Beating the Drum for Change in DC …

… No, this isn’t another entry where I rip the DC United front office, call for the coach to be fired, call for players to be traded, or question the scouting and talent acquistion operation at the club.

I’ve made my feelings known. I don’t think the team is going anywhere fast. And frankly, because they are only one point ahead of being in last place among Major League Soccer’s 16 clubs, and the team below them, the expansion Philadelphia Union, have three games in hand on United, there isn’t much farther south they can go.

No, I don’t have to write anything more, because last night at RFK Stadium, during United’s 1-0 loss to the Seattle Sounders, one fan did it for me and maybe a lot of other folks.

In case you missed it, the game was scoreless nearly throughout, though I’d dispute the thought of some that United dominated play. They created some chances, but I don’t think the field was tilted. United’s ability to even get a point from the match disappeared in the 89th minute when Roger Levesque scored to give the Sounders a much-needed victory.

The goal was enough to send a lone drummer in Section 112 over the edge. Across the field from the Barra Brava and Screaming Eagles, and well to the right of La Norte, the man clad in a Sergio Ramos Spain jersey began beating the drum for change as the minutes ticked away on another United defeat, one which saw the club’s record drop to 3-10-3.

BOOM BOOM … “Everybody has to go!” … BOOM BOOM … “Coach has to go!” … BOOM BOOM … “Kevin Payne!” … BOOM BOOM … “Everybody has to go!”

He didn’t get any argument from folks in the surrounding sections who were within ear shot. The United game staff in the area listened along, I think hoping he would get tired. One drunk fan in 112 didn’t get the point, and kept asking where we were all going.


The Drummer kept it up after the game over, letting his frustration spill over. He was stationed on the rail, just to the side of the dugout where players and coaches enter and exit the field. He made every one of them hear his thoughts. Most looked his direction, a couple waved him off. Coach Curt Onalfo seemed to know he was there, but didn’t make a big deal out of it.

Carey Talley gave The Drummer more than an acknowledgement, as the two engaged in some conversation. Not sure it was pleasant. Shortly there after, Talley left the field. He returned moments later, and he and The Drummer shared what appeared to be a peaceful conversation and I’m pretty sure I even saw a handshake.


I’m not sure if getting in the players’ and coach’s faces with a drum is the best way to get your point across. And doing it in a Spain jersey rather than a United jersey is kind of curious, given that the guy was obviously passionate about DC’s team.

But I don’t blame him for being frustrated. It isn’t just that United isn’t very good. But it’s becoming an unwatchable team. United have scored 11 goals in 16 games, and while there was potential for improvement with some injured players returning, that hasn’t translated into a more dangerous side. The defense, meanwhile, has conceded a league-high 26 goals, and last night was a script we’ve seen over and over again, where one key error or poor decision gift wraps the opponents with the goal they need to take the points.


United are at a trying time in its history. On the PR side, they work like hell to stay relevant in the community – a key word owner Will Chang often uses when discussing the most important factors to keeping the team in the city long-term. It has to be relevant to the people; the people have to come to games; and maybe that will help get a stadium deal done.

But to be relevant, and to get people to come to games, no amount of marketing or newspaper coverage or Facebook friends is going to make up for an on-field product that isn’t just sub-par, but at times, isn’t even interesting anymore.


Bad seasons happen to just about every team at some point. We accept that as sports fans, even if we don’t like it while they’re occurring. Hell, I’m a Cubs fan, I accept bad decades.

But when it becomes an organizational issue, where it’s clear that the ideas in place that are the backbone of the decisions being made just aren’t working, then accountability and change are required.

My sense of it is there were more folks in the crowd last night who silently agree with The Drummer’s message. I applaud him for being loud about it, though I don’t want to see anyone get to the point of being confrontational.

It does show that people still care. And where people still give a damn, there’s a chance to turn it around. But the team is going to have to do more – it takes more – than scoring 2 goals in 4 league matches, to make sure folks continue to care.


I know there’s a couple folks out there that think I get a sick sense of enjoyment out of writing this stuff when it comes to DCU. Couldn’t be farther from the truth. It disappoints me greatly how far this club has sunk. It disappoints me greatly that due to their play and their stadium situation, they have gone from a source of league pride to a laughingstock. But it angers me that it really doesn’t seem like anything is changing as time goes by to swing the pendulum the other way.

