Each year, adidas releases a new official match ball for MLS, and this year, we're going Brazilian!
The Brazuca, the official match ball of the 2014 FIFA World Cup has been given a make-over for MLS play. I tend to like the color update, which are said to represent the heart, "as the ball is the heart of soccer and MLS." MLS match balls are typically green and blue, like the league logo. But this year, it's all about the Black-and-Red!
What do you think of the new design?
Finally, game day has arrived. What started as a typical day with breakfast, team stretch and a pre-game meal turned into more than we could have imagined once we hit the road. Imagine a Mardi Gras parade mixed with a Lot 8 tailgate, and you have a slight idea of what we just encountered on the way to the stadium. Every moped, van, truck, bus or car we passed seemed to be decked out in blue Persib gear en route to the game. If the vehicle they were riding in was full, they rode on top of it. I can now say that I have seen more people riding on top of a van than in one.
If the enthusiasm for soccer wasn’t clear enough on our hour drive to the stadium, it was certainly on display when we pulled up to the packed stadium two and a half hours BEFORE the game. The team was welcomed to the stadium with a standing ovation from tens of thousands of supporters in a display of pure class from our hosts. With chants and songs ringing through the stadium, we headed to the locker room with clear blue skies and a dry pitch, and then it happened. Mother Nature let her presence be known. Fans on the other side of the stadium turned to nothing more than a wet sheet of grey. They could be heard, but not seen. Indonesia rain isn’t normal rain. It’s like standing under a mini waterfall that lasts for four hours.
With no end in sight, the game took place as the Black-and-Red started Andrew Dykstra, Chris Korb, Ethan White, Conor Shanosky, Taylor Kemp, Lewis Neal, Jared Jeffrey, Kyle Porter, Luis Silva, Conor Doyle and Michael Seaton as I tried to hear myself over the roar of the crowd and the rain. Calling the field kind of wet would be like calling Mt. Everest a kind of tall. As you can imagine, the game was sloppy. Balls getting stuck in puddles, players slipping with every step, chunks of grass flying when someone attempted to stop, basically, the whole nine yards. After some quick counter-attacks by Persib with dangerous looks at goal, United settled down and got into a rhythm. What started out as a team who hadn’t played together, much less seen each other, in weeks turned into a cohesive unit midway through the first half as they scored the game's first goal, thanks to a Michael Seaton header. Persib answered late in the first half to tie the game going into the break.
The second half saw fewer familiar faces as Dykstra, Shanosky, Jeffrey, Doyle, Kemp and Seaton were the only original United members left on the field. The rest of the positions were filled with Richmond Kickers players, and as the game ended, only three Black-and-Red players were left standing. In a back-and-forth second half, both teams created good scoring chances, but Persib capitalized on their's as they went on to win the game, 2-1.
“We had a great time,” said D.C. United Head Coach Ben Olsen. “Both teams played attacking and had a lot of chances to entertain the crowd. We’re obviously disappointed in the loss, but I think we played a good team today, and the two goals they scored shows they have some very talented players. The fans are unbelievable here.”
In fact, they were so unbelievable that we had to sit on the bus, in the stadium for 45 minutes after the game because the traffic was so bad. Yes, that unbelievable. Thanks to our police escort, we made our way through the supporters back to the hotel where guys ate and watched the world cup draw with that that “oh crap” expression once we saw the USMNT's group. Tomorrow, the team will travel to Malang, Indonesia, the site of its last game during this trip.
The matches have been set. Who will you be cheering for, and which groups do you think have the toughest road to the second round?
As D.C. United prepares for its first match in Indonesia (Friday, December 6, 6:30 a.m. ET), we look back at another offseason trip to an Asian nation. In 1997, as winners of the 1996 MLS Cup, the Black-and-Red was invited to the Sanwa Bank Cup. The Cup, which ran from 1994-1997 was a single-match in which the champions of the J League would go head-to-head with the champions of a foreign league.
United lost to Nagoya Grampus Eight with a final score of 1-3 on March 2, 1997, but the trip marked a historic visit to the J League by the first-ever MLS Cup Champion.
Ahead of our match against Persib Bandung tomorrow t 6:30 pm local time (6:30 am here in the states), let's take a look back at the Black-and-Red's first stop on the Indonesia tour-- Jakarta.
While you were sleeping, the team departed from Jakarta and headed towards Bandung, where they will play their first friendly tomorrow morning (our time). Here are some of the tweets and Instagram posts coming from the squad as they arrived and checked out the view.
— Collin Martin (@martcw12) December 5, 2013
Left Jakarta and just got to Bandung, Indonesia.
