Monday, May 29, 2017

[D.C. Untied 2.8-9] D.C. United vs Philadelphia Union, May 13, 2017, and D.C. United vs Chicago Fire, May 20, 2017

“I’m okay with us winning this game with Ortiz’s Oscar,” I said to my sister, referring to the penalty kick won by Jose Ortiz’s “theatrical” fall coupled with what my sister called his “two car pile-up” with Acosta (her favorite player) and converted by Lamar Neagle. “We’ve had enough bad calls against us this season that it all evens out.”

We were sitting at the bar at Elephant & Castle at the sparsely attended official D.C. United Watch Party watching D.C. United’s defense pull a vintage 2014 performance from somewhere deep in their collective ass in Vancouver: Bill Hamid staring into the sun blocking shots like it was what he was born to do; a couple of gritty J.J. specials; and glimpses of what we’d all hoped the Opare-Birnbaum partnership could bring. We just had nothing going at the other end… until Ortiz won himself a nice, big acting prize.

0-1, D.C.

My fantasy squad was toast but I didn’t care. Cheers filled the bar area at Elephant & Castle. Would we hang on for 3 points?

As the time started to run down, the referee seemed to have realized what he’d done, essentially giving the game to D.C. with the penalty. So, deep into stoppage time, he awards one to Vancouver. Stomach in knots, whiskey long since finished, watching Techera step up and… IT’S OFF THE POST!

0-1, D.C.!!!!

“I feel like chanting,” says Andy.

“So do it!”

“D.C. United!” (Clap clap clap-clap-clap-clap)

The handful of us left at the bar join in.

It was a good night.

“You know,” I said to my sister as we were leaving, “if we have to be the team that shows up and spoils everybody’s day with ugly wins, I mean, okay, there’s a certain charm to that, but, honestly, I’d rather just win at home.”

And there it is: a three game losing streak at home broken with a gritty road win over Vancouver. But as nice as it is to not have to avoid the official MLS social media accounts with endless replays of Bastian Schweinsteiger embarrassing our defense and excited puff pieces on the Union’s fire-emoji offense, one road win doesn’t erase three weeks of garbage performances at home.

After the dispiriting 0-1 loss to Montreal came an utterly soul crushing 0-4 loss to the Philadelphia Union in which a late first half goal from the slightly-less-douchey-Josh Duhamel-lookalike Haris Medunjanin was answered in the second half with a red card for Acosta and three more Union goals.

Thanks to the smoke celebration for Kofi Opare’s offsides non-goal, the Ultras had been banned from drums and flags for a game… again.

Drums make a huge difference in keeping the chants going. The beat gets us synchronised and makes it easier to reach supporter group nirvana, when there’s nothing in the world but the men on the field and the noise coming from the people surrounding you. The self is forgotten in perfect sports zen.

But stuffed with an obscene amount of pupusas and bike-beer on Saturday the 13th, my energy was directed not at the shitshow on the field but the shenanigans in the stands.

You see, we might be banned from drums and flags but balloons are not on the list of prohibited items at RFK.

So, yes, we had balloons. As far as entertainment goes, it beat whatever was happening on the field: a bunch of inept rent-a-cop security guards trying to intimidate a bunch of (admittedly very immature) adults into giving up… their balloons.

Getting right in my face, the security lady yelled at me: “I know you have balloons in your purse!”

“I have my water and my phone,” I replied, showing my hands, and pushing past her and back to the Ultras section after burning some energy in the Barra Brava halftime mosh pit.

“ABOLISH ALL PRIVATE SECURITY,” I promptly posted online. “Eat the rich. Balloons to be equitably distributed in my Marxist paradise.”

[Photo courtesy Rhonda W.]

Nobody was expecting the week after to be a good game. We are a much worse team without Acosta and would be going up against one of the better attacks in MLS right now in Chicago.

I was looking forward to the game because it would be one of my last chances to see D.C. United at RFK with my little brother, who had to cut way back on going to games when my niece was born last year.

I was also looking forward to the game because going to D.C. United games had been my one “fun” thing in this incredibly stressful spring. When I leave work feeling beaten down on Fridays, yelling some aggression out at opposition goalkeepers at RFK on Saturdays makes going back on Monday a bit easier.

But that equation doesn’t work when we put in a limp effort and lose 0-1 to Chicago and I have to spend the next week looking at Schweini’s stupid German face making our defense look like chumps on a loop courtesy of MLS’s social media team.

We started singing at the Chicago fans, “You’re nothing special, Chicago. We lose every we~eeek!”

(“Hey, that’s our song,” said one of my Fire friends afterwards.)

I didn’t stand and applaud the effort after this three game losing streak to three of the worst teams in the East that knocked us down to the very bottom of the standings and dropped our goal differential deep into negative numbers.

No, I booed.

“Olsen out!” chanted a group somewhere behind me as Ben Olsen walked angrily to midfield and gave a halfhearted wave to the fans.

Was this how we were going to see off our last season at RFK?

There were no apologies to the fans from the team.

Maybe they don’t owe us anything.

But maybe they do.

Are we all in this together or are we fans simply paying customers? Because if it’s the latter, we definitely haven’t been getting our money’s worth lately.

I just couldn’t bring myself to write about this misery while still snowed under piles of paperwork at work. My stress levels are high enough without adding D.C. United’s lackluster efforts to the list. I hope you understand and forgive my lateness.

And maybe I don’t say it enough but a HUGE THANK YOU to everybody who reads these posts. It made me very happy to have not one but two people bust my balls on the 20th for not writing up the Balloon Game. 

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