This is the 12th part of a series in which we introduce Orlando City fans to the teams our Lions will be facing in 2015 when the team starts play in Major League Soccer. Today we take a look at D.C. United
What are the three most important things Orlando City fans need to know about DCU?
1. The number thirteen. Heading into the end of the 2014 regular season, D.C. United have 13 major domestic and international trophies, more than any other MLS club. That includes four MLS Cups (tied for first all time), four Supporters Shields (also tied for first all time), three U.S. Open Cups (third among MLS clubs), one CONCACAF Champions Cup (tied for first among MLS) and an Inter-American Cup (alone among MLS), which, sadly, is no longer given.
2. Let them hate, so long as they fear. D.C. United was good in the early days of MLS. Really, really good. Like, “nobody since has had a run of form and silverware anywhere close to the same level” good. And, of course, United fans knew the team was good. So we consider trophies to be our birthright, and, for whatever reason, the soccer gods like to appease us—as they did last year when United won trophy #13 in the Open Cup in the midst of playing the worst league season of any team in MLS history. Anyway, that arrogance that was cooked into the DCU identity back in the 90s (Yes, we recognize it for what it is, and we own it.) lives on with the word “Tradition” on United’s jerseys and through the supporters groups in the bouncing stands of RFK Stadium. Which brings me to…
3. The stadium’s the thing. For all the talk about being the most-decorated club in MLS and the history of players that includes names like Etcheverry and Pope and Moreno and Olsen and Gomez, D.C. United is a club facing an existential threat. The Black-and-Red still play in RFK Stadium, which opened in 1961 as the original “multipurpose” cookie-cutter stadium. With no modern luxury suites and outdated concessions, it’s got limited revenue streams, and those that do exist have been largely claimed by the city. Add to that the huge rents the team has to pay, and it’s easy to understand how United have lost money every year of their existence.
Phrases like “Poplar Point” and “Morgan Boulevard” raise the specters of past false starts in the quest for a modern building, but they’ve been replaced by the otherwise ominous “Buzzard Point,” an area near the Nationals Park baseball stadium, south of downtown DC, where the organization has a deal in place with the city administration to build a privately financed 20,000+ seat soccer stadium, pending D.C. Council (city legislature) approval. Optimism is the feeling of the moment, as the council could act before the end of the year, and shovels could be in the ground before spring. If this deal falls through, though, it’s tough to say what it would do to the club and its fans, short of utter devastation.
What nicknames, chants and slang are unique to United, and can you please explain them if they aren’t readily apparent to the outsider?
AT: First and foremost, United never carries the definite article—they are never, ever “the” D.C. United; I know I don’t really have to explain that at this point in history, but just in case, there it is. The team is also known as the Black-and-Red, for easily discernible reasons. Since it represents the federal city, some Spanish speakers also refer to the team as los Capitalinos.
At the moment, the slang that comes to mind is “Bennyball,” which is used by both fans and detractors of the style of play that’s developed under club-legend-turned-head-coach Ben Olsen. It’s a pragmatic style that recognizes that goals, and not possession or pattern play, win games. Another thing you’ll hear United fans say is “the Metros,” because a lot of us still refuse to refer to our oldest and most hated rivals by their Red Bull rebrand. Which reminds me of one of our favorite songs: “Throw the Metros Down the Well.”
What are the can’t-miss things to do when Orlando City fans visit a D.C. United game?
AT: Assuming they come before the Buzzard Point stadium is built (which at the moment is hoped to be in time for the 2017 season), go to Lot 8. It’s the big parking lot between the stadium and the Anacostia River, and it’s where the vast majority of the tailgating happens. Besides the classic grilling behind your car scene, Lot 8 also hosts the big supporters groups’ tailgates, each of which has its own distinct vibe. In recent years, there have also been food trucks, a beer stand, picnic tables and, occasionally, live music sponsored by the team in one area.
Once you’re inside RFK Stadium, hit up the pupusa stand for the unofficial Salvadoran national dish. (Or, if masa stuffed with cheese and/or pork and/or veggies isn’t your thing, order carne asada.)
There’s a lot to do in DC, beyond the typical capital tourist stuff. One of my favorite neighborhoods is H Street Northeast, a nightlife area north of Capitol Hill that will have a streetcar running in the next few months. (They’ve been telling us that for years, but it really is running in test-mode now! So, maybe!) Some of this will sound like it’s coming from Stefon on SNL, but H Street has everything: an indoor mini-golf bar, a German biergarten next door to a Jewish-Irish bar, a bar where the beer prices are set by reverse-market forces, a super-trendy delicious ramen place over a quintessential dive bar. Seriously, go to H Street.
Who are the key players on United that we should know about?
AT: It all starts with Bill Hamid. United’s homegrown keeper has somehow accelerated his ridiculous growth curve this year, turning in one of the best seasons—if not the best—of any GK in MLS this year, and Jurgen Klinsmann has taken notice. Perry Kitchen is a central midfielder who might also be receiving a U.S. call-up soon, thanks in part to his growth from a purely defensive midfielder to a more box-to-box presence. Chris Pontius has been around for a while, and when he’s not battling injuries, he’s shown himself to be MLS Best XI quality. Up top, Fabian Espindola is among the most audacious forwards in MLS and combines it with an unreal work rate to present a unique and entertaining on-field personality.
Which D.C. players do you think might get exposed in the upcoming MLS Expansion Draft?
AT: A couple of United’s heralded veterans could be exposed for Orlando City and NYCOMGWTFLOLBBQ FC [Editor’s note: we LOL’d.] to snatch up. One is center back Jeff Parke, who has missed much of this season with migraines, resulting from an inner-ear condition (possibly exacerbated by a concussion history). He was Philly’s best player in 2013, and he’d be a starter on an MLS playoff team, but the long-term injury concerns and his high salary could see him left off the protected list. Eddie Johnson might finally be rounding into form as I write this, but he’s underwhelmed in his production and stirred up trouble on social media to boot—the chance to clear his DP wages off the salary budget could make him expendable. There are also the fringe players, some of whom played a lot of minutes in United’s dreadful 2013 campaign: Jared Jeffrey and Conor Doyle are a couple youngish Americans who could be good complementary pieces; Kyle Porter is a Canadian international with just enough skill to almost pull off impressive moves; and, of course, one-time Orlando City player Lewis Neal, who is better known at B&RU as LEWIS NEAL thanks to his habit of scoring incredibly timely and important goals for United.
Much appreciation to Adam for giving us the 4-1-1 on D.C. United. It seems like they’re going to be a fun team for us to hate.
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