All Cup runs are a journey. To witness the New York Red Bulls U-23's abbreviated journey in this year's US Open Cup, I had to take a hike out to the last stop on the F train: 179th St. So this journey needed to start with adequate provisions. I grabbed a quesadilla from Moe's on my way through Penn Station to meet my buddy Eric for the trip out to Queens. One quesadilla and one companion: I'm traveling light today
The next stop was our friend's apartment, walking distance from Belson - the soccer stadium at St. John's that was our goal. We sheltered and gathered strength, mostly liquid strength of the sort you need ID for, and waited for our numbers to grow. By the time we were ready to march on Belson, we were six strong. Queens trembled before us; or maybe that liquid strength was kicking in.
As we made preparation to quit our camp and make for the field, we took pause to consider our excitement for this inevitably meaningless midweek match-up between teams that stood no realistic chance of lifting the trophy at the end of the tournament. Perhaps it was the liquid strength again; perhaps it was just the giddy pleasure of tracking the F train to its terminus; or maybe it was the knowledge that we weren't going to join the crowd for this game, we were basically bringing the crowd.
Ten minutes later, we're in the parking lot at the stadium, forming an impromptu tailgate with our fellow crowd members.
booth picnic table was manned by two gentlemen with a partiality to extending discounts to those in Pancyprian attire. RBNY fans are generous, especially when hopped up on liquid strength. We skipped the chance to haggle. Tonight, we would pay these men for their Freedoms.
It is the custom of Red Bulls supporters to sit behind a goal. This night was no different. We picked the end that wasn't already occupied, parking next to a group of Pancyprian youth players who had taken the seats right behind the net.
All told, we were a group of about 50; most everyone known to everyone else. Had we bothered to check on security protocols beforehand, we might not have missed the chance to bring a few flares along- next time, Freedoms, you'll see the rockets' red glare. But this was mostly a relaxed crowd of friends. Albeit friends who loudly and regularly express a profound collective hatred of DC to a bewildered group of youth soccer players in Queens. We didn't choose our neighbors for the evening, but we did choose our chants - and there was a D.C. United game in our future.
The regular chants of the South Ward of Red Bull Arena were mixed with a few new ones and some old favorites that have fallen out of fashion. A little taunting of the Freedoms fans even got some of the younger Pancyprians to offer us a little something in return.
Sometime during all of this, soccer was played too. The Red Bulls took an early lead, then let the Freedoms score twice. As the final whistle neared, we were in full frenzy, urging an equalizer. Some waited along the three-foot tall fence that rather optimistically sought to prevent a delirious pitch invasion when RBNY found a way to level the scores. In the end, it was the Red Bulls rather than the fence that kept us at bay: no second goal, no fence-hopping.
So we lost. In Queens. But this skirmish did not have much at stake beyond the question of how frequently the F train runs at night. Some of the players were nice enough to come over to us, and greet us, say a few words, before heading out the door with their team. Everyone seemed happy. It was a not a night for concern about the result.
We departed to a few thank-yous thrown our way for coming out and for our donations to the cause of Freedoms. We were gleeful, and skipped over to the Coldstone Creamery for a nice ice cream. There we celebrated with frozen dairy products and a banner we dubbed our trophy. Not a typical supporters' outing; not a great result. But a good night out in support of lower league soccer and US Open Cup.