As the minutes click down to tonight's D.C. United-Sounders FC match at Qwest Field, the Sounders remind that kickoff is 7:30. Apparently the game had originally been scheduled for 8 p.m., but forget that: It's 7:30, 7:30, 7:30.
The game is sold out, but will be shown live on ESPN2.
Meanwhile, here's a game preview from the Washington Times. (The Washington Post also had a preview, but you must register to read it.)
And here's my game preview from this morning's paper.
My story is primarily a look at D.C. United -- which won the first MLS title and stands as the closest thing the league has to the Yankess or Lakers) -- with the primary source of president Kevin Payne. Payne said far more interesting things than I could fit into that single story. So I will dole out more of his thoughts in future stories. But meanwhile, here is a bit more of what he had to say:
On the club philosophy and style:
Right from the beginning we tried to establish a United way of doing things, both on and off the field. The hallmark of that was really authenticity. We never apologized for what we were, which was a Division I professional soccer team – in fact, we celebrated it. We emphasized that in everything we did. So we've always been true to the game. We also decided very early on that part of the identity of our team would be the manner in which we played, in that we would always play a skillful aggressive game, an attacking game, we try to play in the other team's side of the field, we want to press the other team when they have the ball, we want to put numbers into the attack when we have the ball. We've been pretty true to that, whether it's a championship year or even the year's where when we've struggled on the field we've still tried to play the same way. And I think that's paid off for us. We try to play that way on the road or at home, we try to play that way whether we're playing an international opponent or a team from the league.
On similarities with the Sounders:
In terms of the way the Sounders have introduced their brand to the marketplace, I see similarities. It will take time to see exactly how that will develop. But we've been very true to our brand and the integrity of who we are. We don't take any shortcuts. We always think about this business in the very very long term. I exhort our employees on a regular basis to think about what this organization is going to look like once they're no longer here – maybe even after they're dead, literally. We're trying to think about what it's like 20 years from now, 25-30 years from now. But certainly the Sounders are off to a great start. I know a lot of the people there and have a great deal of respect for them and admiration for the things they've done in the past and what they're doing now. The Sounders have been just a wonderful addition to our league.
On the club's standing in the D.C. area:
I think that we are absolutely accepted as equal partners. In this market, the Redskins are a little bit in a place of their own – or at least they have been. So the other clubs – the Capitals, the Wizards, the Mystics, now the Freedom and the Nationals and us – are all trying to get to the kind of level that the Redskins are at, which is difficult. But we are very very well accepted. Our television ratings are very strong. Our attendance is down a little bit this year relative to last year – I think it's mostly economy-related. But really over the last 10 years or so we have averaged a higher attendance than either the Capitals or Wizards and have compared pretty favorably even with the baseball team. We're very much a part of the sports landscape here and have been since early in our existence.
On efforts to leave RFK Stadium for a soccer-specific stadium:
As far as the stadium is concerned, we're having very fruitful talks behind the scenes with three different jurisdictions. I think there is a real commitment to try to get something done, and I am every confident that we will end up with the right stadium solution long-term for DC United. ... We'll be fine whether we end up in DC, Virginia or Maryland. We just need to have the right setting for the stadium and the ability to create the right kind of stadium for the long term.