I've had this long-held theory that the longer MLS is around, the more that traveling support for other teams will show up at games even thousands of miles away from a squad's home base. My reasoning is that the more fans grow up with a team, the more they'll continue that loyalty even as they often move for job purposes - as many do in this country.
DC and the LA Galaxy have been my barometer for this. Not only has DC had a pretty loyal fanbase from the start, but the rivalry with LA goes back to that first year and final, despite the vast distances between the cities. No self-respecting DC fan who has taken a job in LA could resist the chance to cheer their team on when they're in town.
Sure enough, there's generally been a little contingent of DC fans at the LA games when they play. In 2005, Freddy Adu scored a late winning goal versus the Galaxy. He ran and celebrated with the small throng of DC fans going crazy-happy while the rest of the stadium sat glumly.
I thought, "As it should be."
It always strikes me as a bit sad when no one cheers a great road game goal except for one's teammates, though I understand club faithfulness demands no one cheer for an opposition strike. That's why it's important to have away fans. Sports is the metaphor of tragedy and triumph, and yes, there should always be some brave, loyal souls happy to be the minority support, happy to see their team in person in the town where they live now.
However, the DC traveling group hasn't showed up to Chivas USA games in the same numbers as for the Galaxy games, even though tickets to CDCUSA games are cheaper. That rivalry is still developing, and right now, probably takes a backseat to both teams needing points.
Yet it turns out the DC fan ranks might swell a bit this year, even with the team's poor record. I asked former UCLA goalkeeper Zach Wells if he had invited a lot of people to the match. He ticked off a list of groups - family, friends, college teammates.
"So about 20 tickets?" I asked.
"Something like that," Zach nodded.