I know you have DOOPed at home but have you ever DOOPed on the road? Hi I am Raymond Retzner I sit in Section 133 at PPL Park. I sit near the bottom, right on the aisle, and you probably have seen me big tall dude with glasses, I am superstitious, so I wear basically the same thing every game, Mondragon jersey and two scarves. I have only missed one home game so far, so you know that I love home games but I love away game with a passion. My sisters, Theresa and Sarah and I try and go to as many as possible. Every time I go to one it renews my love for soccer and the Philadelphia Union. We who sit in Section 133 have special insight to what it is like to be an away fan since we deal with visiting fans almost every home game. When I go to away games I try to use that understanding to enjoy the game.
There are two ways to go to an away game. One way is to buy seats anywhere in the stadium and sit by yourself or small group. The other way is to buy seats in the away team supporters section. I find this to be the better option because it’s better to be with a likeminded crowd. I myself am also a member of the Sons of Ben so we usually go through them, but you can also call the away team’s box office and ask for tickets in that away team’s supporter section. Away team supporters section is almost always general admission, so no assigned seats. Tailgating is another issue to deal with at an away match. It is better to stick together and stay in a large group because you will be less likely to be hassled. The same goes for marching in and out of the stadium. Try to march with the group it prevents incidents from happening and usually there will be security from the stadium. I know some people who did not stick with the group and had problems. It is rare but it happens. So far I have been to matches in D.C. and Columbus. I have also been to away games in Reading and Harrisburg for games against their farm teams which are strange because it’s an away game but they also are part of the same family so it is hard to root against them. I will now go on by a city by city basis.
The first away game I ever went to was last year’s D.C. game. As I write this last night was this year’s D.C. game. I will be mostly talking about this year’s game since it is fresh in my memory. The Sons of Ben buses met in Lot B of PPL Park around ten in the morning. The bus ride down was a long trip with traffic since it being the Fourth of July weekend but it went by quick since the party usually starts on the buses or while you are still in the parking lot. We got down to the dump known as RFK and we were greeted by a giant banner of Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow on the side of RFK between two banners of United players. The funny thing was Jack was pointing guns at the DC United players. I guess Jack hates DC United also. We tried to get into the same lot as last year but the gates were locked so we had to circle while some phone calls were made. It was around one when we finally got off the buses and got to tailgating. We had plenty of food and beverages, but they made a run to Domino’s Pizza. I am not sure if it was planned but it was welcome because it helped to soak up the afternoon beverages.
The good thing about the D.C. games is that we bring our some of own security from PPL Park. I think it is a good thing since they know us and are familiar with us. They know our weird quirks and other stuff. We tailgate right across from RFK but we have to cross a major four lane road so the police have to stop traffic for us. Let’s just say the locals are not too happy with a bunch of Philadelphians holding up traffic and they get pretty impatient. We hold up our scarves and chant and walk really slow and then the horns start honking and curses start flying. They bring us to our own gate which is nice and then begins the long walk up the ramps of RFK. While we walk up the ramps we are chanting and singing and DC fans come out to watch. The looks on their faces are priceless when they see Philadelphia fans lined up from the bottom ramp of RFK to the very top. D.C. sits us up on the upper level by ourselves. When you walk into the stadium and see the field you can’t believe a team actually calls this home. It seems like a scene from the Sixties. The seats are still red and yellow from the Redskins days. The thing that makes this game special and makes me want to go to every D.C. game while they are still in RFK is bouncing the upper deck. The upper deck bounces up and down and it can be quite scary for the first ten minutes or so, once you get used to the bouncing it adds to the experience. This year you could tell who the newbie’s by the look on their faces.
The Sons of Ben March Into RFK
The D.C. supporters groups, if you can call them that, this year moved some drums right below us to try and drown us out but I don’t think it worked. We were loud and drowned them out. The players acknowledge us before and after the game. Mondragon even tweeted it reminded him of away games at Galatasary and FC Koln. We marched back to the buses and arrived back to PPL around midnight.
The founding season of the Union ended in Columbus Ohio. Luckily my sisters and I were already planning to be out that way for a work weekend on our family farm in Indiana. The bad thing was that it was also Homecoming weekend for Ohio State University. The hotels in the area were booked solid. We came down in the hotel for breakfast the morning of the game and it was a sea of red. There we were in our Union blues sticking out like a sore thumb, but that is what away road trips are about supporting your team in enemy territory. Crew Stadium is in the middle of a giant cattle trailer sales yard (I’m not kidding) with plenty of parking. We had to circle the stadium a couple of times until we saw some Union flags flying on cars. My sister Sarah and my dad made a collapsible flag pole out of PVC pipes and soon as we raised it Union fans started to flock to our group. The group of Philly fans that made the trip turned a section of the lot into a Little Philly in Ohio. Pro-Union music blaring out of giant speakers placed on top of cars. Chants about Ohio’s economic troubles were screamed at the Crew fans at the top of our lungs. I think the Crew fans were shocked that a first year team had this type of following. People were stopping and staring at us. The march over again caused many double takes by the Bumblebee FC fans and it took a while for all of us to get through security. The ones who made it through first just formed a circle and did chants until we all made it through. We then had to march up four flights of stairs to our seats. I’m sorry did I say seats, I mean bleachers. The seats were actually pretty decent with a nice view of the field. It was youth soccer night and I think the teams got a kick out of being booed by Philly fans.
The fans of Columbus were very quiet and not that vocal, so it was very easy to overpower them. We only got to DOOP once, but we did see the Columbus goalie get Califf’d. Poor Columbus had to put a position player in goal for the remainder of the game. The final score was not in our favor but it did not dampen the game. I think that Crew Stadium would be a good place to see a game if it was filled fans.
A really close away game that is easy to go to is in Reading, PA against Reading United. Reading United is a farm team for the Union and they play in a high school football stadium just outside of Reading. We went last year with family and met a childhood friend there so we did not sit with the Sons of Ben. It was a weird dynamic of fans that support both the Union and Reading U so most people were cheering for both teams. It was a nice thing for the Union to support their farm team. The game end in a tie, how convenient.
Can you say that you have seen a soccer match on an island? I can. Harrisburg City Islanders is another farm team of the Union and their stadium is on an island in the middle of the Susquehanna River. The view of the skyline of Harrisburg was amazing. This game had more of an away game feeling than Reading game. The Harrisburg fans were passionate about their team and were really loud. The stadium sits behind a minor league baseball stadium that looked nice from the outside. I am not sure if was the long pre-game at a nice brew pub but it was a really enjoyable game.
Every year I hope to go to some away games because it is a different experience seeing the team on the road. I hope this gives you an insight to dooping on the road. If you have any questions about this article or my experience at road games stop and talk to me at PPL Park or friend me on Facebook or on Twitter @SOBinSection133
– Raymond Retzner