I moved to DC as the inaugural MLS season began (good thing; I might have ended up a Galaxy fan). I was a bit wary in embracing MLS. The pain of losing the NASL and the Portland Timbers was still fresh, but like everyone else in the American soccer community, I was jumping for joy we finally had another league. I quickly fell for United and nothing has quite been the same since.
There is nothing better than walking into RFK before kick off. The electric atmosphere and the best fans in MLS get my blood pumping as soon as I am through the gate. One thing I love about United fans is that we take the "12th Man" thing pretty seriously. Throughout the stadium folks are singing, chanting and screaming with one single purpose: three points for United! As fans, we are truly one. No one cares what is your race, class or any of that, the only thing that really matters is that you love the Black-and-Red.
One thing I have always admired about the club is the quality of people that work there, both players and staff members. I am always proud of the team, not just for the result or quality of play but for the character of the men that make up the team. I have never seen a United player not take the "extra step" for a fan. That was always the thing about Marco Etcheverry; it wasn't just his incredible gifts as a player, but the respect and devotion he had for the fans, that made him the greatest of all MLS players. If you talk to almost any United fan, they will always return to this theme. Everyone has a "story" about an encounter with a player.
Probably the coolest thing about being a fan from the beginning is getting to see all the players that have come and gone. The legends like Marco, Jaime (Moreno), RDA (Raul Diaz Arce), (John) Harkes and Goose (Jeff Agoos) have made watching United a treat, but some of the lesser known players have always had a special place in our hearts as fans. One of the most popular players for long-time fans is still Geoff Aunger, the toughest guy ever to play in MLS. I also think Brian Kamler and Mark Simpson are two of the classiest guys ever to play in MLS. As a Barra Brava member, I also had a special place for Chino Alegria, who lived out all our fantasies going from the Barra to joining the team. Personally, the acquisition of Earnie Stewart was a huge thing for me. He had long been my favorite player on the U.S. Team, so getting to watch him every week has been a treat.
I am lucky enough to have been able to travel to see United play away from home several times. One of my fondest memories of those trips is also one of the newest, last year's 2-0 win in the Meadowlands. It was a dominating performance by United and all you could hear after the match were the United fans singing United songs as the Jersey guys got in their cars and went home. One of the most fun matches this year was the visit from legendary English team Nottingham Forest, we had a great tailgate party with their fans and many of them even showed up for our next League match against the Galaxy.
I really love the team Peter Nowak has put together this year. This is a hardworking team that plays attractive and exciting football. Our midfield play has been brilliant at times and watching our young guys like (Brian) Carroll, (Josh) Gros, Alecko (Eskandarian) and (Freddy) Adu mature each game has been a delight. The mix of hungry youngsters and savvy vets, makes us one of the most exciting teams in the League.
Sometimes my non-football friends ask about my relationship to the team and if it has faded as the team hasn't had the same success the past few years. I tell them no, just the opposite; in fact, I feel closer to the team. The British football writer Dougie Brimson once wrote, "Being a football supporter isn't about watching great football, it's about putting time in and belonging to something, the entity that is a football club." To me, that quote has always captured the way I feel about United. I'll be in section 135 regardless of the weather, the cost or our record. I am part of a football club.