I've always been a bit of a soccer fan. I played growing up, but haven't touched a soccer ball much since high school. Nowadays, spectating will have to do, at least until this whole bike riding phase wears off.
During the 2002 World Cup in Japan/Korea, the U.S. actually had a decent run and a few of my college friends and I were desperate to watch some of the key matches. Of course, none of us could actually afford cable, but I happened to live in a place where cable was included in the rent. This was back when I couldn't even afford a VCR, so the only option was to watch it live. This meant getting a knock at my door every few nights for a couple of weeks at 2 or 3am. I'd pull myself out of bed to let my friends in, and we'd spend the rest of the night yelling, screaming, jumping, and doing everything else in our power to keep my wife and the rest of my unfortunate neighbors awake. Those were good times. For us. Maybe not so much for my neighbors.
So when RSL came to town 5 seasons ago, we decided to go in on season tickets with some friends of ours. Last week when RSL surprised everyone (well, everyone within the small percentage of the population who follow the MLS, anyway) by beating Chicago to reach the MLS cup finals, I figured I may as well check out the ticket prices. The best tickets available were only $25. I figured this could be a rare opportunity so I bought a couple. The next morning, I told my wife that we should start looking for babysitters, because we were taking a road trip to Seattle for the MLS finals. She was all in.
The road trip with just the two of us reminded me of the good old days. It had been a while, and it was long overdue. There's something about a long trip in the car with your significant other to a destination that really doesn't seem to merit the drive that just hits the spot every once in a while (and no, I'm not talking about the road trip to Fruita with Brandon). This is especially true when the destination ends up far exceeding expectations like Seattle did on this trip. The game itself ended up being the most exciting and memorable sporting event I've ever attended.
I was especially impressed with the turnout from the RSL fans. Being that the L.A. Galaxy market is at least 10 times the SLC market, not to mention the Beckham factor, I figured we'd see at least 10 times more Galaxy fans than RSL fans. It was just the opposite though. Between the RSL fans who made the trip and the local Seattle fans who overwhelmingly adopted the underdog RSL team, the crowd was crazy for RSL which created a raucous atmosphere that added to the experience. The tension in the second have and extra time was palpable, as RSL had numerous chances to win the game but failed to convert, and the tension carried over to the shootout to the point that I thought the stadium was going to spontaneously combust.
Here is a quick video compilation to give you a feel for what it was like to be at the MLS cup final. The camera work really sucks at the end. No seriously, it sucks really really bad. But I wasn't too interested in filming at the time - I was more intereated in the thrill of victory and agony of defeat that was going on around me, which often included getting jumped on, hugged, and high fived by the people around us. So sorry for the camera work, but it should give you an idea of the atmosphere in the stadium.
For better footage, here are the highlights, including the shootout: