I write this on the eve of what I’m sure will be a devastating game for the ‘Pids. We are going to play against Toronto for an away game. They are currently the #1 team in the league. We sit in a dismal 20th place, only one point ahead of last place. We have yet to even earn a single point on the road. Needless to say, things don’t look good for us.
But let’s ignore that for now. If you want to hear about the worst of the Rapids, look elsewhere. This isn’t meant to be a critique of the season, even though I think that all the points that are being made are completely valid. It is in these bleak times that I want to remind people of one basic thing. Why, after all the crap that has been laid on to this team, by KSE, by Pablo, by the Front Office, I am still a fan of this team. It is in soccer that I have found something that I was missing for most of my life. Through the American Outlaws, Centennial 38, and particularly being a part of the Voice of C38, I found a community where I feel like I belong.
This season has had no shortage of disappointment, but I want to highlight one game where I felt like after the game, we could have conquered the world. On June 3rd, we played against Columbus Crew FC. I had struggled with finding someone to go with me and take my second season ticket (You can normally find me in section 134). With so few of my friends even knowing what MLS is in the first place, I couldn’t even get anyone to come with me. Fortunately, despite this, I didn’t attend the game alone. A few members of C38 had offered to let me sit with them in section 108. And with that, I had the best experience at a game that I’ve had the last few years.
This game wasn’t the best the Rapids had played, certainly. We still had a lot of the struggles that we have had all season, dealing with low possession, some questionable calls by the refs, and overall, it wasn’t a pretty win. After the first half, we were totally scoreless on both sides. But damn, if that half still wasn’t fun. Getting to sit back and talk with people who were all there for the same reason, watching their favorite team. Talking about each individual player, the flow of the game, and the terrible calls PRO was making.
That is something that I feel like has been missing from section 134 normally. I have yet to truly convert any of my friends into a dedicated MLS fan. I have a select few that are more reliable than most, but it doesn’t change the fact that I have to still discuss everything that has happened with the team since the last time they went to a game. I am knowledgeable about the team, but I don’t usually have someone to have a discussion with. Instead, I monologue. I update whoever I bring to the game on the team’s standings in the league. I tell them what our struggles are from our last few games. But in the end, they don’t have much to contribute. Having the opportunity to talk to people about something that we are both passionate about is amazing, and that’s what made that game against Columbus perfect for me.
After the first half, the group I was with moved over to section 117, for my first time being in the supporter’s section. The second half did not start great. Doyle earned a yellow card, which seemed at best questionable. Then, in the 61st minute, Higuain took a shot that went off of Azira and into the net. Rapids went down 0-1. In a normal game, that would have been game over. The Pids would have lost focus, and maybe at best gotten a last-minute goal to tie it up. You could feel the wind go out of the sails in the entire stadium as what little energy there was seemed to die. But yet, C38 did what they did best, and reminded the team of what they needed to do: #KeepFighting. Up came the chants, the yells, and the reminder that there was still some hope left in our team.
After that, the Rapids decided they wanted to still play some soccer. We held the Crew off for another 20 minutes. Time was running out for us. A brilliant Saeid-Hairston-Doyle sequence tied it up in the 80th minute. Cue the celebration dances, the chants, and the stadium-wide reaction. Maybe things weren’t as hopeless as they seemed.
And thus, the gauntlet was thrown down. We had only 10 minutes left, and it could have gone any way. We could have held them to a tie, or made a couple of mistakes and let Columbus grab 3 points from under us. Instead, what we did was come back fighting. Gordon was subbed in for Doyle, and did what we signed him for. Josh Gatt sent a pass to Gordo, and he headed it in. His first goal for the Rapids led to us making a comeback against a team no one was expecting us to be able to beat. We earned a crucial three points at home during a season where every point in the standings matter.
It was this specific game that showed why I love this sport. Why I love being at the Dick (tee hee). Why I have a connection to soccer that doesn’t compare to any other sport. This community is unlike any other in the USA. Teams can have a tremendous amount of hatred for each other, but unlike the NFL, we can set that aside and watch the US Men’s National Team try to qualify for the World Cup. We can unite under one banner in the same sport. We can go to another team’s supporters group’s tailgate, drink, talk some smack and have fun. Most other sports would barely allow us in to the stadium. We have an investment in seeing the sport grow stateside. To see MLS be seen as an equal to MLB, NBA, and NHL, instead of some rump-a-dump league like most people see it as.
That is not to say that I am happy with the direction that this season has gone. We need some major signings, we need KSE to treat us less like a business, and we need our team to not accept the fact that they are now a bottom-of-the-league team. But that doesn’t mean that 2017 was/is a complete waste. If you are only in it to see a winning team, more power to you. But sometimes, it’s not all about the win. Sometimes, it’s about the fun of the tailgate, the excitement of seeing your team take the field, and the friends you make along the way.