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.

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Sport
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
football
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
News
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Travel
travel
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment