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Resources May 08, 2015

Dougherty: Random thoughts during a D.C. United game at RFK Stadium

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JoeDougherty-HeaderSome random thoughts during a beautiful Saturday night D.C. United game at RFK Stadium:

  • RFK is old and crusty. From a distance – such as from the far side of the adjacent D.C. Armory – all looks fine. But once inside, its flaws are quite apparent. Chipping paint. Missing chunks of concrete. Old, worn out chairs. A number of the field lights are out – possibly by design, but one suspects not. The parking lots are dingy, and one gets the feeling walking in from Lot 7 that the large pond that has developed in the parking lot likely contains fish and/or snakes.
  • D.C. United coach Ben Olsen gets told by the fourth official to get back into his coaching area. Often. I’m not sure if he realizes it when he creeps over the dotted rectangle that’s designed to keep him near his bench. It does give the fourth official something to do, though.
  • Nothing makes me shake my head more during a professional soccer game than when players out wide attempt crosses they’ll never get right, or float in the cross like they’ve kicked a birthday balloon. Nothing makes a goalkeeper happier than seeing a rainbow service into the six-yard box, or a cross behind the goal. Gentlemen! Either cross the ball properly, or fake it and bail to a supporting player! Sheesh.
  • Yes, RFK is struggling. But it’s still a great place to watch soccer.
  • If you want to find a domestic league version of a good example of a “10” (Brazilian), or “7” (Dutch), you won’t do worse than Federico Higuain of the Columbus Crew. He has all of the tools you want in an attacking midfielder: tremendous workrate, outstanding first touch away from pressure, and a tenacity that makes him miserable to defend. His head is always on a swivel, taking mental snapshots of what’s going on around him. He’s seldom surprised because he knows where everyone is at any given time. The weight of his passes reminds me of another former MLS attacking midfielder – Carlos “El Pibe” Valderrama. Just the right amount of curl and weight with each through ball. Columbus would enjoy 55 percent possession on this night, and Higuain is largely the reason. Too bad he’s not in a D.C. United kit.
  • And if you want a great example of how to speed dribble, watch some video of D.C. United’s Chris Rolfe, Chris Pontius and Nick DeLeon. It’s pretty evident Olsen has given all three of them the go-ahead to go at defenders on the dribble. Rolfe’s outstanding assist to Fabian Espindola against Columbus on this gorgeous night is Exhibit A. Dribbling at speed is a skill every young player should try to master.
  • My RFK memories go back to the Washington Diplomats of the late 1970s. The stadium has seen a lot since then – Redskins, Nationals, international soccer friendlies, and of course the 1994 World Cup. Which makes me want to take the seat in which I’m sitting with me tonight. Alas …
  • Wow, are La Norte’s drums LOUD! I’m not that close to them, but the thumping is quite clear. Barra Brava and Screaming Eagles may have more people, but when it comes to drumming, La Norte es numero uno.
  • Watching Bill Hamid throw the ball to generate a counterattack is like watching live art. His teammate is on the run, but that doesn’t matter. The ball leaves his right hand on a frozen rope, then begins to bend as it drops. Wait, he led him too much! Oops, no he didn’t. Timed it just right as it curls onto Sean Franklin’s foot. Wow.
  • Another skill I’ve come to appreciate watching tonight’s game: the ability to bend a pass. Unless your teammate is only five yards away, very seldom is there an uninterrupted line of sight between players in a professional game. Being able to put a slight bend on a pass, so as not to allow a defender to snag it first, is a vital skill. Young players, take note: all you need is a ball and two small cones. One cone goes 20 yards away, the second cone goes 10 yards away and a yard or two off-center. Then practice inside- and outside-of-the-foot bending passes til your heart’s content.
  • I have a peek at the nearly full moon as it sits just above one of the mass of stadium lights (several of which are out, of course). Down below, a luscious green field with players in black and yellow pinging the ball around. Drums are beating. Fans are clapping at a good pass. Others are yelling, “D.C. United!” Clap clap, clap-clap-clap-clap! Yep, this place is awesome. The club will be here for another year or two until the new stadium is constructed at Buzzard Point. I’m looking forward to that transition, but, like many United fans, I’ll miss this fading icon.

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