Do you feel that chip on your shoulder? Rub it. There it is. How tender. Remember that feeling. We'll come back to that.
Tonight, D.C. United face NYCFC. For the first time.
NYCFC is the new kid on the block. The fancy new kid. Brought in and bought in. They have a roster that reads like an EPL or La Liga team. Frank Lampard, David Villa, Andrea Pirlo, Mix Diskerud. The first three of these guys command an aggregate salary of $15 million.
$15,000,000 for just three players.
D.C. United's roster? The ENTIRE roster commands an aggregate salary of less than four-and-a-half million dollars.
$4.3 million for ALL of D.C. United's players.
D.C. United's top-paid player makes just four percent of what the combined salary of three NYCFC players make.
NYCFC's starting lineup in every game will be about featuring their star players. Come see the fancy pants from Europe.
D.C. United? The Black and Red's starting lineups are a practice in egalitarian solidarity. Everyone gets to play! Everyone must contribute! United has had something like 23 different starting lineups, over 25 games.
MLS invited multiple NYCFC players to the MLS All Star game -- even ones who hadn't even played yet.
D.C. United? MLS did not invite a single available United player to the MLS All-Star game.
But here's the kicker. The uncomfortable reality. The inconvenient truth. For MLS and for Eurosnobs alike.
D.C. United is NUMBER ONE in the Eastern Conference, and NUMBER ONE in the Supporter's Shield race.
NYCFC is currently out of playoff contention in the East, and 17th in the Supporter's Shield race.
So here comes D.C. United.
Up to the Bronx. To fabled Yankee Stadium. The temporary home of the club that Gulf State petro-dollars created to deal with UEFA financial fair play rules for the higher-priority Man City.
Here comes D.C. United.
To face legends from Europe, the continent that has long looked down on American soccer and MLS.
Here comes D.C. United.
To face legends purchased to drive ticket sales in a game that actually, at its core, relies upon eleven players -- not one, two, or three -- congealing on a field into a single, multi-tentacled organism, playing elegantly with a ball at the feet, on the head, on the knees and chest, or, in United's case, grinding that ball into the ground, out of bounds, away from your own goal, into another team's goal, however gracelessly. Elegantly or not, just getting it done.
Getting it done.
Getting it done the American way. The collective way. The way without aristocrats. The way without superstars. The way without egos.
There's nothing flashy about the Black and Red. And that's the way we like it.
Tonight, D.C. United -- the true United, to hell with MLS's cheap appropriation of the name in Atlanta -- the true collective of selfless athletes whom we love with all our hearts confronts money and power and prestige and privilege and favoritism.
Tonight, D.C. United will scrounge and chip and tear away at the beautiful game, to make it more beautiful, because that beauty is too often misunderstood and mis-defined and misappropriated by the likes of Nike and FIFA and people who elevate the word "pitch."
Let's return to that chip on the shoulder, that wound, that bruise, that thing that hurts every time you touch it, and yet you can't stop touching it. Press again.
That chip on your shoulder is ready to bleed black and red, all over an Etihad Airways sky blue jersey at Yankee freaking Stadium.