As United fans continue to bask in the glow of the Black-and-Red's unprecedented fourth MLS Cup Championship, it remains a mystery as to exactly when and how United evolved from a .500 team fighting for playoff positioning into the club that stormed through the tail end of the regular season and playoffs. Behind the Badge has spent the past two weeks digging behind the scenes in order to locate the turning point and the factors that resulted in Ryan Nelsen and his teammates holding the trophy at Home Depot Center.
The answer: United Operations Manager Mike Mohamed.
Throughout the majority of the season, D.C. United enjoyed the best home record in the league. The club's ability to defend and attack was obviously bolstered by the large and boisterous crowds that flocked to RFK Stadium for each home date. The team, however, struggled to achieve those same results on the road. In order to win a championship, that trend would have to change. Mohamed would take matters into his own hands.
"I was thinking, 'We're so good at home, yet we can't seem to get wins on the road'," recalled Mohamed. "So I thought that there must be some connection. The only thing that I could think of was the playing surface."
Prior to United's final regular season road game, Mohamed pulled up some of the RFK turf with the intent of brining the sod into Giants Stadium for United's match at the MetroStars on Oct. 2. Mohamed was stopped at the gate by security questioning the contents of the jar. After informing the guards that his possession was merely a portion of United's home field, Mohamed and his bright idea were allowed entry. The turf and Freddy Adu's first half strike were all that United would need to earn the team's first road victory since May 29.
Upon hearing of Mohamed's antics, United Sr. Vice President Stephen Zack pledged to put Mohamed's theory to the test.
"I told him that he should make no plans for when we played away the remainder of the season," said Zack. "Mike was going to travel to those games until we lost."
Mohamed, RFK turf in tow, was back in N.J., for United's playoff game against the MetroStars on Oct. 23. Following a ceremony in which Mohamed sprinkled the Giants Stadium turf with blades of the RFK pitch, United was off and running to a 2-0 victory.
Three weeks later, Mohamed found himself at The Home Depot Center for the 2004 MLS Cup. Mohamed entered the stadium with his RFK turf, which again was dropped from the stands onto the playing field.
The result was yet another D.C. United victory away from the friendly confines of RFK Stadium. This time, the team would be bringing home some serious hardware thanks to the power of the RFK Stadium turf and the vision of Mike Mohamed.
Coincidence? We at Behind the Badge think not.
Said Mohamed of the connection: "I don't know if (it) had any real effect, but you can't argue with the results!"
'Tis the season
United fans are encouraged to join members of La Barra Brava and The Screaming Eagles for their annual Happy Hour on Dec. 17. Hosted by Fado Irish Pub (808 7th St. NW, Washington, D.C.), this is a great opportunity to get together with fellow United fanaticos and relive this past glorious season. The group will also be collecting gifts for D.C. United's Holiday Drive at the event.
Getting to Fado is really easy. Take the Metro Red Line to Gallery Place/Chinatown (MCI Center) and walk up a couple of blocks. The event starts at 5:30 p.m. For more information, call Fado at (202) 789-0066.
Freddy Adu has returned to the Washington area and will be participating in the launch of the NikeGO Afterschool Program at 3:45 p.m. Wednesday at Metropolitan Police Clubhouse #10 (2500 14th Street, NW, Washington, DC). Adu will be joined at the event by the U.S. Surgeon General and several area elected officials.
NikeGo Afterschool is designed to bring best practice physical activity programs to thousands of kids in Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCA's, Parks and Recreation locations and other after school programs.