I do still care. But at this point, it’s up to all of us that do to beat the drum for change.

There’s no reason for The Drummer to be stating the case all by himself.



16 thoughts on “Beating the Drum for Change in DC …

  1. They’re less of a laughingstock than the Galaxy were a few seasons ago in the middle of their three season playoff drought.

    United’s problem, beyond being a poor team, is the absolute broken-record pattern of their losses: dominate the first half, fail to finish, cough up a goal in the second half against the run of play, and hang their heads to lose meekly.

    It’s the sort of thing that breeds a frustration among the supporters that leads to contempt and hatred, not for the franchise but for the team as currently constructed.

    I’ll admit that I spent the vast majority of last night’s game fiddling with my new cell phone. The game was that boring and Seattle’s late winner served as a kick in the gut to end the hope of at least salvaging a cosmetic, if not entirely useful, draw from the evening.

  2. Ed, “The Drummer” is none other than Salvatore, AKA the only United fan ever to get a TV commercial (for some local used car thing aimed at the Latino market). He’s been drumming since 96 and he’s absolutely a legend.

  3. I thought that might have been the case, but I didn’t want to take a partial guess to ID him and have it be wrong.

  4. Perhaps a change of scenery would do them good. I’m thinking Atlanta United has a nice ring to it.

  5. The success of sports teams comes and goes. DC had a great run early on in league history but have recently fallen on hard times. Happens to every team in nearly every sport. The future looks bleak for DC but the tide will change soon enough. I don’t see the owner as being aggressive enough and I’m wondering if he using the teams lack of success so he could move the team or sell it. Seems like an odd situation. Maybe next season Bob Bradley will be the guy who comes in to right the ship. MLS is crazy in that this league has more parity than any other league in the world and I like that. One season a team can hold up the table and the next end up playing for the MLS cup.

  6. Apropos of nothing particularly important: Why in nearly all of these blog threads is there someone who adds the phrase “Subscribed Forums” as their comment title?

    (See the opening comment by Publius, above.)

  7. I’ve never not seen Salvatore in a DCU jersey. His wearing a Spain jersey is a pretty substantial statement in and of itself.

  8. I thought about that – though to be fair, I saw a lot of folks in Spain gear – first home game since the end of the World Cup – I guess in some ways it’s understandable.

    But it’s part of what threw me off on the whole Salvatore thing, too.

  9. If it’s any comfort, DC fans should keep in mind just how rapidly things can turn around in MLS. Cases in point: NY, LA. Seriously, to look at them now, it’s hard to believe they were league doormats just one and two seasons ago.

  10. If you’re just considering level of play, I suppose this is true.

    However, there’s a big difference between the situations in New York and Los Angeles and the current situation in DC.

    1) LA already had a stadium.
    2) NY was getting a stadium.
    3) DC has …. nothing.

    DCU is in a situation where it knows it can only stay at RFK so much longer. I talked to owner Will Chang last month in a short interview – he says they’re working on prospects in DC and in the suburbs, but nothing seems to be boiling there. If there was, it probably would have leadked by now. My sense of it is Chang is counting on the current DC Mayor to be voted out later this year, and that he can work with the new Mayor to get something done.

    But he also says the team must be “relevant.” They must draw fans to show their importance to the city, and to do that, they must put out a watchable product that wins games at least every now and again. Chang has said getting people to games is the most important thing – and it gets harder and harder to do that when a team is 3-11-3 and rarely scores goals.

    DCU won’t move or be contracted because they lose games. But the current on-field situation isn’t helping the efforts that the owner is trying to put together.

    Unlike NY and LA, DC has a lot more at stake than simply making the playoffs this year or next.

  11. I saw 2 new internationals debut. The match I watched wasn’t lost until the final minute. I saw that the goal was scored after the coach pulled a fullback to make way for a third forward, in a victory or nothing move. I noticed a real difference in our penetration with short passing through the center of the field after Branko and Pablo entered the match.

    I see the negatives too, but I don’t let the past spoil my enjoyment of the now.

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