I’ve spent the majority of my soccer-loving life ignoring MLS’s existence. So as DC United opened their season against Montreal Impact, I’ll admit I had no idea Montreal Impact was a real team and not like the Washington Generals whom the Harlem Globetrotters always beat with trick shots, buckets of confetti, and knee pads. But as a semi-new sports loving DC resident who hates Washington’s football team and is jaded by a 40-year-old Michael Jordan scoring 41pts against the Pacers in the last Wizards game I attended—I was running out of options. My patience for Uncle Joe Biden’s White House Lawn Flag Football League promised to me in that one dream I had was dwindling.
My internal discord was fueled by my gluttony for European Football. The best players, clubs, and leagues are all concentrated throughout a handful of countries in Europe—where the best of the best play each other frequently, and the best of the best of the best play each other often. Creating a never-ending spin cycle of drama, skill, tactics, and goals I couldn’t score if I had the entire pitch to myself. I’ve learned to leave a trail of crumbs so I can backtrack to collect the pieces of brain that ooze out due to some skill I had to loop on Vine nine times just to understand.
Oops, this is about MLS. See? It’s an affliction and it is real.
But because of the above, expectations were lowered. Still, it was live soccer and at the very least I would see guys fitter than me playing a sport I love. Plus I found a great seat, field level, perfectly in line with the center circle, day of, for $25. That’s probably not welcome news to MLS Commissioner Don Garber but as they say, one man’s league struggling for respect and popularity is another man’s treasure.
The total announced attendance was 11,549. I’m certain that includes the frustrated ghosts of RFK Stadium who lack the tangible body parts to summon an Uber for the 30-minute drive into Laurel, Maryland where they can do ghost things to Dan Snyder and FedEx Field.
There was, however, an unmissable crowd clad in black and red that filled every adjacent seat. They sang, chanted, danced, waved scarves, beat a drum, and ooh’d and aah’d collectively.
Montreal’s two big center back’s are worth noting. They reveled in sucking the life out of neat one-two touch attacks. Seemingly growing an inch taller with each groan of the crowd.
My favorite DC United player to watch was Chris Rolfe. Though small in stature, he’s fit enough to pick up a part-time job delivering pizzas without a method of transportation other than his feet. He also looks like an alternate universe ‘Ringo’ from Pulp Fiction who was forever changed by Jules Winnfield’s advice that day. Rolfe/Ringo was alert and lively all match. He’s one of those player’s you love playing with but hate playing against. Though listed as a forward, he roached his way around three-quarters of the pitch; always looking to be the link that springs a counter attack.
In the 59th minute Jairo Arrieta who capitalized on a mistake by the goalkeeper who charged out of his box to reach a ball he was never going to reach. Arrieta gently rolled the ball along the ground with enough pace to dissuade defenders from chasing it but slow enough to build the anticipation. It was a perfect goal for the crowd. Like a band playing the first few notes of a hit song at a concert, teasing the audience. Once it hit the back of the net the place erupted. It no longer felt like the wrong side of 11,459. For a moment the number seemed the result of an accidental press of the division button. Also, I was instantly out of place. Those red and black singing-chanting-dancing-scarf waving-drum beating-ooh’ing aah’ing crazies looked farther away than they did every minute prior.
Now I know where to sit.