October 16, 2009
By Charles Cuttone
STADIUM ROCKS FOR U.S.
Ancient RFK is a home stadium
WASHINGTON, DC---The stadium is one of the oldest still in use by a professional sports franchise and its age and years of neglect are starting to show, but RFK Stadium is still one of the best places in the United States to watch a soccer game.
|The U.S. crowd at RFK Stadium is as good as it gets.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Opened in 1960 to house the Washington Senators baseball team and the Washington Redskins of the National Football League, RFK has seen its share of soccer history.
Four different North American Soccer League teams called the stadium home, the Washington Whips, two versions of the Diplomats and Team America. A later version of the Diplomats in the American Soccer League also played there. It has been the home of D.C. United since 1996, and has been used for the 1994 World Cup, the 1996 Olympics and the 2003 Women’s World Cup.
“It’s an old stadium, it has a lot of history,” said U.S. National Team Coach Bob Bradley. “We always enjoy coming here.”
It’s no wonder the U.S. team likes playing there. All-time the Americans have compiled an 12-3-5 record in the Nation’s Capital. It’s the nearest thing the U.S. has to a national soccer stadium. Sometimes the crowds can be a bit partisan toward the other side, but as the U.S. team has improved, so too has the home side feel of the place.
Sam’s Army and the other U.S. supporter’s clubs have blended in well with the home town Barra Brava, United’s supporters club, to make the U.S. team feel at home.
During Wednesday’s game against Costa Rica, many of the crowd of 26,243 stood and chanted a tribute to Charlie Davies while holding up placards with his jersey #9 on them.
“The crowd tonight was fantastic,” said Landon Donovan.
That energy was transmitted when the U.S. scored its first goal, with the roar and stomping causing the nearly 50 year old building to shake. The game tying goal brought about the same effect.
“There was just a real energy about the crowd,” Donovan said.
The U.S. tem repaid the loyalty of the crowd, which sat through cold weather and a steady rain with an fantastic come from behind to tie Costa Rica 2-2.
“The way the crowd was tonight, they were awesome,” said U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard. “We were probably going to give a lap of honor and celebrate with our fans anyway, that (the result) just made it more special.”
Unfortunately, it seems like RFK’s days are numbered. The Washington Nationals baseball team made some minor improvements to the place while they used it as a temporary home, but otherwise it has become outdated and severely lacking in the modern amenities teams look for in their stadium. DC United has been seeking for several years to have a soccer stadium built somewhere in the DC area. Several efforts have already failed. Most recently however, the mayor of Baltimore has asked the Maryland Stadium Authority to consider building a facility for United near that city’s baseball and football stadiums.
Its not likely it would ever rock like old RFK.