Last Impressions - DC United 2 : 2 Chicago
DC United eliminated from MLS Cup Playoffs on Aggregate, 3-2
It was the slogan of the season, backed up on the web banner by more silver than you see in the teeth of your average Crunk performer, a tally we added to this season. It was a promise, but it was also the biting fear entering this match against Chicago, a team we've never beaten in the playoffs, a team that we've never scored upon in the playoffs, a team that dealt us one of the most humiliating defeats we've ever suffered in 2005.
I have been outside of the DC area for the last three weeks, my life turned into a series of hotel rooms, tense business meetings, and mediocre food. However, I made sure to pack a United jersey for each match, and to wear it proudly on gameday. For the first two weeks, it has not been much fun. I watched the loss to Columbus, the loss to Chicago on the road, and now tonight. Accompanied by someone who didn't understand the game, we watched the game, and with United down two goals early I envied my compatriot's naivete. "They can still come back," I was told. "So, what's this off-side thing again?"
Only, tradition is not merely about trophies (though that's a lot of it) or is it about match results. It is about watching a team I care about, and watching a team repay me with their effort on the pitch. For all the under-10 youth league soccer cliches, sometimes heart can be more rewarding than results, and for me personally this was one of those games. Even as Eric Wynalda was discussing the similarities to 2005 while the sound of the Sabers game on the TV next to us in the bar threatened to drown him out, United rallied and went down fighting. When I thought Gomez had collected our third goal, I screamed aloud, jumping up and down, only to collapse when the goal was (correctly) called back. But they kept at it, even with the disappointment.
Can I complain about the first half? Of course. Can I complain about us losing because of a misstep on the road? Yes, absolutely... But I won't. Instead, this is more personal. My ultimate complaint is that I was in Buffalo, New York on the final game of DC United's season, and I didn't say good-bye in person. For this team honored our tradition, fought valiantly, and I shall miss them. This off-season will likely see at least one of those players I saw not step onto the field again. I didn't know I wouldn't see Esky again before he was gone. Who knows how it will be this off-season? And I wish I could have had a chance to say good-bye myself.
Ironically, I return home to DC tomorrow. And while I will be glad to get off the road, I won't truly be home again until April. Good-bye to the 2007 D.C. United. Your work this season was honorable, and I was proud of you to the final minutes. I will miss you, even as I watch the MLS Cup in RFK.