game beyond frustrating. “Hey, Marcelo, Brazilian first names are for closers! I’m calling you Sarvas now!” “Did sex take your mojo, Taylor?” “BRING ON BOBBY BOSWELL FOR GOD’S SAKE!”
NYCFC fans have a reputation for being dicks--a well-earned reputation for being dicks--but the fans around us at Yankee Stadium were good natured. Sure, they sang a few (deserved) rounds of “You’re not singing over there” but without a malicious edge. The double bird I flipped at the end of the game wasn’t for them, it was a double bird of frustration.
We were finally put out of our misery at 4-0. And the highlight for me was when Tommy McNamara came on for NYCFC. I cheered. I love Tommy.
United seemed as embarrassed and frustrated at the result as we were. Most of the team walked into the locker rooms without bothering to wave at us. The couple of guys who did hadn’t been on the field. (Travis Worra is a delightful human being.)
Nobody was quite sure what to make of the result. Should be we angry? Sad? Worried about the upcoming season? My toes were frozen in my boots.
Back on the bus, I pulled the hood of my jacket up over my hat and put in my headphones. The bus was silent. I dozed off to the sounds of Chapo Trap House and slept most of the way back home.
It’s going to be a long season. I need to pace myself.
(Gotta do soccer pose! Photo courtesy Screaming Eagles)