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On the Road Again: D.C. Supporters at the Open Cup

Jon Arnold talks to the loyalists who traveled to Utah to witness their team's surprising and historic victory in the Lamar Hunt Open Cup Final. Everyone wins. Except Real Salt Lake.
BY Jon Arnold Posted
October 03, 2013
3:03 PM
SANDY, Utah—Players work incredibly hard to win trophies, and once they're won they get the honor of holding that trophy up behind temporary signage.

After all the gripping and grinning had been taken care of, Bill Hamid had one thing on his mind. "Let's go get our fans," he told his teammates.

The D.C. United team that had just won the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup walked across the field to greet the supporters who had made their way down to the lower level of Rio Tinto Stadium. There were several dozen there despite the fact that it was, you know, in Utah on a Tuesday.

"I got to experience all the glory, so going through this is not as hard because I'm like, "Oh yeah, remember seeing that cup get won or that cup get won?' So for folks to be coming out for this and to rally around it because they know a trophy is at stake, it's hopefully the silver lining to a pretty crappy year," Paul Sotoudeh, who has been a member of the Screaming Eagles since 1997, told ASN before the match during a joint tailgate between Real Salt Lake and DC supporters.

The 1-0 result turned out to be a worth reward for the faithful who turned out Tuesday, spending vacation days and money despite United's pitiful record in league. In fact, unless United supporters traveled to other U.S. Open Cup matches, they haven't had a single road trip result in a win.

"I think they've learned that even if the team loses you can still have a great time traveling to support your team," Sotoudeh said. "It bonds you to the team, bonds you to the league in some ways, it bonds you to each other, it lets you get together with friends in another city, go out, drink, meet supporters in other places if you're so inclined to do that. I think it's a positive development for MLS as a whole."

Traveling for matches can be expensive, and with the final in the middle of the week, vacation time also came into play for many supporters.

"The way the flights are it's at least two days off work," said Jay Igiel, who organizes travel for another DC supporters group, La Barra Brava. "It's hundreds of dollars in airfare and hotel, and it's not cheap. But we'd probably have double the numbers if everyone knew the government would be shut down."

In fact, Sotoudeh himself was furloughed because of the federal government's shut down but made clear that he would be at the match under nearly any circumstances. The sacrifices and commitment didn't go unnoticed by the team.

"I'm so happy for the fans and these players and the organization for hanging in there," manager Ben Olsen said after the match.

United supporters have a long history of strong away support dating back to the league's inception in 1996. Tuesday night they showed that tradition continued, even if the club's strong MLS form hasn’t.

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