— Ethan White (@EthanWhite15) December 5, 2013
Day 2 in Jakarta has been anything but uneventful. After having our first night’s rest in a bed in three days, we woke up to a mid morning breakfast in the hotel. Shortly thereafter, we headed to the hotel pool for a regen session.
This session consisted of everything you’d expect it to, from stretching to water jogging, but it ended with a little fun and games. The group was split into two teams for a relay race. There was some impressive, and equally unimpressive, swimming on display. Many were capable of sporting a relatively decent free stroke, while some brought more entertainment than ability to the swimming pool. We witnessed everything from sharp diagonal turns, to uncoordinated arm splashing, to pure abandonment of swimming and just running on the bottom of the pool. There are swimmers, and then there are not. D.C. United has both.
After lunch we left for training at a local turf field. Many abandoned their cleats for running shoes and practice began. About 15 minutes into the session the floodgates opened. It rained like I’ve never seen before. I’m not talking about some Maryland/DC/Virginia rain, this was Indonesian rain. This rain is a whole different breed than anything we’ve ever seen. It was thick, fast, heavy, and unwavering. For 10 minutes we endured the onslaught before Ben finally called it a day and we started setting up for our coaching clinic. But wait, if it’s raining so hard, how can we have this coaching clinic? Great question.
So, we’re setting up cones and goals for the clinic looking around and everyone’s eyes are asking the same thing, is this for real? And yes, it is. We are having this clinic because the kids waiting under the covered patio are looking out like nothing is happening out of the ordinary. Apparently, this is a daily occurrence during the wet season in Indonesia. Apparently, every day, the force of God is unleashed through rain upon the people of Indonesia. And no way is that going to stop them from playing some soccer. They ran around like it was 70 and sunny while we all looked around for Noah’s Ark.
In the end the clinic went well, and it concluded with some pictures and autographs.
Our day ended at the United States embassy. Ambassador Blake and his family welcomed us in where we were greeted with handshakes and introductions. We quickly made our way to the buffet and ate some of the best food we’ve had thus far on the trip. After talking with some of the numerous guests we took pictures with owners Erick Thohir and Will Chang with the US Open cup trophy (still unsure if this was the real trophy or an imposter). ** Editors Note: I am pretty sure the Open Cup trophy is NOT in Indonesia** As the night drew on, the previous days of travel began hitting everyone once again. Eyes were beginning to glaze, and it was clear we had to head back to the hotel before someone took refuge on the couch.
3 Things I’ve learned thus far in Jakarta:
- For any trip expected to be around a 30 minute drive, plan a minimum 5 hour cushion
- Driving is not for the weak of heart, there are no lanes, no rules, no courtesies…Survival of the fittest
- Goat crossings are to be expected
Here are some photos from Day 2:
After leaving RFK Stadium at 5:30 p.m. Sunday night, we finally made it to our hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia at 4:30 p.m. TUESDAY evening, but not before a 12-hour flight to Abu Dhabi, a seven hour layover where Michael Seaton reassured the fact that he is still a teenager, showers in an Abu Dhabi airport lounge that brought life back to those I thought we lost, that eight hour flight to Indonesia where you ran out of the good movies to watch, so you settled for Monsters University (don’t knock it until you try it) and that lovely rush hour drive in Jakarta. All-in-all, we are still in one piece and happy to finally be here.
You learn a lot about a team when you spend every second together on a trip like this. So far, I have learned that Joe Willis is tall, and you should try to avoid sitting next to him on any flights over five hours. I know, most people already had that figured out, but I also realized what kind of guys we have on this team— ones with great character.
It was pretty obvious when we initiated the “I-haven’t-seen-you-in-a-few-weeks” hugs and handshakes in the locker room before we left, but it really hit when we arrived at our hotel and everyone had an equipment bag on their shoulder, a smile for the camera and a gracious thank you for owners Will Chang and Erick Thoir as they were there to meet us off the bus. And yes, I even got a few of them to talk to media after a day like that. It must be the holiday season!
No day is riddled with down time in this trip, but tomorrow may take the cake for a non-travel day. We start with breakfast and a pool session (not to shabby on the eyes), which is then followed up by a press conference with several members of D.C. United and the Indonesian media, a coaching clinic in Jakarta, a trip to the U.S. Embassy for several players to work with youth from the area and it finishes with dinner with the U.S. Ambassador. Not bad for day one. Actually, that’s not bad for any day.
We will make sure to keep you updated, but now it’s time for us to catch up on some much needed sleep as we prepare to go to bed at 10 p.m. Tuesday night, a.k.a. Tuesday morning for all you back in the states.