Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Trip To Loudoun United's New Stadium

Back in December, I wrote a blog post about Loudoun United, a new soccer team in the United Soccer League. For those of you not familiar with Loudoun United but may know baseball, Loudoun United is somewhat like a AAA team for the MLS team DC United with common ownership and some players playing on both teams. The point of the December post was to share Loudoun United's 2019 schedule and also as a sort of application to become the team's official blogger. My idea was to write about the team on my blog as well as on my Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram pages and share things that people wouldn't normally see or at least with a different viewpoint from the team's perspective. For example, I proposed writing several posts where I would get to take pictures of the stadium as it was being built and completed and possibly get to interview a few players.

I hoped that the team would appreciate the extra (free!) exposure, and in exchange, give me some tickets to take my family to a few games. Despite some correspondence with the team, nothing ever came of this. I would see pictures from Loudoun United's social media account from various events like the debut of the team's jerseys and the stadium ribbon-cutting ceremony only after the events occurred. I was never invited to any of these functions. While I understand the team not wanting to partner up with a blogger who they don't know, I feel like my social media helped (and could have helped more) promote the team at no cost at all to them.

Last Friday, Loudoun United hosted its first home game at the just-built Segra Field. Continuing my amazing lucky streak this summer, I won two tickets to the game against the Charlotte Independence. I have now won tickets to see Dave Matthews Band, DC United, Loudoun United, George Mason men's basketball, and entry for 10 to an area piano bar all in the last few months. And yes, I played the lottery once recently but lost $1 on a scratch-off ticket. Anyway, since The Moose didn't do a good job listening last week and was talking back more than an eight year-old should, I took 5 year-old Pedro Tulo with me. He promptly fell asleep about five minutes into our 35 minute ride to the stadium, not including the time it took to park.

Speaking of parking, according to WTOP, "two of three parking lots within a few hundred feet of the stadium [were] ready for Friday's game, with the capacity of holding approximately 500 cars." I think those lots filled up quickly. I was directed to park by the youth fields down the hill from the stadium, where I passed at least one sign that said "No Segra Field Parking." I don't want to say that they weren't prepared for the amount of cars for the first game, but there's plenty of room for improvement in getting people in and out of the venue.

I took a few pictures of the stadium on the way in. It's nice. I would probably compare it to a good high school football stadium. I don't know if that's a compliment or not. The field looks great, though it's a turf field, so I hope Loudoun United plans on converting it to a grass field next season. The seats also look nice, though we sat in the "Supporters Section" which are your standard bleacher seats with no backs. Everything else is somewhat piecemeal. There are no permanent structures with the merchandise in a tent, the box office in what appeared to be a trailer, and food and drinks available in tents or at food trucks. I didn't buy food during the game, but it didn't look like you could get food quickly.

A beer man (or woman) going through the stands selling beer and/or water may have alleviated this. My biggest complaint is that you weren't allowed to bring in an unopened bottle of water despite it being August in Northern Virginia meaning temperatures in the 80s even as the sun started going down. In case you’re wondering, DC United, the Washington Nationals, and the Jiffy Lube Live concert venue all permit unopened water bottles. And these were the bathrooms:

Oh, the team also has a horse.

If you want to feel old and feel like maybe you haven’t accomplished much in your life as a teenager and into you’re 20s, Loudoun United games are the place for you. These are the ages of some of the Loudoun United players who played in Friday night’s game.

Moses Nyeman - 15
Jacob Greene - 16
Griffin Yow - 16 (He signed a contract at 15 and played a few games for DC United)
Nelson Martinez - 18
Christain Sorto - 19
Connor Presley & Orlando Sinclair - 21

These kids, and yes they are kids, are getting paid to play soccer before some of them can even vote!

Going to games with Pedro Tulo is always an adventure. While The Moose never wants to miss anything and will sit for hours watching a game, Pedro Tulo gets restless. He bounced back and forth between sitting (or standing) on the bleachers and sitting on my lap in the first half. Then, as the second half was about to start, two kids sat next to us holding beach balls. Despite the second half starting, Pedro Tulo wanted his own beach ball immediately. So we walked from our seats at one end, past the food trucks (and the still long lines at the food trucks) to the other side of the stadium to the Visit Loudoun table where they gave any beach balls, stickers, and more, including a Loudoun County wine map which Pedro Tulo insisted on getting even though the Visit Loudoun staff member said it was adults. (Pedro Tulo liked the map in it, and he can be very charming.) The Visit Loudoun person also told me about the Dulles Summer of Love Music Festival on August 17th featuring Michael Glabicki of Rusted Root and his new band, Uprooted and tried to explain who Rusted Root was. I graduated from a Pittsburgh-area high school in the mid-90s. I know Rusted Root. The father of one of the band members officiated my wedding. I know Rusted Root. (I didn’t say any of this out loud.)

On our way back to the bleachers, I thought that maybe we could sit in one of the regular seats for a better view and better for my back. There were no ushers, so we easily could have done this, but Pedro Tulo wanted to go back to the bleachers. Ugh. One of my favorite things to do when I was younger was get cheap seats for Pittsburgh Pirates games at Three Rivers Stadium and then move down to the nice seats on the third or first base lines in the 5th or 6th inning. I need to teach this to Pedro Tulo.

Back in the bleachers, we sat closer to the Screaming Eagles group. Pedro Tulo enjoyed the drumming and especially the cheers of “Loudoun United.” He constantly screamed this phrase, and for once, his screaming at a public venue was completely appropriate!

After the game, several players came over to the Supporters Section and slapped hands with the fans. At that point, we moved from the bleachers toward the exit but were able to stand by the edge of the field. Then, much to the security guard's dismay, Pedro Tulo ran on to the field and gave high-fives to Elvis Amoh and Griffin Yow. The security guard decided not to stop him because Pedro Tulo ran right back and was being charming again.

It again took longer than it should have to get out of the venue, but we made it, and I expect that this process will improve for future games. My final verdict is that I enjoyed going to the game. It was good, entertaining soccer with a lot of goals scored in a back-and-forth game. The game ended 3-3 with Charlotte taking 1-0, 2-1, and 3-2 leads before Loudoun United responded. Definitely a great environment to take your kids. As for Segra Field, the scoreboard went out several times in the second half, and from the Supporters Section, you couldn't hear the announcer share who scored or received a yellow card. The parking situation needs improvement, though I expect that there won't be 5,000 people at the next game as was the announced attendance for this game.

It also appears that my hope of being Loudoun United's official blogger is over. With that written, I can easily be bribed with tickets to write future posts about the team! :)

Please check out this Washington Post article and post-match facts from Loudoun United for more information about the game. This video has all of the highlights too.

The first picture is from Loudoun United. The rest are by me.

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