Not my normal day of all soccer all the time. I missed Charlton's unconvincing win against Notts County. Missed DC United's well-deserved win up in Toronto (watching the replay was a pleasure -- a coming out party for Pablo Hernandez who not only set up some fantastic chances but started to pull himself off the ground where earlier he would have complained about not getting a foul called; also really nice to see Graye taking advantage of his second chance at the starting lineup). And missed all the European fixtures today.
But today was the last opportunity we had this season to go see the Washington Freedom play in a game that promised to be entertaining; with the Freedom needing to win to insure a playoff spot. Walking to the field from the car, I was reminded of how hollow our commitment to women's professional soccer has been over the last few years as our daughter kept trying to guess what team we were going to see at the stadium. Since she was born, she's seen Real Maryland, DC United and Crystal Palace Baltimore play at the Soccerplex. She has even seen me play at the Soccerplex, but tonight marked the first time that she'd ever seen the Freedom play at their home stadium and it was the first time we've seen the Freedom play anywhere other then RFK.
We are going to seriously consider season tickets next season if the league comes back for another year. It is a long distance out from College Park and the tickets are surprisingly pricey, but the club does a wonderful job in creating an environment where kids enjoy a night out. Our little girl had a fantastic time, although she might have watched a total of five minutes of the game. Nevertheless, she celebrated when Abby Wambach scored the game winner, knew that her team won the game, and expressed annoyance when we left during the club's salute to Briana Scurry upon her retirement.
I, unfortunately, watched much more of the game and I was disappointed by the quality of the performance on the field. Despite being billed as a must-win game for the Freedom and a match essential to salvaging an underwhelming season, the home side was only slightly less listless than the Crystal Palace apathy-fest against St. Louis we had watched at the same park earlier in the summer. Both tactically as a team and in the bulk of individual performances, those in the stands would be excused if they thought that the Beat was playing for a postseason spot and the Freedom were merely playing out the string. In fact, several people around us innocently asked whether the Freedom were in the red or blue uniforms on the field. Lauren Sesselmann's red card with 15 minutes to play did not result in a definitive advantage for the Freedom as Washington continued to bomb the ball forward to two players taking on two center backs or, alternatively, bring the ball up the middle and then outlet to the left wing for one touch crosses of varying quality to no one in particular.
I doubt that what I think I saw fairly reflects the team. The enthusiasm that supporters have for their side is palpable even from outside the stadium and could not be sustained if this were par for course. And, regardless of the aesthetics of the performance, the Freedom got the three points they needed and booked their tickets to a chance to win the league. And we enjoyed a night out watching soccer. Nothing else matters.