News & Politics

DC United Primer

With the 2010 World Cup in South Africa three months away and a new season underway, it's a good time to start following soccer.

Leaving aside the record-breaking Capitals, Washington doesn’t have the best track record in professional sports. The Nationals lost 103 games last season, the Redskins ended their season at 4–12, and the Wizards have made more headlines with their locker-room antics than with their point scoring.

Then there’s DC United. Often overlooked outside its dedicated fan base, the team is the winningest in Major League Soccer, with four MLS Cups, four Supporters’ Shields, and two US Open Cups resting at RFK Stadium. The team’s fortunes may have fallen slightly, but with the 2010 World Cup in South Africa three months away and a new manager—United alum Curt Onalfo—this season could be a good time for Washingtonians to start following soccer.

The team plays its first home game of the season against the New England Revolution this Saturday. If you’re considering pledging allegiance to the Black and Red, here are five things you should know:

1. Depending on where you sit, you could join one of three hard-core fan groups. The Screaming Eagles, known for their singing, tailgating, and charity work, stand in sections 132–134 and 139. La Barra Brava—their motto is Muerte o Gloria (Death or Glory)—can be found in 135–138 and 233–235. La Norte, who regularly heckle and throw things toward the field, sit in section 118 by the opposing team’s entrance.

2. Two DC United stars may find themselves playing in South Africa this year: Troy Perkins and Chris Pontius have been recalled to the US national team in preparation for the World Cup. Unfortunately, the February snowstorms made them a few days late for training.

3. Goalkeeper Troy Perkins is known for his moonlighting—he’s been found working in a sporting-goods store in Fairfax and used to work as a mortgage-loan processor.

4. Players represent a dozen countries, from Serbia to Trinidad and Tobago. Having played professionally in Mexico, Onalfo is fluent in Spanish, so communicating with the Latin American players—such as recently acquired Salvadoran midfielder Christian Castillo—will be easier.

5. Attendance at United home games last season averaged 16,000—slightly less than that of the Wizards. For those who don’t have tickets, the best bars for watching games are Dupont Circle’s Lucky Bar, which has a giant projection screen, and Summers in Arlington.

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