Supporting D.C. United has descended into torpor. With Ben Olsen as coach and three former Terrapins on the roster, I cannot bring myself to get that angry about the team. And complaining more that I have already done ain't exactly cathartic. But, this is depressing and going to matches isn't a priority, even if we've paid for a season of tickets.
Still, we went yesterday to watch the match with Sporting KC, driven largely by the opportunity to see Graham Zusi in person again. Come for the Zusi, stay for a D.C. United starting lineup of Taylor Kemp, Casey Townsend, and Ethan White (18% Maryland!).
Sure, Kemp was bizarrely substituted out at halftime rather than placed at left back with Daniel Woolard making way for Chris Pontius. And, sure, just as space started to open in Sporting's defense in the final third, Casey was replaced by Lionard Pajoy -- a substitution at the hour mark that preceded a Kansas City corner kick that inevitably led to a goal. Whatever. At least I got to see Taylor and Casey play in a real game.
More to the point, whatever. Because what happens on the pitch is, at this point, secondary. While the club continues to be killed for supposed failings in building a competitive roster (really?), the team's management builds an even better gameday experience in a ridiculous environment.
We watched the first half at the VW Club. Waiting in the club? An excellent face-painter for children, wonderful staff, and a neat little contraption composed of an elevated treadmill with dribbling cones. If I had problems getting the kids up for going to a United match before, that obstacle has been removed.
After Townsend was withdrawn from the field of play, we walked up to the Champions Club for the rest of the second half. It was our first time up in the newly christened space and delivers exactly what was promised -- no lines for good food and alcohol, lots of kids running around, and nice perspective from behind the goal opposite the VW Club.
It is RFK. The stadium is dire. D.C. United could get away with just letting everything crumble around them. They don't. Instead, the club does what it can with the space. The club hasn't given up and is not asking supporters to suck it up until the pipedream of a new stadium comes to fruition. No one is going to give the club's administration kudos for putting lipstick on a pig. That's wrong. Ben Olsen's United may be unimaginative and plodding, but D.C. United itself has built a little wonderland that is remarkably kid-friendly.