Here at Once a Metro, we have a history of guys being in different locations when a Red Bull game is happening. The 2nd leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinal against D.C. United was no different. This is a (long) diary of events for each of us on the day of the Red Bulls’ victory. Let me introduce our cast of characters:
- Matt Coyne (MC): Our fearless managing editor who was stuck at work in the northeast while the Red Bulls fans trekked down I-95 to RFK.
- Tim Dean (TD): A man who would rather be in D.C. than in dealing with tourists in Times Square.
- Austin Fido (AF): A man who loves the Red Bulls but is stuck in Trinidad (oh the horror).
- Jason Iapicco (JI): AKA myself. The one member of Once a Metro that managed to make it down to D.C. for the game by the sheer luck of not having a prior engagement.
Where does our story start? In the Caribbean nation of Trinidad...
AF: GAME DAY!! Up with the lark, or rather - the dog. I am a guest in his home. He has decided to start the day with a vigorous scratching that shakes the bed he believes we should share. Dog, bed, and house are in Trinidad, where I am currently sequestered for work. The sun looks set to shine brightly, but the morning is cool and breezy: good omens. I find my RBNY cap on the floor. Evidence of canine attention: less good omen.
AF: To work! One appointment to keep today, and then the coast is clear for finding a TV to catch the game.
JI: I groggily wake up because of the very annoying sound my cats are making as they are not used to me sleeping in. So I begrudgingly get out of bed and take care of the normal morning tasks. Feed the cats & dog, take a shower, eat breakfast, etc. The one advantage of getting up at 7:30 is that I now have an extra half hour than I originally planned, so I don’t need to rush around getting things ready.
JI: I’m all packed up. I have a cooler with beer (Guinness Draught cans) & water, I have my scarf, and am good to go. I set up the GPS on my phone to take me to D.C., and turn on my podcast player. I listen to the dulcet tones of Mark Fishkin & Dan Dickinson on Seeing Red and myself, Pat MacDonald, and Truman on Red Bull Rant (shameless plug I know). I head on down I-95 and MD 295 and get lucky that traffic is moving. I even passed 4 Greyhound buses, with signs in the front window indicating that they are Viking Army buses.
AF: If this afternoon's meeting includes any discussion of RBNY's lineup preferences, I am going to ace it. To the car.
TD: I start my game day by waiting in line. I have family in town, you see, and they want to eat at some "famous" restaurant after taking in the Rockettes at Radio City. That means that my wife and I have the privilege of standing in line, in Time Square, in the November cold. The line moves slowly, yet we still manage to reach the front before the family even leaves the theatre for the restaurant. Standing there, waiting in my least favorite part of town, in less than the ideal weather, all I can think to myself is "this day has to get better."
AF: Did not realize the entire population of Trinidad had exactly the same plan for this Saturday as myself. There be traffic.
JI: I arrive at RFK a little after 11:30 and pay the $20 to park in Lot 3. The attendant asks me if I’m Red Bulls, albeit in very hard to understand English. After asking him to repeat himself twice, I finally get what he’s saying and confirm that I am a Red Bull. I get directed by no less than 4 attendants to park in the bowels of lot 3 in an area that seems to contain excess military trailers. I wonder why this would be here then I am reminded (by the miserable looking stadium) that I am at RFK, and logic is out the window.
TD: Finally the family shows up and we are allowed into the restaurant, which ends up being nothing more than an overpriced diner in which wannabe musical theatre nerds perform overly dramatic renditions of songs you grew sick of hearing three years ago, while they try to pour your coffee without spilling. Nice place, mediocre food, slow service. While waiting for the bill, I have to think up creative excuses for why I'm not talking much. I can't tell the family that I'm anxious about a soccer game in which the team I support is going into with a 2-0 lead. I don't have the patience to explain aggregate scores, or that's so metro history, or soccer in general. To be completely honest, the upcoming second leg against D.C. United is all I could think about. Even when my niece talks about her dance troupe, my mind goes over every possible way the Red Bulls can screw up. I don't even feel bad about it
AF: I should be sitting in a meeting. I am sitting in a car. Behind a driver who is all about the bass.
JI: After walking all the way across the lot to use the port-o-potties (there were 5 new ones ziptied waiting for the 12 buses to show up), I wander around aimlessly. I’m hoping there is someone I know here among the dozen or so cars that have shown up so far, but I have no such luck. I decide it’s time to crack open my first Guinness as the first of the VA buses show up. My stomach starts to punish me for relying on the tailgate. I think to myself that I should’ve grabbed a sub on the way because it’s going to take some time to prepare the grills and food.
JI: Big credit to the people from the supporter groups. They got a huge line of tables & grills going within 30 minutes of arriving. The first sets of hot dogs & hamburgers are coming off the grill, and I’m lucky enough to be near the front of the line. I grab my food and get out of harms way.
AF: My own tardiness delays the start of the appointment. Still plenty of time. I got this.
