Flying Beers!!

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In the summer of 2012, I started a project to visit all MLS venues. Washington DC was a must as RFK is literally crumbling and I wanted to see this historic stadium before it fell down and/or gives way to the Buzzard Point site in a couple of years.

The venue opened in late 1961 as the District of Columbia Stadium (renamed the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium in 1969), and it has hosted numerous teams and sporting events. The circular design was the result of its intention to be used as a multi-purpose stadium for American football and baseball.

In my posts on early DC United kits (original kit and 1997 third shirt), I state that this was my club only because of the uniforms. I eventually lost touch with the league due to quality (or lack thereof) and presentation (empty stadiums marked with American football lines). What I missed was this original MLS franchise becoming one of the most successful teams in the 20+ years of the league. Four MLS Cups, four Supporters’ Shields, three US Open Cups, a CONCACAF Champions League and even a Copa Interamericana win.

Recent years have been a mixed bag. Since bottoming out in 2013, the team has returned to being a playoff contender, winning the Supporters’ Shield in 2014 and making the playoffs last year. This season has been a struggle as long serving coach Ben Olsen has continued to reshape the team, with Jairo Arrieta, Davy Arnaud, Fabian Espindola, Chris Pontius and Perry Kitchen leaving and Lamar Neagle, Patrick Nyarko, Julian Büscher, Marcelo Sarvas Luciano Acosta, Rob Vincent, Alhaji Kamara, Lloyd Sam, Patrick Mullins and Kennedy Igboananike coming in.

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The game against Orlando saw the Black and Red below the red line and making a push for the playoffs. On the METRO, we met a family headed to the game. They talked about the team, the new venue and the big crowd expected due to the recognition of the Armed Forces and DC school children. Most importantly, they got us exactly where we needed to be. Walking up to the RFK I thought about all those years watching NFL Today and Cowboys/Redskins games and the 1994 World Cup and DC United and United States games from years gone by.

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Once inside I was surprised by how good our seats were. Only several feet from the touchline, we were several rows up which gave us a great vantage point to watch the match. DC United has three main supporter groups. I couldn’t get into the Screaming Eagles Supporters Section but got the section just next to them. One plus was that our seats allowed us to get a taste of the atmosphere of the Eagles and the District Ultras. Both groups did a great job of support with songs and noise and flags. (Didn’t make it over to Barra Brava). The feeling of the stands rising and falling is one of my great sporting memories. Must be experienced.

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Screaming Eagles

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District Ultras

What a match. Both teams had chances early before Patrick Mullins (transferred from NYCFC in the summer) scored just after the half hour mark. DC United took control off the match after halftime with two goals in three minutes from Sam and Mullins. Sam’s goal was fantastic as he headed a cross down and away from Bendik and it happened right in front of us. The Beast pulled one back with a tremendous free kick before Buscher finished off a wonderful night for the Red and Black with some nifty footwork. With the Screaming Eagles tradition of throwing beers in the after goals, let’s just say no one went home dry.

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For the Lions, had to be a disappointing defeat. Looks like the playoffs will elude them again. I did get to see Kaka play for about an hour and was surprised by how big he was. Tall, strong and a great touch. Larin was impressive as well with his size and speed. Didn’t get much service and was subbed in the second half as well. His performance didn’t really help my fantasy team so #sadface. Nocerino got sent off after a brief appearance. About all he did in was foul people. A decent sized crowd of Orlando City fans were in an upper level behind a goal. Has to be a long trip back to Florida.

The result saw the Black and Red get back over the red line in sixth place, one point ahead of the Revolution with a game in hand and three points ahead of the Lions, with both teams having played 30 matches. The Lions are a direct rival and the two teams will meet on the final day of the season. The rest of DC United’s schedule looks like this

September 28      D.C. United            v              Columbus Crew

October 1              Toronto FC            v              D.C. United

October 16           D.C. United            v              New York City FC

October 23           Orlando City          v              D.C. United

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As a kit nerd, have to mention the unis. DC United uniforms are not flashy but they looked great. All black with red adidias stripes down side, a series of very subtle black horizontal black stripes and of course their new badge (not a big fan). The exterior neck tape depicts D.C. monuments (Jefferson, Lincoln, and Washington Memorials and the National Capitol) and is a nice touch.

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Before the match, they were passing out a promotional shirt that tied in to the Armed Forces appreciation Basically a t-shirt with dark digital camo, it looked pretty cool, and it was neat seeing METRO cars filled with people wearing the shirt after the match. As is tradition, I picked up a scarf,  which had a light camo pattern and a very different in design than ones from my previous trips.

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I got to see the Orlando City away kit in the flesh and it looked fantastic. The new shirt is sharp, with a white main section and purple sleeves. Purple is also used around the collar and for the adidas stripes down the side. The cuffs are trimmed in gold which is a nice touch. This is one my favorite releases for the 2016 season.

Shameless plug alert!! I was on the Design Football pod ahead of the 2016 campaign to talk MLS kits. Listen here.

All in all, a wonderful night in the nation’s capital. While the venue could definitely use a paint job, I didn’t get hit by falling concrete or get bitten by raccoons. Perfect temperature, raucous support and a big result for the home team.

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Special thanks to Screaming Eagles.

Read more about my MLS trips here.

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