New York City FC are back in the BX for a meeting with D.C. United on Saturday night.
Hi Sarah, thanks for speaking with us. How long have you been covering soccer?
Hi Kris! Thanks for having me. It's hard to believe, but I'm coming up on five years covering soccer!
What's been your favorite moment covering soccer?
There have been so many beautiful moments covering this game and working in soccer – it's hard to choose just one.
The best moments for me are always speaking with people around the game and league and hearing their perspectives on D.C. United and MLS.
One of my dearest memories is meeting Robert "Big Rob" Gillespie in person during what would be his last trip to Audi Field and spending time with him, his family, and so many people who loved him. It was really an incredible day in our community.
Rob had spoken to me for an interview, and it was an incredible 40-plus-minute call I will always feel privileged to have had. For anyone that didn't know Rob, he was a gifted storyteller, the way he could describe a situation would transport you. Hearing his account of the very beginning of D.C. United supporter culture and how he has seen the club evolve over the years was a powerful moment that made me step back and say, "I'm hearing the genuine oral history of this club."
Every opportunity I have to speak with Dave Johnson, D.C. United's play-by-play announcer (and all-around just wonderful person in the community), is like this too. Dave will tell you stories about the very beginning of MLS that should be recorded and preserved as an oral history of this league.
Another moment that meant the world to me was the chance to work with Calen Carr on an episode of The Movement. "Football & Faith: Being Muslim in MLS.” Calen is such a kind person, and he has the drive to really “get things right” in his episodes. He brought me on to do some cultural consulting prior to filming the episode. I also created the episode’s Arabic subtitles. The project meant so much to me as a Lebanese American because it was a chance to share some of the beautiful cultures of the Middle East and make content about MLS accessible to Arabic speakers.
D.C. United have had quite an interesting season. What have you made of Hernán Losada's first year in charge?
Hernán Losada is the real deal. He has brought an absolute shift to the culture at D.C. United through his positive mentality and dedication to exciting, attacking football. The team has done a real 180 under his guidance. From the beginning, Losada came in and made it clear things were going to be done differently. He pushed the team on fitness, he changed the entire system of play, and he worked hard to foster a culture of trust and respect. I’ve lost count of how many times he has said in interviews, “I trust the players, and I support them unconditionally.”
You’ll see so many times where he cites, “collective over individual.” This is the new direction of the club, and you can feel it in every single aspect of his approach to the game. Honestly, once all D.C.’s players are healthy and he has a bit more time to build, there will be no stopping this club. People sometimes forget that it takes time to build a championship club. Losada has come in and made such dramatic changes within his first season that I can’t wait to see what he does next.
This will be the third meeting between the two teams this season, with NYCFC winning 2-1 last time out. What have you made of the previous games between the two sides in 2021?
The last meeting between D.C. United and NYCFC was painful. I thought D.C. had made an exceptional showing, playing very well. The late goal from Thiago was certainly a stunner. Early in the match, I had D.C. pegged as the winner; once Parks nabbed the equalizer- it seemed the Black-and-Red would at least take home a point. When the two teams faced off back in April at Audi Field, we saw that score line switched.
Tonight is going to be so critical as both teams are riding the playoff line. I’m partial, but I would say it’s anyone’s match. Tonight will come down to details and maybe a bit of luck. Both teams have a lot going for them.
If you were to identify D.C. United's dangerman, who would that be?
We know Ola Kamara is MLS’s top goal scorer so far this season, but the real danger from D.C. United is that a goal can come from anywhere. We’ve seen it time and again where a player you wouldn’t consider to be a danger is out there scoring game-winning goals.
Julian Gressel is also having himself a season. His ability to deliver clinical assists and maximize set-pieces isn’t to be underestimated.
And finally, for anyone that may be in Washington D.C. for a game, are there any attractions you'd suggest they check out?
D.C. is such a great city, and there is something for everyone. Besides the “touristy stuff,” I would really recommend checking out the Black-owned businesses and art scene that are the heart and soul of D.C. You can’t go wrong snagging a meal at Ben’s Chili Bowl or buying some mambo sauce and a clutch shirt from Capital City.