This was my first time attending a reserve league game, and it was a very enjoyable experience. The midday, weekday start times prevent most from making it out to the RFK practice field, but if you ever get the chance to take a personal day and venture out there, do it. You've gotta use those things before the end of the year anyway.
To me, what makes the games appealing is that they're a celebration of what could be. From the match to the players to the venue. It's like watching D.C. United from a parallel universe.
In this universe, your captain is Brandon McDonald, and he led the team admirably. It's much quieter than your typical RFK, regular-season match, and listening to the players communicate is fascinating. Brandon's voice rose above all the rest. He yells "At least you tried, Austin!" after the New York Red Bulls snuff out a Da Luz run, and he especially encourages Patrick Foss, the lone academy player to start, who did look a bit like a deer in the headlights at times.
And when the opportunity came for him to use his size and athleticism, he brought it. Late in the first half, the Red Bulls goalkeeper came out to collect a loose ball that didn't quite make it into the box. It turned into a jump ball between he and Brandon, and it wasn't even close. B-Mac skied and easily directed the ball into the back of the net. If there were any doubts left about D.C.'s mid-season defensive acquisition, they were put to rest today.
In this universe, D.C. United has a soccer-specific stadium. Crazy, right? The practice field obviously can't serve as a full-time home, but it's a fun little venue. It offers a panoramic view of the NE riverfront, which is about as picturesque as D.C. gets outside of the National Mall, especially with the fall foliage at its peak. The Metro and its restless passengers rumble by the far side of the field every now and then to remind fans that they're still in the city. The stands are separated from the field by nothing but a couple yards of grass. It's intimate, and makes you long for an experience like this that could handle at least 20,000 more fans.
In this universe, the English soccer players come to the U.S. to look for their big break. It was interesting to watch the younger John Rooney play for the Red Bulls. It was even more interesting to listen to him. I swear I couldn't understand a single thing he said, and I doubt his teammates could, either. But soccer is one of those things that transcends language, right? You caught glimpses of his hereditary Rooneyness every now and then, but he's a raw talent. He's one to keep an eye on, though.
And in this universe, Devon McTavish, Dejan Jakovic and Chris Pontius are healthy. Thankfully, this is the one part of the reserve league dimension that is certainly converging with our own. It was great to not only see McTavish and Jakovic on the field, but they were very active as well. And Chris may have not been suited up to play, but he was without crutches or cast. He didn't show any sign of a limp as he mingled with fans after the game (pictured here along with Davies' dog, Nala).
So assuming that United stick around to play in D.C. for a bit longer, try to make it to one of these reserve games. It's a great opportunity to get a little closer to the team (literally and figuratively), and a different way to experience a game. Oh, and it's free professional soccer, so it's hard to turn that down.
(Photos by the author)