TD: After the bill is settled, we have some time to kill before the game, which starts at 2:30 PM, and the departure of the families bus back to Pennsylvania, which leaves at 3:30 PM. I explain rather plainly that I have to leave them at 2:00 PM. They seem to accept my impending exit as long as my wife agrees to stick around.
JI: It’s time for everyone to start heading into the stadium, so we all start lining up in the small corridor of road blocks and yellow tape that’s supposed to keep us all organized. It’s a short march to the stadium, but with 1200 fans, it’s gets a little out of hand fast. Fans start pouring onto East Capitol Street, but the security is ready and that gets squashed quickly so traffic can move. Crossing 22nd Street leads to some honking from other RBNY fans who seem to be a little late to the party. The head of the crowd stops at a barrier in front of the stadium to do a chant. After the first chorus of "We are the boys from the South Ward" the crowd moves towards the gate. RFK Security has to get credit for maintaining order of the number of fans as it takes a while to fill the three sections that were allocated.
AF: No one in this meeting has yet sought to test my understanding of the relative merits of playing Peguy Luyindula over Tim Cahill in the central attacking midfield spot of Petke's 4-2-3-1.
TD: I head to the Football Factory, while my wife makes her way to the American Doll store. I walk towards beer and soccer, she walks towards tourist, screaming children and outrageously priced, creepy toys.
AF: What time is kick off again?
MC: The only way I can pull off watching the entire game, uninterrupted, around work is to get a late lunch at a local bar for the first half, then ignore my job for 45 minutes to catch the second half. So I'm off to find a bar that serves decent food.
TD: When I get to the bar and head downstairs, I'm pleasantly surprised by the amount of Red Bull fans in the house. It looks like a good 100 people, already chanting unsavory songs about D.C. United and the Pope.
2:30 PM - Game Time!
AF: Sneak a glance at phone - RBNY is winning 2-0!! Yay!
MC: I've successfully convinced the bartender that the 3 other people in the place don't care about the Minnesota-East Bumble$%k Technical College football game and that he should flip over to NBC. Also, I ordered a burger.
MC: ...and not a minute too soon, because I didn't miss kick off.
TD: The game gets underway; the chants slowly trail off. The following two hours are something of a blur, but I'll do my best to convey the feeling in that dark basement.
Fabian Espindola is booed....a lot. Ben Olson is also booed...a lot. At some point, D.C. commits a completely obvious handball in the box that goes uncalled. The bar becomes furious. The traveling Red Bull supporters are shown on the TV and we all applaud and cheer. D.C. scores and the chants start up again, even louder. My wife shows up with tales of horror from Time Square. The Red Bulls score and everyone in the place loses their minds. A chant arises to the tune of the White Stripes' Seven Nation Army. I get another beer. Oh this shots on the house? Yes please. D.C. scores again, but no one really cares because they're too busy planning their victory tweets or taking shots or trying to tweet whilst taking shots. Classic Roy Miller does it again. Everyone laughs and then realized he's out for the entire Eastern Conference Final. Everyone stops laughing. FIVE MINUTES OF STOPPAGE? HOW THE F--- DOES THAT WORK? The final whistle sounds and the bar explodes. Everyone cheers, hugs, high fives and spills beer. We leave the bar and get to the 6 train only to find out the next one won't arrive for 28 minutes.
JI: I’m sitting behind the "D.C. United Divided" banner, and as it drops the game kicks off with a very loud chant from the South Ward. I can’t hear any of the D.C. groups over our collective voice.
3:00 PM (about 25th Minute)
JI: The South Ward has been rocking except for brief pauses to get everyone on the same page. It’s starting to get annoying though as people pack the aisle making things cramp. I’m not enjoying this especially since I am standing on the aisle.
3:12 PM (About 37th Minute)
JI: When D.C. scores I had actually turned my eyes away from the action for a second. I turn back just in time to see the ball in the net. It’s not until they replay the goal on the screen that I see what a lack of defending there was on the play.
MC: D.C. scores. I can't help but feel like that was expected, and it's going to make the game a whole lot more nerve wracking.
AF: RBNY is losing 1-0. Apparently the aggregate score was a placeholder on the page I was looking at until something happened on the pitch. No idea who scored, or when, or how.
3:20 PM (Halftime)
MC: IT'S HALFTIME AND I NEED MY CHECK
JI: I try and sit in my seat and try doing something on my phone, but the data connection sucks. After 5 minutes I decide to check the line for the bathroom, as I get up I give up my seat to another supporter as I’m tried of being crowded just because people can’t span out to the three sections given to the RBNY away support. As I hit the walkway, the line to the men’s bathroom stretches to the first section of seats, and I discover that D.C. Security has only given one set of bathrooms and 3-4 food carts to 1200+ fans. I decide I’ll wait in the walkway for the line to calm down.
