United we stand
With Richard Willcox
D.C. United will pose a stern test for the ‘Caps when they visit on Saturday night, being arguably the most successful MLS team and one of the ten charter clubs that started the league back in 1996. They have won the MLS Cup four times (play-off champions), and the Supporter’s Shield four times (highest league points), as well as the CONCACAF Champion’s Cup in 1988, and a raft of smaller less significant accolades.
With all that said, D.C. have lost their two opening game this season and are looking to avoid a third consecutive loss. They are also going to be losing a few key players to the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament.
And although they have won more MLS Cups than any other team (four), three of those were scored in the first four years of the fledgling league – their last honours being the Supporter’s Shield in 2007.
When not travelling west to visit Vancouver, their home is the 46,000 seater Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium. The team is owned by San Francisco-based William H.C. Chang through the consortium D.C. United Holdings, and managed by long-time starting midfielder Ben Olsen, who has coached the team since 2010.
The team is affectionately known by its fans as United, DCU or the Black-and-red (on account of their shirt colours). D.C. was one of many teams who opted for a European-sounding name, opting for the almost exclusive British moniker of ‘United’, as opposed to Spanish influences which have resulted in Real Salt Lake, for example (Deportivo Chivas, Sporting Kansas being others).
D.C. United has four major supporters groups; La Barra Brava, the Screaming Eagles, La Norte and the District Ultras. Each group has a designated section of the home stadium.
La Barra Brava, Spanish for “The Brave Fans”, was founded in 1995 by Latino fans in the Washington, D.C. area, mostly Bolivian immigrants in support of original United players Marco Etcheverry and Jaime Moreno. They seek to bring a South American style to home games.
La Norte, which imaginatively takes its name from its location on the North side of the stadium is noted for its streamers, large drum, and harassment of the opposition. Those large drums can be so intimidating of course, and incoming streamers are a constant aerial threat.
The District Ultras is known for its hand-painted banners made specifically for a particular match. Presumably membership therefore requires some degree of literacy, not always a pre-requisite for Ultra’s around the world.
D.C. United’s primary rival is the New York Red Bulls. The two teams compete annually for the Atlantic Cup, a competition instituted by the two clubs. The cup is awarded to the team that gets the most points across the teams’ meetings throughout the season.
The Los Angeles Galaxy are United’s second rival, one with whom D.C. has jockeyed over the years to represent MLS as its signature franchise. The teams, who met in the first MLS Cup, have the oldest rivalry in Major League Soccer. D.C. United also has a burgeoning rivalry with the Philadelphia Union as the two teams represent two cities separated by only 120 miles. D.C. United is also unique among MLS teams for its rivalry with the Charleston Battery of the United Soccer Leagues (a minor league team from South Carolina), as they compete every time they face one another for the Coffee Pot Cup, a trophy established by the two sides’ supporters.
The Caps have met DC United twice before, in the two games of Vancouver’s inaugural season last year. On the road the Caps lost 4-0 but in the return leg, at their new home in BC Place (or should that be Bell Pitch?), the home team came out in top 2-1 with goals from Camilo and Tan.
The Caps will look to extend their unbeaten run to three and will be hoping for a third consecutive clean sheet. D.C. are off to a bad start and I can’t see them coming away with three points on Saturday night.
If you’re going to the game, I’ll see you there…