D.C. United hosted its annual "Meet the Team Day" on Sunday afternoon at RFK. Like every good, decent, upstanding parent in the country, I dragged my two-year old to walk around in 100 degree weather on the field to interact with people she doesn't know. And the bizarre thing is, it went well. Set aside for a moment that Ben Olsen may have thought that my daughter was about to pass out from dehydration (and how even making that conclusion possible reflects on me as a father), my little girl insisted on staying at the event and eventually got into handing the players a soccer ball she was carrying around from LAYSA fundraiser and getting autographs. The club, as always, did a tremendous job. The players were in good spirits, free ice cream and other distractions were available to the kids, and my daughter is even more excited about heading to RFK because of the experiences she's had at the stadium. This is, for me, the best event of the season and although I recognize it sucks for the players, it is one of the reasons that I will make sure to budget for season tickets every season.
Another great thing about the day -- for me -- is the team's sale of used kits. I own an excessively stupid amount of match worn shirts (is there anyone else in the U.S. who owns more the a half dozen Stranraer FC shirts? if so, buddy, you got problems) and the opportunity to add to my collection is always too much to pass up. Do I have any objective need for a Gonzalo Martinez or Tiyi Shipalane shirt? No. Do I own them anyway? Yes. But I am also incredibly embarrassed by this collection and try, as much as possible, to go through the inventory as discretely as possible which always means I buy too much of shirts that I cannot even defend procuring. On Sunday, two guys next to me were flipping through shirts while I tried to go through some of them on one corner of the table and one of the guys says to his friend "Look, it's a Rod Dyachenko... you have to buy this jersey... you hated this guy... he was your all time least favorite player." His friend responded with an icy glare and, with that reaction elicited, the Dyachenko shirt was thrown back into the pile. Cue me... "Are you going to buy that?" "What, this shirt?" "Yes." "No, man, no" "Ok, thanks."
Fast forward four hours. A storm has blown the transformer on the power line outside of our house, trees have come down throughout the neighborhood, and our power has been cut (and would not return until a few hours ago). Left with little to do in a dark house other than clean up after the storm, my daughter suggests that we "go soccer game." A treacherous hour long commute from College Park to Rockville follows (and gives full evidence to the widespread damage of the storm) and we are at Richard Montgomery High School watching Real Maryland take on Charleston.
And who is that on the field with Charleston's Mike Zaher -- DC United alum -- wearing number 12 for Real Maryland?
I'll admit that I ranted about Dyachenko's performances in a DC United shirt while sitting in RFK, but I also was always conscious of the fact that much of his poor performances could be chalked up to the way Soehn used him and gave him far more responsibility than he could perhaps handle. Rod has skills. He shows them in flashes during games -- in Sunday's match, it was a high pass that he took off his chest with his back to the goal from 24 yards out and, in the same motion, dropped it to a shot on his right foot that sailed over the crossbar. But he is also a frustrating player and that was also very much in evidence in the game.
Still, I am, oddly perhaps, looking forward to seeing how he fits with the team the rest of the season. The game was played in beautiful conditions and what we saw was a much better game than what we traveled to the Soccerplex to watch the previous day.
Although if I was under any illusion that Real Maryland had the best stadium situation of the three local professional teams, that notion was disabused by stadium officials noting that young men had snuck into the locker room during a previous game and stole the wallets and personal possessions of Real Maryland's players. Its one thing to try and ply your professional trade on a high school football field; its another to have that point underscored by getting ripped off for what few dollars you have while plying your trade on a high school football field.