The new `baby' is kicking

John Carlin in Washington sees a game in its infancy grow in popularity ; Capitol games: As a city adjusts to football with a new accent, baseball's battle of Alomar develops into a national debate

"The tradition begins" is the motto of DC United, an infant professional soccer club fast emerging as the most successful sporting entity in a city long dominated by its wealthy American Football cousins, the Washington Redskins.

The very notion of a tradition beginning is a contradiction. Traditions belong in the past, not the future. But Americans are nothing if not inventive and the signs are that in the case of Washington United, as with professional soccer in the US generally, ambition is paying off.

Major League Soccer, better known as the MLS, kicked off only last spring but attendances are 50 per cent above projection (18,000 average) and already a heated rivalry has developed of the type associated with ancient warriors like Celtic and Rangers. It may not yet be the stuff of legend, but DC United and the New York Metrostars hate each other. In their first four encounters the players collected 23 yellow cards between them. Eight days ago, in the second of three play-offs for a place in the MLS Cup semi-final, United's star striker, the Bolivian former Middlesbrough player Jaime Moreno, was sent off for throwing a punch.

So the stage was set tantalisingly on Wednesday night for the decisive play-off between the two at the Redskins' mighty Robert F Kennedy Memorial Stadium. Simultaneously, in the other three quarter- finals, Tampa Bay Mutiny were playing Columbus Crew, Kansas City were playing Dallas Burn and San Jose Clash were playing Los Angeles Galaxy, already established as the MLS glamour club with average home attendances of over 30,000.

When the DC United players ran out on to the RFK pitch, the welcome would have drowned out a low-flying jumbo jet. When the Metrostars ran out, led by Roberto Donadoni, the chorus of rage provided a taste of what Manchester United can expect when they meet Fenerbahce in Istanbul.

You could have been forgiven for thinking these two teams shared a long, bitter history. You could have been forgiven, too, for imagining you were not in the United States of America, where sports crowds tend to be exciteable but less feverish than elsewhere. There was a reason for this. We were not, in fact, in the United States of America. The biggest stadium in the capital of the world's most powerful nation had been colonised for the night by Mexicans and Salvadoreans.

The few all-American palefaces present looked as bewildered as if they had been abruptly transported to a football ground in Guadalajara where the voices on the loudspeaker system spoke Spanish and the pre-match chatter was all about the need for the home team to display some "cojones".

There are other peculiarities about soccer in the US. Before the game the players stood to attention in the centre circle listening to a man singing the "Star-Spangled Banner" (in English); the pitch was crazily zig-zagged with soccer and American football markings; large electronic clocks around the stadium counted down the minutes and seconds remaining of play in each half and the referee, who signalled the invisible time- lords to freeze the clocks during injury stoppages, blew the final whistle the instant the numbers showed 00.00.

The sheer detail of the information provided in the match programmes will also have surprised any hardened Hispanic fans who read English. Statistics fanatics would have been delighted to learn the name of the MLS goalkeeper who handled the ball the fewest times this season in the first half of a game, the name of the team who have accumulated the most second-half corners, and so forth. The osteopath contingent at Wednesday's game would have thrilled by the news that United's busy midfielder Richie Williams was bravely entering the fray despite suffering from a bout of "ilio Tibial Band Tendonitis", vulgarly known as bruised shins.

The game itself was exciting, the play interesting - like an English team playing the continental style. It was possession football, played diligently along the ground, by players who sometimes lacked the technique to match. Donadoni, playing not on the wing (as he has done 71 times for Italy) but in a midfield attacking Cantona role, looked for most of the game as if he was day-dreaming about his glory days in Milan alongside Gullit and Van Basten. But he woke up to wallop a free-kick from the Redskins' 30-yard line against the post and to thread through the "assist" that led to the Metrostars' equaliser with four minutes and 13 seconds to go. Marco "El Diablo" (the Devil) Etcheverry, United's second Bolivian, was then fouled in the penalty area and, with one minute and 23 seconds remaining, it was fittingly a Salvadorean, Raul Diaz Arce, who ripped the ball into the back of the net.

The 20,343 crowd bellowed "United! United!" and, when the final whistle blew, a thousand fans ran on to the pitch, jumping over Metrostar players on their knees, abandoning themselves to the tribal euphoria that grips soccer fans everywhere after victory over an "auld enemy". It may be too early to tell whether the tradition will continue but it has most certainly begun.

Life and Style
A teenager boy wakes up.
life
Arts and Entertainment
Critics say Kipling showed loathing for India's primitive villagers in The Jungle Book
filmChristopher Walken, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johanssen Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale
Life and Style
food + drink
Life and Style
Playing to win: for Tanith Carey, pictured with Lily, right, and Clio, even simple games had to have an educational purpose
lifeTanith Carey explains what made her take her foot off the gas
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
A still from Duncan Campbell's hour-long film 'It for Others'
Turner Prize 2014
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hadley in a scene from ‘Soul Boys Of The Western World’
musicSpandau Ballet are back together - on stage and screen
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Ed Stoppard as Brian Epstein, Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Elliott Cowan as George Martin in 'Cilla'
tvCilla review: A poignant ending to mini-series
News
i100
Life and Style
Bearing up: Sebastian Flyte with his teddy Aloysius in Brideshead Revisited
lifePhilippa Perry explains why a third of students take a bear to uni
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Alan Sugar appearing in a shot from Apprentice which was used in a Cassette Boy mashup
artsA judge will rule if pieces are funny enough to be classed as parodies
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Trust Accountant - Kent

NEGOTIABLE: Austen Lloyd: TRUST ACCOUNTANT - KENTIf you are a Chartered Accou...

Geography Teacher

£85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: randstad education are curre...

Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: You must:- Speak English as a first lang...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Randstad Education Group: If you are a committed Te...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style