AF: Meeting over! Glance at my phone suggests it is half-time and RBNY is losing 1-0. Time to find TV for the second half. Traffic. No TV. Phone has gone back to suggesting RBNY is winning 2-0.
MC: I paid, raced to the office and just missed the second half kickoff, but not by much…
JI: As the second half starts, I’m standing at the railing overlooking the South Ward. I decide I might as well stay here as I’m done with trying to physically squeeze in with the fans today.
3:47 PM (About 57th Minute)
MC: It's hard to put into words, but as Bradley Wright-Phillips flicks the ball over to Thierry Henry and as Peguy Luyindula makes his run seemingly in tandem with Henry's, I can feel a goal coming. It's not something that happens often, but every so often you just think to yourself "this is the one, this is the attack that breaks through." And they did, tying the game and getting that all-important away goal. Back in my office, where I've posted up against an unoccupied cubicle to get a better view of the TV I've co-opted for MLS Playoff purposes, I give a big, animated fist pump, which prompts one of the few coworkers making up the Saturday afternoon skeleton team to ask what just happened.
JI: Forget how the goal came about, the before and after feeling of the goal was impressive. I felt concerned since the 37th minute, that we were heading to another RBNY playoff meltdown. Once the goal was scored, and D.C. now had to come up with 3 goals, I felt a sense of relief. Even though D.C. technically had a shot, it felt like it was over.
MC: How does one explain the intricacies of a two legged series to a soccer lay person? You don't, really. You just kind of say, "Uh, well, the Red Bulls just kind of won." And then when he replies, "Yeah, but it's tied," you just kind of say, "It's kind of complicated, I guess. Don't worry about it."
AF: RBNY HAS SCORED!!!! It is 1-1. I think. Apologies to any drivers in the Morvant-Laventille area who may have been alarmed at this time.
MC: D.C. is pouring players forward and I'm genuinely convinced the Red Bulls are going to win 2-1.
AF: Need food. Chance of finding TV for whatever time is left in the game is nil. Waiting in line at a take-away joint for food, watching a toddler behind the counter. The toddler is eyeing up a large collection of eggs stacked by the door to the kitchen.
JI: Despite the pressure that is pouring on the Red Bulls, I don’t really care. D.C. can get a goal for all I care, because IT WON’T BE ENOUGH!
4:08 PM (About 78th Minute)
JI: Roy Miller, oh Miller! Why would you go and do something like that? You were already missing a game for the yellow you had to pick up earlier in the game. Now you went and got a straight red. You’ll miss the whole EASTERN CONFERENCE FINAL! WHY?!?
4:15 PM (About 90th Minute)
MC: WHERE THE HELL DID FIVE MINUTES COME FROM?! Welp, the Red Bulls probably won't win this one, but at least they'll advance. Probably.
JI: It’s OK that D.C. scored, they still need two more, and they don’t have enough time. Wait, 5 minutes of stoppage time? WHERE THE F&*K DID THEY COME UP WITH 5 MINUTES?
MC: The feeling isn't elation or the unbridled joy that comes with your team winning a big game. It's more relief. The expectations for the Red Bulls have always been high, after all they have one of the highest payrolls in the league and access to a ton of young talent developing in the academy, plus an attractive location for foreign players to come. The relief is the relief that things are actually turning around. Finally, they've won a playoff series. But then, like Henry must after every game down the stretch and into the playoffs, I start thinking about what's next. And the New England Revolution -- who, at the time, were preparing to defend their two goal lead of the Columbus Crew in the second leg -- don't look like pushovers. It's just on to the next one.
JI: Three times during stoppage time a fan in the South Ward blew a whistle they brought with them. Each time the South Ward thought it was over. When the actual referee blew his whistle, you could feel the weight lifted off of the fans in attendance. I don’t know what it’s like to have been a long suffering fan (been around since only 2010), but I can imagine this "win" over D.C. meant a lot more than the Supporter Shield in 2013.
AF: Wait...now it's 2-1 to D.C.? And I really have no idea why this game isn't over. Maybe it is over. Maybe it was 2-0 to RBNY this whole time and I have just been led astray by a rogue app. My turn to order. Toddler has an egg in his hand.
AF: Order made. Toddler has dropped egg. Seemed to enjoy the experience. Reaching for another egg...
JI: I’m finally back at my car after waiting for security to open the gates and all the travelling fans out. I’m one of the first ones out only because I want to be out of the parking lot before the fans from the buses make it a mad house. I’m off on my way back home and barely had to deal with traffic. I put on some wrestling podcast now as I just want to distract myself while driving.
AF: Back at house, food in hand, relieved to be out of a restaurant with an unexpected egg crisis. Greeted by yawning dog, stretching under a waning sun. Time to find out what really happened.
TD: I ended my game day by waiting in a subway station.
AF: Thank you, RBNY. I will schedule better next time. But thank you for making that next time happen.
JI: As I get home, I only have one thought running through my head. "What am I going to do for dinner?"