When MLS Cup kicks off Sunday in front of almost 40,000 fans at RFK Stadium, one particular "soccer dad" with a particular rooting interest may get a bit nostalgic.
"It's great and I think he's excited about it too," said Houston Dynamo forward Nate Jaqua with a big smile about his father Jon, who will be at Sunday's match.
When the senior Jaqua settles into his seat to watch his son Nate play, he will see some wonderfully familiar features in the rickety old stadium and a few new ones. Jaqua was a defensive back and special teams player for the Washington Redskins from 1970-73, playing for Vince Lombardi in his rookie season, before the legendary coach passed away.
"It was a great experience especially coming from a little school like Lewis and Clark [College], where you might get 1500 people," said Jon, who now runs a ranch just outside of Eugene, Ore. "It's an interesting place and I got there just as Lombardi did and we had our first winning season when he got here; we went from perennial losers to winners. It was a unique experience -- it was always sold out, the stands would bounce, the band would play 'Hail to the Redskins.'"
The Redskins sold out every game at RFK from 1967 to 1996 when they left for FedEx Field in the Maryland suburbs. Jon took Nate and his older brother of two years to one of the final football games at the venerable barn.
"Obviously growing up you here about it," said Nate about the experience of going to that game with his father. "It was neat for me to see that and playing in here now is pretty special."
Nate played defensive back and wide receiver through junior high school, including both simultaneously one fall, but gave up football to concentrate on soccer thereafter. The two brothers ironically were coached by their mother, Jon's ex-wife, through high school.
Though Jon never grew up with the game, he learned a few things from Nate. But he learned the most by simply watching his son's play. Jaqua's last trip to RFK was four years ago to watch Nate when he was playing for the Chicago Fire against D.C. United.
"My role was to be a fan," said Jon about soccer. "I became intrigued with it over time. I got most of it (knowledge) from following them around as the "soccer dad" and learned the intricacies but I'm a big fan now."
Added Nate: "I think he's picked it up just watching it on his own. He knows the game pretty well now from just watching it."
Though the games seem diametrically opposed the basic tactics share distinctive similarities. They played their respective sports in different eras however, with different training mentalities and techniques.
"I think more earlier on getting to become a pro more so than now with training hard," said Nate about the advice he got from his father. "He's always been supportive and soccer was something he didn't know much about but he's become a big fan."
With Brian Ching doubtful with an injured left calf muscle, Jaqua is likely to start the match against New England. The scorer of six goals in 15 regular season games, and the go-ahead goal in the Western Conference Championship against Kansas City, either way Jaqua is preparing accordingly.
"I'm preparing the same way like I'm going," said Jaqua. "We are still hoping that he can (go) but yeah, I'm preparing like I'm starting but if I'm not I'll be ready to go regardless."
Chris Snear is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.