HARRISON, N.J. – A line of buses, albeit six fewer than lined up like boxcars in the back lot at Red Bull Arena on Wednesday, idled their engines as waves of D.C. United supporters stepped onto the sidewalk Thursday night.
One set of fans unloaded drums from the storage cabin, many others cracked open beers, others began chanting with roughly three hours remaining before the kickoff of the decisive second leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals series between D.C. and New York.
Less than 24 hours after roughly 700 United supporters – and the team they support – were left baffled by the league’s decision to postpone Wednesday’s match, yet many still made the four-and-a-half hour return trip to Harrison on Thursday.
“It was incredibly frustrating,” said La Barra Brava road trip coordinator Jay Igiel.
United’s players and front office were outspoken in their disappointment with the match being postponed and cited the fans’ interest multiple times.
“I’m not sure people understand what these fans do, on a midweek game in particular,” United president and CEO Kevin Payne said Wednesday. “With a late game, you’re talking about really two days. They are lying at work, they are making up excuses, they are begging for days off and now we are asking them to do it again? It’s pretty tough.”
As the snow blanketed Red Bull Arena on Wednesday, United’s black-clad supporters cheered steadily, despite a lack of action on the field.
“We were in full throat,” said Barra Brava member Daniel Drickey. “Everybody was enjoying it and not once did it even dawn on us that they would pull the trigger and cancel the match. All of a sudden, it came up on the screen and that’s when the ‘We’re not leaving’ chant started.”
And that’s when United’s players, led by part-owner Will Chang, walked out of the locker room and into the stands.
“Jumping barriers when Red Bulls security was like, ‘No, no, no,’ and coming up to the upper level to meet us and take pictures and chanting with us? That was unbelievable,” Drickey said.
Added Igiel: “It shows the dedication that our front office and team have to the fans. That’s something we really appreciate and it’s one of the reasons why we like the team”
One fan said she arrived home at 6 am Thursday, slept, woke up, showered and drove back to RFK to board the bus at 1.
Drickey said he and many other fans were on hold with eight local hotels once it was announced the match was postponed, waiting to hear if the league and Payne could work out an arrangement to have the fans stay overnight in the area. Instead, the buses went back home.
“Had he pulled that trigger on the hotels,” Drickey said, “we would have bought a grill today and you would have seen us out here five hours ago.”