Ten reasons not to miss D.C. United’s “Blackout” Saturday night
By Chris Hummer
Washington, D.C. is perhaps the most transient town in the world. Especially when you look past a four-year cycle when that cycle includes a change in both president and party at the White House.
So it’s safe to say that there are tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people living within an hour’s drive of RFK Stadium who didn’t live here the last time D.C. United hosted a playoff game!
As someone who’s been in the area since 1998, I can tell you that regardless of your team affiliation, and no matter where you rank D.C. United or MLS on your personal scale of “world soccer quality,” there is NOTHING like a playoff game at RFK.
If you are reading this, and you are within driving distance of Washington, D.C., you will not be sorry if you head out to RFK tomorrow night. (Tickets, while they last, here – use special code DCU). Here are my 10 reasons why you should attend:
10 ) Blackout Karma: D.C.’s “thing” during the playoffs has always been about branding RFK playoff games a “Blackout,” so even though hearts, prayers, empathy and donations all should keep flowing into the New York/New Jersey area following Hurricane Sandy, it just seems a little too coincidental that it’s a real blackout at the Red Bull Arena that has brought the game back to RFK on Saturday night. United should have karma on its side in this one.
9) Economic Recovery: On election eve, in the nation’s capital, goals for D.C. United spells J-O-B-S. If you’re anywhere near the “loud side” of RFK when the Black-and-Red score a goal, get ready for a beer shower. It is absolutely mandatory that everyone throws what’s left of their beer into the air, and it’s some sight to see. If you’re not on the “loud side,” be sure to fix your gaze there when the ball hits the back of the net. At $8 to $10 a beer, United scoring lots of goals should be part of any president’s economic recovery plan!
8) MLS Cup at RFK: What’s better than 20,000 fans in black at RFK in a playoff game? How about 40,000 at RFK for MLS Cup 2012! For the first time in league history, the MLS Cup Final will be held at the stadium of the highest seed in the final. D.C. finished with the third-best record in MLS this year, and the second-best record was Kansas City – another Eastern Conference team. So, if United makes MLS Cup against any team other than Supporters’ Shield winners San Jose, MLS Cup would be back at RFK. Who needs NHL or a World Series this fall, then?
7) The Building Shakes: Ever been parked on a bridge during a traffic jam and feel it shake, or in the upper floors of a skyscraper when it sways in the wind? Well, RFK was designed to “move” too, but what’s really cool is the building is so old that it just gets a little more adrenaline flowing when you feel it moving, and adrenaline = memories! I first experienced RFK measuring on the Richter Scale in 1997 when Jamaica’s Deon Burton scored past Kasey Keller in front of a majority-Jamaican crowd less than a minute after Eric Wynalda has put the U.S. ahead in World Cup Qualifying for France. I literally thought there was an earthquake, and from the perspective of creating memorable life moments, that’s a good thing. A sold-out RFK matches that experience with every goal – a thrill-seeker’s dream.
6) Forget Politics: Seriously, have you ever cared who the guy next to you is voting for when you’re both wearing black and red and awkwardly hugging after a goal? Soccer has a diverse fan base comprising every walk of life on the planet, making RFK the least political place in the political hornet’s nest of the world. Soccer at RFK is a “politics force field” like the air-conditioned domes Qatar is planning for World Cup 2022.
5) MLS Playoff Soccer: If you’re a Eurosnob and still can’t bring yourself to watch MLS during the playoffs, you’re not a sports fan, you’re so stubborn even mules would say, “Damn, dude, give it a chance.” If you think watching Messi, Robin Van Persie or Ronaldo on TV from across an ocean is better than attending a live MLS playoff match you’re actually not a “fan” of soccer at all. Please don’t ever go in public wearing a jersey or tell anyone you like soccer – sorry, “football” – because you give the real fans a bad name and are only slowing down the adoption of the game into the culture here.
4) Thierry Henry: Sure I’m a United fan, but as long as he doesn’t score, Henry is flat-out worth twice the price of admission. Note to Eurosnobs referenced above: add Rafa Marquez and Tim Cahill to the above, and you should have all you need to put you over the edge…just please, don’t sit next to anyone wearing black.
3) Love to Hate: D.C. United vs. Metrostars – errr, New York – errr, New Jersey – errr, wait…oh yeah, Red Bulls is arguably the biggest rivalry in American soccer history. While it’s still safe for families to attend, the passionate hatred felt between fans of each team certainly puts an edge on the games, increases the decibels and creativity in the songs and chants, and overall just makes things mean more when these two play. It’s ALWAYS a playoff atmosphere when they meet, and the only thing better than that, is when it’s an actual playoff game (Que the United supporters’ song: “Throw the Metro down the well … Soooo my country can be free!”)
2) Chris Pontius: The only reason Chris Pontius isn’t in the U.S. National Team is his untimely broken leg last year, and now, could he be too old to get firmly into the mix? An argument for college vs. pro aside, this kid has it all. He is very much on a similar trajectory as Clint Dempsey in my mind. Go to college in the U.S., dominate your team in MLS with style, grit, hard work, and… score goals. Dempsey is a true world star now, and if the planets align for Chris, he could still find himself at a World Cup and playing for a huge team in Europe. Go see him here at home while you can!
1) Homegrown Stars: Speaking of worth the price of admission, Andy Najar and Bill Hamid are two still very young players who are arguably candidates for MVP of this team. Head coach Ben Olsen converted Najar to right fullback, or really, “wingback” this season due to both an issue with consistency at the position, and pretty much to get the kid on the field at the same time as Pontius and MLS Rookie of the Year candidate Nick DeLeon. The result? Pretty much looking at the Honduran Ashley Cole if you ask me. Meanwhile, Hamid is staking a claim as one of the top goalkeeping prospects in the world. For his age, it’s hard to think of anyone since Tim Howard that came through MLS on a similar path, and look where Timmy is now. Both are definitely in the “see them here while you can” category (along with Pontius). In a season everyone thought might have been lost when veteran and reigning MLS MVP/Golden Boot winner Dwayne DeRosario went down injured, if United goes all the way this year, it will be in VERY LARGE part due to these two young guns.