DC United thrashed its opponent, the expansion club Real Salt Lake, in last night's game, 5-1. United was sloppy, and a better opponent likely would have scored a couple more times (and held us to fewer goals). Still, there was plenty of action, which made it fun to see. It was also good to go, as all my recent (and upcoming) travels have conflicted me out of about half my season tickets.
One image that stays with me from last night had little to do with the action on the field. With about a minute to play, RSL had the ball deep in United's defensive end. At midfield, SLC's central defender Eddie Pope, number 23 in the vistors' white, was marking our substitute forward, Jamil Walker, wearing number 23 in home black. Pope was there to prevent Walker from getting an easy goal if United were to regain possession.
Pope was with United for the first seven seasons of the league, starting as a kid taken in the college draft and ending as a perennial all-star and U.S. National Team fixture, a status he still maintains. United's championship in the league's inaugural year was won when the rookie headed the winner in sudden death overtime. The Eddie Pope Foundation, working with underprivileged children, was the charity that our supporters' club gave money to, from our annual charity event -- Pope was genuinely appreciative of the money we raised to support these kids. Even now, nearly three seasons removed from his time with the franchise, I still think of him as one of the mainstays of our team.
No one else was around them, just the ever graceful Pope marking our current number 23, someone we grabbed off the scrap heap at the start of the season. It just seemed wrong, somehow sacrilegious.