Tuesday, August 21, 2018

New England Revolution 0 at D.C. United 2 - August 19, 2018

Earlier this year, I was looking at various schedules and noticed that Washington had an intriguing doubleheader on Sunday, August 19. The Nationals were hosting the Marlins at 1:05 while D.C. United would take on New England in the evening in their new stadium, Audi Field, just a couple of minutes away. Amtrak was running specials at $39 one-way from NYC, so I booked the family for an extended trip. In the end, I went to the Nationals on Friday night to see Max Scherzer pitch and spent Sunday afternoon touring, but still had plenty of time to make it to Buzzard Point, site of the newest venue in the Big 5. Although the MLS season began in March

I took the Green Line to Waterfront-SEU from which the stadium is a 10-minute walk through a leafy residential area. I arrived at the corner of 2nd and R, where the photo above was taken. Gate C is here and you can walk in if you already have your mobile ticket, which is pretty much your only option. Yes, this is another venue that has ignored those of us who like hard tickets, forcing you to print a flimsy piece of paper or use your phone, with no will call option available.

I wanted a hard ticket and had been watching prices online during the day. The cheapest seat was $25, but when I went to the box office at the corner of R and First, I was told the least I could spend was $33. That is too much to sit in the end zone, so I decided to purchase a resale ticket on my phone for $36, which got me the view below. In the end, I could have gotten the hard ticket and sat in the same seat, as ushers were not checking tickets, instead asking if fans knew where they were going. Fellow sports travellers Bob and Gary were coincidentally sitting just one section over and one row down, so we spent some time chatting before the game.

Before that however, I did a quick tour. The stadium has some of the steepest seats I have seen, particularly in the south stands where the team name is imprinted.

It isn't as bad to walk up as I expected, and certainly not as dangerous as in some other indoor venues where there is little lighting. Tickets here start at $22 for the upper rows.

From the top, it certainly looks steeper than usual. The good news is that you won't get someone blocking your view.

The east side is divided into two levels. The lower level, in red, is a club and suite level, while the grey seats above (Sections 101-111) are open to the general public. I was in section 104 near the other end. One thing I didn't like is how few rows are right next to the pitch and how far away the other seats are. Soccer can be a very intense game when you are next to the action, and atmosphere does impact the home team. It will be interesting to see if there is any long-term effect on the club's home performance, or if other teams opening new venues copy this design.

The west side is a single level with tickets starting at $62, and this would be the best place to sit if you can get a cheap ticket. Just to the right is the beginning of the corner seats, which are $55.

To the right of those are two supporter sections, just beneath the scoreboard. There has been some controversy over how some supporter groups were treated in the allocation of tickets and it is interesting to see how politics and sports mix in this situation. No doubt the club wants a family-friendly atmosphere but upsetting your long-time fans is not the best way to achieve this. The atmosphere was still decent but I suspect could even be more impressive if all three supporters groups were out in full force.

The seats along both sidelines are well covered in case of inclement weather, but those in both end zones are not.

A view of the field from the top of the south stand.

One of the most intriguing spots is the Heineken rooftop bar, to the right of the scoreboard in the photo above.

It contains a number of rail seats with a social area behind. Before the game, this spot is quite busy but once the game starts, only those with seats remain. If you want to sit here, I think you need to be one of the first in the door, race up the stairs, and grab a seat. If I ever return, I will try that. The view from the rooftop bar is below. 

As the game was set for a 7:55 kickoff, sun was not an issue. There was even a nice sunset in the west before the game got underway that my crappy phone camera was unable to capture.

Overall, Audi Field is a good addition to the MLS stadium scene. I appreciate soccer-only venues where the closest seats are just a few feet from the pitch. Having an entire sideline reserved for club seats and mostly away from the pitch is something I hope that other clubs don't emulate in their new venues. Look at the San Francisco 49ers and Levi Stadium for how a cynical approach can hurt the team in the long run. Fortunately for the average fan, there are still plenty of good seats and certainly any sports traveler should be heading to DC to see a United match.

The Game

The Revolution were 7th, a spot ahead of D.C. United in the Eastern Conference, from which 6 teams make the playoffs, so this match was not meaningless. Wayne Rooney, like many European stars wanting a final payday, is playing his final seasons in the MLS. He joined United a few weeks back, and has improved them considerably. That's him in black with orange shoes on the right of the center circle. Yep, I need a camera.

United was dominant immediately and opened the scoring in the 13th minute off a long free kick that Paul Arriola took on the right side of the box. He crossed it in front of about 4 Rev defenders and Luciano Acosta chipped it over Matt Turner. The home team continued to press but could not find another and as the second half progressed, it looked like New England might grab an equalizer. But a second yellow to Scott Caldwell dropped them to 10 men and although they continued to attack, they left their defense prone to a quick counter, and that's exactly what happened in the 89th minute as Junior Moreno sprung Zoltan Stieber who had no trouble beating Turner as D.C. United won 2-0.

That's the home supporters above celebrating the second goal, and below the final score with Stieber's name still on the scoreboard.

An entertaining game and certainly D.C. United might be a dark horse in that Eastern Conference playoff race.

