Filed under: Lifestyle, Politics, Race, Sports | Tags: ac milan, american, brazilian, dc united, emilio, fifa, italian, rfk, ronal, ronaldinho, soccer, stadium, world cup, worldcup
Because every so often it’s nice not to have to do all the work, I’ve invited my best bud and soccer enthusiast, Ace, to guest blog for us today.
A United City defeats a Nation
by Avon Jackson
Yester-evening, DC’s most decorated sports team, DC United, took on Brazilian heavy-hitter Ronaldinho and the rest of his Italian club team AC Milan. It was a 90 minute thrill ride at RFK stadium in our nation’s capitol and I had the pleasure of witnessing it first hand.
To start, for those who don’t know, soccer is the only sport in the world that features international friendly matches at the professional club team level. This is an anomaly that benefits avid fans, such as myself, because it allows regular folks to witness the talents of international stars, such as Ronaldinho, LIVE and in person! My anticipation for this event was only amplified when I learned a few weeks ago that the former 2xFIFA player of the year was released by the Brazilian national team as they prepared for the upcoming World Cup (Jun 11th – July 11th a must watch event for any sports fan) therefore solidifying his attendance at the match in RFK.
Straight out of the gate United started attacking the Milan backline like a team possessed. Spending the bulk of the first half on the defensive, it was hard for Milan to get a shot and even harder for Ronaldinho to please the masses. There were countless fans who wore his jersey and cheered every time he even touched the ball. The star power of this man is amazing in a way I have never seen before. With the most basic plays he ignited cheers and applause in a crowd dominated by DC United fans. It was equivalent to the sound of proud mothers at their children’s graduation.
Sidebar, this type of respect is not found in other sports American or Worldwide. Only in soccer is it common for a player of a different race, nationality and playing for the opponent to be glorified in a foreign arena out of total respect for his play on the field. I still remember the days of Magic and Bird when neither player could step foot into their opponent’s floor without hearing boos and racial slurs despite their total dominance of the sport.
Back to the action, United wasted little time as our own Brazilian sensation, Luciano Emilio, found the back of the net off a headed shot attempt by Chris Pontius. Coming off a set kick, Pontius headed a shot that was blocked by Milan’s keeper only to land at the feet of a streaking Emilio who finished the job.
With this goal, United took a surprising lead in the 20th minute of play and RFK roared with excitement, accented by the normal sight of flying beer cups and colored smoke cans thrown by the United faithful. Even I threw my $9 beer in celebration, a feat I was quick to regret as I was then forced to purchase another.
As if this weren’t enough excitement, United played to the crowds pleasure with another goal coming 10 minutes later on a header by Pontius that was established by a brilliantly placed corner kick by Santino Quaranta. Pontius touched the ball off the back of a defender and accomplished what he had meant to do with his first shot. This goal was a thing of beauty, as the header was so crisp and so quick that it left the Milan keeper motionless like a dancer in cement shoes.
At this point in the match, RFK was no longer a sporting arena but one big party. With random strangers slapping fives and grown men singing. All that was missing was Jimi Hendrix and this could have been mistaken for Woodstock in ’69. The stadium remained this way for the rest of the first half despite the extremely rough defending of Pontius, eventually resulting in a yellow card on Milan defender Ignazaio Abate and a strong shot attempt by Ronaldinho, that was deflected by a United defender.
Following the games intermission United made it a point to involve the entire team in the game. They made numerous subs and eventually ended up having to play a man down due to injury and lack of players.
The most electric play of the game came early in the second half on a missed shot attempt. Ronaldinho received a pass in the United goalie box and after volleying the ball in the air to himself, he unleashed a ferocious bicycle kick shot attempt that blew past all United defenders to include goalie Troy Perkins. Had the ball not hit the right post it would have made for a mesmerizing goal.
The matches next goal was scored by United in an all hustle effort. A feeble pass from the Milan backline to the goalie was pressured by United forward Danny Allsopp, who blocked the clearance kick which sent the ball rolling ever so S…L…O…W…L…Y into the net. United now lead the match 3-0, a feat which no one not on the DC roster would have predicted. Not to be out done Milan picked up their efforts from this point on. Their first goal came on a questionable hand-ball call on a United defender in the penalty box. Milan’s Massimo Oddo stepped up to the plate and knocked down the easy penalty shot. Oddo struck again about 10 minutes later with a driven shot from about 30 meters out that cut through the defense like a hot knife through butter. The crowd, myself included, began to get uneasy as it appeared the Italian squad had come to life and was out for vengeance. Despite one more nerve wrecking shot from Oddo, the United backline managed to stay strong and close out the game securing the win.
All in all it was a world class experience that the MLS helped bring to my front door. The great Ronaldinho ended the match by throwing his jersey into the stands to some lucky fan who more than likely was cheering for United and donning the black and red. Players from both teams signed autographs and mingled with the fans exemplifying true sportsmanship as well as humanity. In my mind it was an introduction to soccer’s biggest event which starts next month, and carries the slogan “for one month, we are all spectators.”
Great stuff Ace, we appreciate it.
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