MLS marketing headquarters tried to push a rivalry with the Philadelphia Union on us last year but as far as I can tell everybody ignored it. A D.C. United’s fan real rivalry is--and has always been--with the Red Bulls, née the MetroStars. That doesn’t mean the Union are liked. They are not.
I admit to having a brief fling with the #DOOPers at the beginning of last season thanks to their acquisition of D.C. United’s beloved Chris “Party Boy” Pontius but any goodwill I had towards the team was lost the second I stepped foot in Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, PA, and was subjected to some of the worst crowd control and fan behavior I’ve experienced. Okay, yes, I have an authority problem but I can’t think of any good reason for the Union to pen up opposition fans about 10 feet away from the home supporters section except to deliberately flare tensions.
But there is no rivalry. For a rivalry to exist, we’d have to have some modicum of respect, grudging or not, for the team or the fan base and I have none for the Union. I still love Party Boy but, damn, did it feel good to secure our first win of the season over Philly last Saturday, payback for having to put up with their douchey fan base and, especially, for the extremely unnecessary hobbling of Luciano Acosta during a preseason game.
Saturday was bright but with a twinge of chill in the air, the wind threatening to blow plastic forks and plates down into Anacostia River. It had been two weeks since the last home game but the tailgate area was still fairly clean and I kept an eye out for rogue trash.
The mood was a bit subdued as people trickled in. The front office’s harsh ban of flags and drums for a single beer thrown at a referee by a random guy, as well as D.C.’s lackluster performance in the season to date, not really inspiring much enthusiasm among any of us. Talk of making a “Parsons Did It” banner--referencing last season’s overly harsh ban on a member for a smoke bomb in the parking lot--briefly circulated but soon fizzled out.
I leisurely drank box wine with my sister and caught up with a couple of lady friends. As the clock hit 6:30 we began meandering into the stadium.
But as the game kicked off, instinct and muscle memory took over. This wasn’t a leisurely afternoon out by the river, this was war. With no flags and no drums, the pressure was on to sing even louder, to make even more noise.
“No drums! No flags! We’re still here!”
How dare the front office try to take this away from me? How dare the Union stomp on Acosta so bad in a preseason friendly he had to miss the first few games of the regular season? How dare United play so shittly that we hadn’t scored a goal yet and had let NYCFC spank us for 4?! And Birnbaum giving up 2 penalty kicks to the Crew?!
Let it not be said that D.C. doesn’t play better with a real chip on their shoulders… and this fan certainly sings louder with one. Forever an underdog. [Note: This is my theme song.]
From the start, D.C. looked like a different team than we’d been seeing the month or so. Lloyd Sam tearing up the right, looking dangerous. Nyarko drifting in from the left, stealthy, looking for blood. Acosta looking for Ortiz, who was getting his first MLS start, in for an injured Patty Mullins.
Pressure from Nick DeLeon overlapping with Sam.
Bobby Boswell back on field, a calm presence beside Steve Birnbaum, who was looking more like last year’s defensive machine than we’d seen so far in all of 2017.
And Bill Hamid, a beast in goal. He wasn’t giving up four today. No way in hell.
D.C. pushed forward. And again. And again.
It’s only a matter of time now.
And then it happens. A goal kick from Union goalkeeper Andre Blake goes awry as Fabinho heads it directly to Lloyd Sam’s feet. Sam takes off back towards goal. Ortiz had been jogging back down field after pressuring Blake but he sees what’s happening, spins and heads back. Fabinho is tracking Sam. Marquez runs over to join him but now Sam has an opening and sends the ball back to Ortiz, who is positioned himself right in front of goal. Marquez tries to double back but it’s too late. Ortiz sends the shot in, deflecting off Marquez’s leg and it’s D.C. United’s first goal of the season!!
The crowd erupts! I turn and hug my sister, who’s standing beside me. Despite every warning about thrown beer I am now covered in the sticky liquid.
“No drums! No flags! We’re still here!”
Minutes later Ortiz sends a rocket just over the crossbar.
He’s got the taste for it now.
They keep attacking.
Acosta sends a ball into Ortiz just at the top of the box Ortiz shoots but it’s blocked by Marquez. A hand ball! The referee calls for a penalty kick!
Acosta is going to take the shot…. And he makes it! 2-0!
The stands are buzzing now. Is this going to be our first win of the season?
But the Union make some adjustments at halftime, sending in CJ Sapong, a big, physical forward who scored off the bench in the Union’s last two games.
Maybe feeling some of the pressure off, United return to 2014-2015 form and bunker, absorbing attack after attack. The game will eventually end with the Union taking 9 shots on target, one of which CJ Sapong manages to convert, to United’s 3.
Things get testy on the field. Ilsinho gets a yellow card for flopping. Marcelo gets a yellow for a nasty tackle on Derrick Jones, who had been hacking at Acosta all evening.
As the game grinds on, the Ultras’ section turns up the party. The giddiness of the impending win, the chip on our collective shoulder about the flag and drum ban, fueled by whatever beer had not been showered, things take a turn for the weird. Without the drums to keep time, chants turn in on themselves and loop around. A call for attention becomes a chant.
“Woo woo woo!”
I strip of my sweatshirt and climb up on the seats with the other bros.
“Sock it in the pocket!”
But the final score is 2-1, D.C. United’s first win of the season!!! Sending the Union to the bottom of the Eastern Conference. Where they deserve to be.
Jealous of my shirtless victory bros, I satisfy myself with flashing my hot pink sports bra at the Union fans. SUCK IT, SONS OF BEN! WOMEN SHOULD BE ABLE TO BE SHIRTLESS BROS TOO!
We won!!!!! WE WON!!!!!
And as a postscript I apologize for the lateness of this post but my router died earlier this week and I had no wifi to review the game or use Google Docs!! Also work was soul crushing and sapped all of my will to live.
I’ll include a brief summary of Tuesday’s Fan Forum in the upcoming post.
But my streak continues! Vamos the D.C. Untied blog series!