Next Up

The NFL is back, and I'll be checking out the 7 road teams I have yet to see. That means trips to Chicago (for the Seahawks), Indianapolis (for the Texans), Buffalo (for the Titans), and Cincinnati (for the Steelers). The other three teams (Jaguars, Buccaneers, Packers) all play in New York, so I will see them there. Along with two Maple Leaf road games in Detroit and Buffalo, the last part of the year will be busy and I'll be posting recaps here as always.



Monday, August 6, 2018

Brooklyn Cyclones 5 at Hudson Valley Renegades 6 (New York-Penn League) - August 5, 2018

Just over a decade ago, I saw a game at Dutchess Stadium in Wappinger Falls, New York, home of the Hudson Valley Renegades. That was part of an extended road trip and I made the drive over from Binghamton on the Fourth of July weekend. I remember that the large crowd combined with a somewhat inaccessible location made the experience unpleasant, and have since not considered a revisit.

Little did I know, however, that Wappinger Falls is just outside of Beacon, a town that is on the Metro-North Railroad. Just 90 minutes from NYC and home to an internationally famous art museum, Beacon is a place I have visited on several occasions without realizing that the ballpark is just over 2 miles away. When I finally discovered that fact, I immediately convinced my wife to take a day trip to combine the museum and the game, which we did on Sunday.

Dutchess Stadium was opened in 1994 and that fact is commemorated with seating capacity set at 4,494. Unlike most minor league ballparks, it has an Astroturf field, which was installed in 2014.

It is located just off Route 9D slightly north of I-84, in a forested area. It is not advisable to walk here, as there are no sidewalks on the road, so you will have to drive and pay the $5 parking charge, quite high for the short-season New York-Penn League. There is a single stoplight at the stadium, which means that getting out after the game can take some time, so consider that when choosing your parking spot.

The ticket booth is to the left of the main entrance and offers 3 main types for walkup fans: a premium box seat at $14 if you want to sit close to the field (green seats in the photo above); a reserved seat for $11 above the walkway (red seats below); and $8 for general admission, which allows you to sit in the bleachers down either the first base or third base line.

The sun sets behind the press box, so getting a seat in the high rows between sections 201-206 is the best way to avoid the sun for a 5:00 start. You might think climate change is a hoax, but I can tell you that it is getting more and more uncomfortable to go to afternoon baseball games in the summer and this was no exception. It was hot and humid, with no breeze to cool you down.

Before entering, check out the two plaques for local Hall of Famers to the right of the ticket office. One honours Eddie Collins, who was born in Millerton, about 40 miles northeast of Wappinger Falls; the other commemorates Falls native Dan Brouthers, who played regularly in the majors from 1879-1896.

The concourse lies behind the seating area and is where you can pick up your food and drink, as well as find a bit of shade. There is a bar here as well where you can actually sit and order beers instead of watching the game. Given the weather, this shady spot was the place to be, although it seems like they need to improve their ID checking, as you can see below.

Just underneath the stands along the first base side is a beer "garden" with good craft beer options. There are plenty of unique concessions here such as the Bourbon BBQ and Grill (sandwiches for $6.75) and a taco stand ($4 each), while 16-oz craft beers go for $7.50. I like the variety, although prices are just a bit high for this level of baseball.

As is the norm these days, there are large group areas down both lines. A picnic spot can be found in left field...

...while the Landshark Grill is in the right field corner and open to the public.

The scoreboard is in left field and is quite impressive for this level, with high-quality replays offered along with player stats.

The team store is small but did have air conditioning, so it was worth stopping in. Even better, the championship trophy, which seems to lack a name, was on display.

The Renegades won the championship in 2017 and New York-Penn League rules allow the defending champion to keep the trophy for the following season. They are the best team in the league so far, so a repeat performance is not out of the question.

Overall, I was happy to revisit Dutchess Stadium again and improve my opinion of the place. Even at this level, one visit is not enough to really appreciate everything, and now that I know how easy it is to get to, I'm sure to be back more often.

The Game

The Brooklyn Cyclones (Mets) were visiting the Renegades (Rays) and got off to a quick start when Chase Chambers (18th, 2018) hit a 2-run shot in the first off of Easton McGee (4th, 2016). Hudson Valley got one back in the bottom half off Cyclone starter Jaison Vilera and it looked like a high-scoring game was in order. But both pitchers settled down for a couple of innings, until the fifth. With Brooklyn up 3-1, Carlos Cortes hit a two-run homer which I missed as I was getting ready for the Pirates and Princess parade. That was the promotional theme and having a little princess of our own, we had to participate in the parade, which was just kids and parents walking around the concourse after the fifth inning. Of course, Hudson Valley made the bottom half last as long as possible, scoring 3 runs and forcing a pitching change. The participants had to stand for about 15 minutes until the inning finished, at which time they paraded around to much applause. That pretty much exhausted our princess, and having to catch a train back to NYC and suffering from the heat, we left shortly thereafter. The game continued 5-4 for Brooklyn until the 9th, when Hudson Valley scored 2, with the winning run coming on a balk, a true walk-off.


The art museum that is nearby is called Dia Beacon. It is not for everyone as it is dedicated to large-scale pieces (such as holes in the ground, below), but if you are in the area and not cynical about modern art, it is worth a visit.

There are several other sights in the area, including Franklin D. Roosevelt's house in Hyde Park and George Washington's Headquarters in Newburgh should you lean toward attractions with a historical bent.