Games at Red Bull Arena are the best away games. Everything is heightened--the hope of getting a win, the hatred of the opponent, the comradeship. It may have been Easter weekend but there was no way in hell I was missing the opening game of Atlantic Cup 2017.
My game day began early, on Friday afternoon, when I boarded the Greyhound bus out of Union Station. First stop, New York! Well, eventual stop, New York. Traffic delay upon traffic delay meant that I arrived nearly an hour after the scheduled arrival time. “Where is everybody going?!” I texted angrily. “I mean I know where I’m going but where is everybody else going and why can’t they stay home?!”
One of my favorite Season Ticket Holder events last year was the Fan Forum, a town hall style question and answer session with some of the D.C. United staff. Last year we were able to go deep on questions about the new stadium, strategies for the upcoming season, and what all this change would mean for long time fans and supporters. It made me feel like our voices mattered. Unfortunately, that was not the case this year.
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.
“Ugh, I lost my voice this weekend,” read my Facebook post. “That’s what happens when you get to the tailgate early and go in lit!” Replied Stefan. He wasn’t wrong. That is what happens when I get to the tailgate early and go in lit; I yell way too much and don’t care if I get rained on.
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?
Offseason MLS withdrawal hit me harder than I expected. Maybe it was the sudden and inglorious end to D.C. United’s 2016 campaign or maybe it was just the unbearable miasma of uninformed political opinionating that enveloped the D.C. area (and most of the Internet) over the winter but I’ve found my mood improving with the promise of spring and the new beginnings of the 2017 MLS season.
Just a quick note before I get started. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to commit to doing another season of blog posts on D.C. United. For one thing, it is a lot of work and my job is very stressful at the moment and I don’t know how much free time I’ll have in the near future. Additionally, I had had concerns about some of the language in the season ticket holder agreement which--as it initially read--would have prohibited season ticket holders from posting images or writing about the games. Prohibiting this blog, essentially.
But I’ve been really surprised and touched by the response I’ve gotten to my blog posts in the offseason. Enough so that I’m willing to take on the task of doing a season 2 of D.C. Untied, which is also made possible thanks to the efforts of supporter group leadership who worked with the front office to help re-write the season ticket holder agreement to something more fan friendly. Not prohibiting this blog.