Monday, May 8, 2017

[D.C. Untied 2.7] D.C. United vs Montreal Impact, May 6, 2017

“What was it like down in Atlanta?” I asked. “On TV it sounded like the air went out of stadium the second it felt like they weren’t going to win.”

“Yeah, they did that ‘A.T.L’ chant but nobody was singing.” He paused. “Except us.”

(Flowers on the Anacostia)

(The final outing of the BOSWELL LEGEND poncho)

The sky was grey and the air was cold and moist down by the Anacostia on Saturday afternoon but the Ultras’ spirits were high. Last week, D.C. United unexpectedly beat Atlanta United FC 1-3 on their home turf. It was a scrappy, determined performance. They only had 25% of the possession and Bill Hamid had to make a handful of wonder saves but the guys held on. It was textbook #Bennyball, using grit, character, and the smarts of veteran MLS journeymen to pull out a win.

Even just watching at home I’d been euphoric over the victory. The season was turning around. We could scratch out results on scrappy Neagle garbage goals while waiting for Patrick Mullins to return to the lineup and start playing that nice soccer we had at the end of last season.

Or not.

As it turns out.

We’d just made it safely past the point, 10 minutes into the first half, where D.C. had been giving up early goals. I was starting to breath easier. “D.C. United may be playing like garbage,” I thought. “But there’s time for them to get into it. At least--”

Then Montreal scored.

And that was it.

We continued to play like garbage through the first half but luckily for us Montreal were nowhere near their best and the score stayed a limp 0-1.

Ben Olsen’s halftime lecture and the switch of Patrick Mullins for Sebastian LeToux made the second half a bit more energetic for United. There were some chances--Acosta off the crossbar, Mullins right into the arms of Montreal goalkeeper Evan Busch--three shots on goal in the first half compared to a cool dozen or so in the second but it wasn’t enough. D.C. United seemed lost. A captainless ship. Playing without purpose.

Had it been inflated egos from the Atlanta United FC victory? Did they believe playing a weakened Montreal Impact side was going to be a cakewalk? But you can’t win by counterattacking a team built to counterattack. You have to score some goals.

In the stands, unlike the Atlanta United FC fans, we Ultras had built up a nice head of steam. As the attack picked up on the field, we stepped up our singing. It was one of those magic nights where the drumming and chanting and camaraderie hits a sweet spot, everybody feeding on the energy and channelling it back into the scrum.

“La, la, la, la, la, la, la-la-la! (D.C.!)”

Arms flung around my bros, we bounce up and down the row, the drum beating a furious rhythm.

Josh’s pants split and he patches them with duct tape.

It’s Sam’s last game for a while--the kid is returning to China--and he stands up on the seats and yells.

Shirts had come off everywhere. The rain had stopped and the sun was just peaking through the clouds, giving the upper decks of the stadium a rosy glow.

The more we sing, the more energy it generates, the more it feels like a goal is imminent.

On the field, my boy Kofi Opare has moved up the field from playing centerback and has entered Last Minute Striker Mode. And then he has the ball and… it’s in!!!!

Red smoke suddenly billows out around us.

The goal is whistled offsides but I don’t care. Laughing at the ridiculousness of it all, I yank off the bandana artfully tied around my head and tied it instead around my face, covering my nose and mouth so to not breathe in the smoke. We are going to get in so much trouble for this but I don’t care. I’m having so much fun.

Cops swarm into the section looking under the drum, looking under the seats for the smoke bomb. Sam is yelling at them in Chinese but the rest of us just keep up the singing.

“La, la, la, la, la, la, la-la-la! (D.C.!)”

And the final whistle blows.

We’ve lost.

But I’m still giddy.

That was fun.

(Sisters who love too lose to Montreal)


As of right now, early Monday morning, there’s been no word of sanctions or banning regarding the smoke, although I’m sure it will come. But to what end? I feel like this is a constant theme but what good does it do to work against the people who come out week after week? Who will stand and cheer through the limpest of games? Who never give up on the team, even as the front office has told them, “You can be replaced.”?

Like so many other aspects of American life, the unspoken class divide, the liberal arts educated upper middle-class people running the league cannot understand the working class people in the stands. Management, the lanyard wearers, want to fill the place with people like themselves, who respect “the Discourse”, who take MLS’s “Don’t Cross the Line” policy seriously, who give lip service to “diversity” on one hand while actively discriminating against working-class Spanish-speaking fans with the other.

It doesn’t have to be like this.

Instead of worrying about the connotations of the word “puto” why not worry about the safety of your most enthusiastic supporters and encourage the building of safe standing spaces.

Instead of worrying about some kids overhearing a swear, why not set aside some sections for “adults-only” seating?

People are fine with sitting in the “splash zone” at a theme park, why not have something similar in the stadium? Warn people that they may get hit with beer or some swears or a flag and help them find different seats before the game if they don’t want that experience.

At a certain level they do get it otherwise the league--and D.C. United--wouldn’t use images of the supporters groups, of the flags and drums and smoke in their advertising. THEY KNOW the chaos and camaraderie is a selling point. They know people on the quiet side enjoy watching us--watching all the supporter groups--and that having fun in the stands is a reason to come out to a game when the product on the field isn’t worth the $20 to park, let alone the cost of the ticket.

We’ll see what happens next week, what sanctions are thrown at us.

It’s labor night and the DSA--Democratic Socialists of America--requested the section directly behind the Ultras. Maybe we’ll join them.

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