Real Madrid Offers a Touch of Cool on a Hot Day at FedEx Field

Real Madrid defeats D.C. United before 72,368 Sunday at FedEx Field.
By Mike Wise
Monday, August 10, 2009

Remember that Disney flick, "Mystery, Alaska," about the great New York Rangers traveling to a hamlet in the Klondike region to play the local yokel hockey team?

Welcome to "Landover, Maryland," a two-star sequel if there ever was one.

Okay, D.C. United is hardly a bunch of backwoods amateurs and FedEx Field is not exactly a quaint pitch in the pines of Prince George's County.

Ben Olsen, Jaime Moreno and Avery John have played in a World Cup.

Fred goes by his first name, so he must be good.

And though Devon McTavish is from Virginia, his name sounds like he could have played for Glasgow Celtic.

But this is Real Madrid -- El mejor equipo del mundo!

In truth, it is not the best team on the planet; Real Madrid is not even the best team in Spain; that's a tough sell when FC Barcelona cleans your clock at home last season, 6-2. After pirating stars from other teams and incurring debt like Detroit this offseason, Real Madrid feels more merger-and-acquisition firm than pro sports franchise.

But they have supernovas such as Raul and Kaka and a backup midfielder from the Netherlands named Arjen Robben, who just toyed with the D.C. 11 Sunday afternoon. And, of course, the most celebrated player of them all, the incomparable Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ronaldo is part Portuguese heartthrob, part futbol god, the most creative player with the ball at his feet this side of Barcelona's Lionel Messi.

Of the 72,368 people who braved the 95-degree heat and watched the legendary Spaniard club team play hack-e-sack with United for a half -- before deciding to put the District's MLS team to sleep, 3-nil -- about 60,000 were clad in white soccer jerseys with black trim, most with the numbers 7 (Raul), 8 (Kaka) and 9 (Ronaldo).

With all due respect, the surreal scene an hour after the exhibition made Fan Appreciation Day in Ashburn look cute and provincial. Several thousand fans 20 rows deep in the stadium's north tunnel, shrieking and cheering and snapping photos from behind metal barricades as their heroes boarded the team bus. Being in that parking lot, next to that bus, you could feel the emotional attachment between Real Madrid and its legions.

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