Work in Sports
Rain doesn't dampen parade
Nation's capital honors MLS dynasty United
Posted: Sunday December 19, 1999 03:46 PM
WASHINGTON (CNN/SI) -- They didn't have the turnout that baseball's New York Yankees did for their World Series victory parade, but they are Major League Soccer's own version of a dynasty.
Three-time MLS champion D.C. United was honored Tuesday with a 10-block parade through downtown Washington under a steady rain.
With United going to all four title games in the league's history, MLS officials were fielding questions on whether D.C. is hurting the game through its domination.
"I'm not worried about it," MLS commissioner Don Garber said Sunday after D.C. took its third championship with a 2-0 win over the Los Angeles Galaxy. "But I think that our fans would like to see another team give them a good run."
Does that mean the league -- which owns all player contracts and operates under a single-entity structure -- won't be breaking up the side just yet?
"That's why they're called the United," Garber joked.
In MLS, investors pay for a stake in the league as a whole and are granted investor-operator rights to particular teams. Parity was a key ingredient of the league's original business plan.
In a rematch of the first MLS Cup game, Jaime Moreno scored first, and Ben Olsen made it 2-0 by halftime when he seized on a mistake by MLS goalkeeper of the year Kevin Hartman for an easy goal.
For the Galaxy, the two-goal deficit was insurmountable -- especially with MLS defender of the year Robin Fraser knocked out of the game early with a broken collarbone.
"They took advantage of our mistakes," Los Angeles coach Sigi Schmid said. "D.C. is an outstanding team and they are worthy champions."
Schmid had five players on his roster left over from the 1996 match, when the Galaxy took a two-goal lead in a torrential downpour before losing 3-2 on Eddie Pope's header in overtime. But Schmid took the helm for the struggling Galaxy just six games into this season -- leading the teamm to the league's best record and coach of the year honors.
Next year, he hopes, things will be different.
"We want to be in contention next year to return here and definitely walk away with a better result," he said.
But to accomlish that, he'll have to figure out how to defeat D.C. In four years, only the Chicago Fire has done that when it counted, winning last year's MLS Cup 2-0.
D.C. beat the Colorado Rapids 2-1 in 1997.
"It's obviously a dynasty," Galaxy forward Cobi Jones said. "It's disappointing for us, but it's great for them. They're showing they're a dominant force in the MLS."
But D.C. players aren't ready to call themselves the league's first dynasty.
"We're too young to be a dynasty. We've only won three," said Pope, one of five players to have started in all four title games. "We're not the Bulls or the Celtics. When we've won five, come back and talk to me."
United may deny it, but they have already developed the swagger of a dynasty. Asked earlier in the week if he was concerned about the Galaxy's league-leading defense, Moreno said, "I don't have to be worried about the defenders. The defenders have to be worried about me."
And, when asked whether the two-goal halftime lead allowed him to adopt a more conservative strategy for the second half, D.C. coach Thomas Rongen said, "We don't alter our gameplan very often, regardless of who's on the other side of the ball."
The win marked a turnaround at Foxboro for Rongen, who left the New England Revolution in August 1998 after failing to turn the struggling club around. Rongen was MLS coach of the year in 1996 with Tampa but had never won an MLS Cup.
"There's an attitude to win. I think that's half the battle," Rongen said after the victory. "And when you start to win championships early on, it starts to snowball."
"Every young player, when he comes to the team, learns what it means to work hard and to win," he said. "There are a lot of good teams in the league. It's just our team is amazing. And we're just so proud to be a part of it."
Mayor declares D.C. United Day
Players shed their jerseys and cleats in favor of coats and ties for the occasion. They rode trolleys and signed autographs as fans chanted, waved flags, clapped and blew bugles along the parade route.
The Associated Press reported that about 200 people turned out, while the Washington Post's Web site reported that "thousands of fans lined Pennsylvania Avenue."
Mayor Anthony Williams took the stage in his characteristic bowtie and, donning a D.C. United scarf and hat, declared Tuesday "D.C. United Day in the District of Columbia."
Williams said he is looking forward to going around the country and speaking with other mayors, especially Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan -- at which point applause drowned him out.
"They're the hometown team that does not know how to lose," said Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton. She said she intends to introduce a resolution when Congress returns, naming United "America's Soccer Team."
"It's getting a little mundane after three times," joked Boyd Reilly, of Silver Spring, Md.
"They're the home team, and I like the players," said 12-year-old Justin Salhani of Burke, Va. "They have skills and have what it takes to be a championship team."
Bill Pfister and his daughter, Caitlin, 12, followed the team all season.
"They're probably the nicest group of professional athletes you'd ever want to meet," Pfister said. "They take the time to talk to the kids and are not asking $10 for an autograph."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.