Saturday, November 3, 2012
MLS Fan Watch: DC United
By Chris Gigley ESPN The Magazine
RFK Stadium will host its first MLS playoff game in five years when the Red Bulls visit tonight.
Editor's note: Welcome to MLS Fan Watch, in which ESPN Playbook takes a closer look at the supporting group for each of the eight MLS conference semifinalists. The second in the series focuses on fans of DC United.
A sporting battle between a New York team and a DC team makes sense at venerable RFK Stadium, the oldest facility in MLS. After all, RFK has hosted epic games between the cities' NFL teams throughout the years.
Tonight is all about soccer. DC United fans will be extra amped, given that their team is making its first trip to the postseason since 2007 and is playing its blood rival, the New York Red Bulls.
This is nothing new. DC United has won 12 trophies, including non-MLS titles, since the league’s formation in 1995 while gaining an ardent following that introduced the league to tifos, matchlong chanting and singing, and other very European behavior.
As RFK welcomes postseason MLS football for the first time in five years, here is a snapshot of the DC United faithful.
• Stadium: RFK Stadium
MLS Fan Watch
We take a closer look at the home fans for each of the MLS playoff semifinalists:
- Screaming Eagles (Sections 132-134)
- La Barra Brava (Sections 135-137)
- La Norte (Section 128)
- District Ultras (Section 127)
• Known for: Tifo displays. Portland and Seattle supporters get all the ink for their dramatic tifo displays, but DC United's groups were the first in MLS to do it.
Their best work may have come in 2008, when they saluted then-midfielder and current coach Ben Olsen with a giant banner adorned with a lion and the words "Heart of a Lion" just before kickoff of DC's match with the LA Galaxy.
• Sample chant: From La Norte:
Chris Pontius is DC United's longest-tenured player.
"When United wins the cup again Hoorah, hoorah
When United wins the cup again hoorah, hoorah
The league will hate us
The fans will shout
And we will all come marching out
When United wins the cup again, hoorah, hoorah
• Fan favorite: Chris Pontius, forward. DC United recently held a vote for the fans’ favorite player of the year, and Pontius was the man.
The 25-year-old striker is the longest-tenured player on the team, drafted in January 2009, and he had a career-high 12 goals this season. Pontius was also named the MLS All-Star MVP after scoring and dishing an assist in MLS’s 3-2 win over Chelsea on July 25.
• Opponent’s perspective: “It’s a pretty tough place to play because they get some good fans there that are constantly jumping up and down. You can see the stands jumping up and down with them.
“One of the worst games we played all year was there, and I think the atmosphere was part of that. You’ll see lots of banners waving, and the supporter groups are screaming at you for the whole game.
“They like to call us the pink cows for some reason. But that’s fine, because they get it just as good from our fans when they come up to play us.” -- Connor Lade, New York Red Bulls defender