So we finally made it to the hotel in Kansas, and then left again to get beer and head to the stadium for the game. The soccer team in Kansas City, the Wizards, are currently playing in a minor-league baseball stadium while their new stadium is being built. The soccer pitch there is awkwardly squeezed into the outfield of the baseball field, which really means that it's hard to find a good spot to view the game.
I went to Kansas City last year to watch FC Dallas play the Wizards. The spot where they put the visiting fans wasn't great at all - we were right behind a light pole. In fact, this is what our view was:
For the game on Saturday we sat with the Cauldron, the supporter's group for the Wizards. Although I felt like I was cheating on FC Dallas by sitting there, we chose those seats because they were general admission, and therefore the cheapest (but still expensive, the price was jacked up since Beckham was going to be there). We managed to get some good seats with a nice close-up view of the game. Now this presents a little dilemma. The seats provide an awesome view of the players, but you miss a lot of the action on the opposite side of the field. In this game, Kansas City tied it with a true golaso when Claudio Lopez scored on a 50 yard blast from midfield. But we didn't get a good view of it, and I didn't even realize how sweet the goal was until watching the highlights the next day.
I really wanted to bring my zoom lens into the game, but read that the stadium there only allows lenses that are smaller than six inches. So as I walked into the stadium, I was stopped at the gate. I had my camera slung over my shoulder, and the lady at the gate said "I'm going to have to check that...." and she trailed off. I thought she was about to say "purse," but I told her it was a camera instead. She inspected the camera and lens, and then asked if the lens was fully extended. It wasn't, but I lied and said it was. She then busted out a tape measurer to see if it passed the test. It did, and just barely. I felt a little bad about lying, but we sat by a few other people with similar lenses that were also snuck in.
But here is our view from the Cauldron, as the players were taking the field before the start of the game.
As the game kicked off, fans around us set off a smoke bomb. This has the bonus of not only casting everything in a blue tinge, but also a lingering smell of sulfur.
Much of the attention in the Cauldron was diverted to David Beckham, who was the subject of most of the songs and cheers coming from the Kansas City fans. Chants included "Beckham is a wanker" and "We sing better than your wife." There is a bit of anger at Beckham after some controversy surrounding the English player. I don't know how closely you follow Major League Soccer, but a lot of fans are upset about Beckham stepping out and joining AC Milan, missing half of the MLS season. To make a long story short, a lot of people are questioning his commitment to the team, calling him a fraud and whatnot. It reached a point a few weeks ago during a friendly LA played against AC Milan, where Beckham and a fan got into a fight just before halftime.
The anger at the Kansas City game was summed up best in this little internet video, put together by some dude with a camera. I saw this guy walking around with his camera, which looked like a cellphone. But he interviews some crazy fans, who seem to care a little bit too much about Beckham. But the highlight of the video for me? When it shows other fans thrilled to be next to Beckham, including one guy who gets his picture taken while his belly spills out from his mysteriously pulled-up shirt:
But anyways, here is a shot of ol' Beckham about to make a corner kick, with a phalanx of photographers poised nearby.
Here are some more shots of the game, including some non-Beckham ones. I think this one would be better if you could actually see the ball. It's just above the frame of the shot, I think.
OK, well here are a few Beckham shots - taking a free kick:
We were sitting behind one of the goals, which L.A. was attacking during the first half. So most of the shots here are of L.A...
And a shot of L.A. captain (and USA National team star) Landon Donovan. This shot makes me laugh because it looks like Donovan and the Kansas City player are holding hands.
This is Kansas City goalkeeper Kevin Hartman, taking a goal kick in the first half. This game was nationally televised by ESPN2, and at the start of the game a bunch of streamers were thrown onto the field. Most of them ended up at the goal that Hartman was defending, which seemed to get on his nerves. While the ESPN camera was zoomed in on Hartman, they also had a nearby microphone. In his displeasure, he was heard quite clearly yelling "WHAT IS ALL THIS SH*T!" In response, Alexi Lalas, who was commenting on the game for ESPN, dryly said "I don't know Kevin, but we'll get it off the field."
At halftime I left the Cauldron and went to use the restroom. I ended up getting a bunch of beer spilled on me by another fan. It was an accident, and he was very apologetic about it and even offered to buy me a beer to make up for it. I enjoyed the free beer but was soaked and my new FC Dallas jersey smelled of beer for the rest of the night. I figured that's what I get for wearing a FCD jersey in the Kansas City supporter's section.
More streamers were tossed out onto the field when the second half started. Play was stopped while the players diligently went to clear out the crepe paper mess. This is Landon Donovan, star of several previous US World Cup runs, doing his part to clear the field.
We noticed that David Beckham, standing about ten feet away, was apparently too good to clean up the field with his teammates...
During this lull in action, the ESPN cameras panned across the crowd. For a few brief seconds, I was on national tv. In fact, the camera caught me bringing the camera up to my face while trying to take a picture. If it wasn't that then it would have been me instead bringing the beer up to my face...
Usually when I go to soccer games I don't sit with the supporter's group. But I had fun sitting with the Cauldron, they added a lot of atmosphere to the game. Here is one the main leaders (I guess), leading the rest of the crowd in a cheer, using beer as a conductor's wand.
In the second half, the goal we were sitting behind was the one that Kansas City was attacking, so most of my shots are of L.A. trying to defend. I think this shot was taken after Kansas City made a run to the goal, and the ball was hastily cleared away by L.A. Here is a shot of Donovan and Beckham...
I think that Donovan is trying to tell the rest of the team to get their heads in the game.
And a few seconds later is Beckham, I think getting angry at a call that went in Kansas City's favor.
The game would end in a 1-1 draw. Kansas City would score first with that awesome goal, but L.A. would tie it about 20 minutes later. The second half found both teams trying to find the game winning goal, with no luck. This is one last shot of Kansas City looking for the goal...
It was an entertaining game, not just for the circus that was around a David Beckham appearance. I really like Kansas City (except for the eight hour drive there), so we'll probably be back up there next year. Especially since we didn't get to visit any BBQ places this time.