MLS Champs Hailed At Airport
Monday, October 21, 1996 6:11 pm EDT
WASHINGTON (AP) Nearly 1,000 fans swarmed to National Airport on Monday to greet the D.C. United, newly crowned champions of Major League Soccer.
Many in the crowd had not arrived home until 4 a.m. after D.C.'s 3-2 comeback victory over the Los Angeles Galaxy on Sunday in Foxboro, Mass. And they nearly overwhelmed airport security at the USAir terminal.
``This just shows you the support we've had all season long,'' United captain John Harkes said.
Many fans arrived at the USAir gate area an hour before the team was due. When the drums and chants of ``Ole, Ole'' started 20 minutes before the team's arrival, police bolstered security.
After the first officer on the scene radioed that the ``crowd was too big too handle,'' a group of officers ushered fans from the boarding area and down a level to the terminal's larger baggage claim concourse.
The players, many weary after celebrating the MLS's inaugural title game, appeared startled by the size of the crowd.
Harkes and the other players were engulfed by a sea of singing fans in the team's red and black colors as they rode down the escalators to the baggage claim.
``The following we gathered the last half of the season was tremendous and it motivated the players,'' United coach Bruce Arena said.
Hector and Laura Quintanta of Lake Ridge, Va., were two of the nearly 5,000 fans who traveled to New England to watch Sunday's game, in which the United squad erased a 2-0 deficit with 17 minutes left.
``I'm a season-ticket holder and I'm glad to see soccer in this country again on a professional level,'' Carlos said.
Laura, who missed her connecting flight trying to get to Sunday's game, splurged on a $200 limo ride from JFK Airport in New York City to make the start of the contest.
``It was definitely worth it,'' she said.
Most of the fans were decked out in United gear and many carried cameras, minicams, soccer balls, banners, flags and even flowers. There were many extended families at the airport, and a fair number of kids missed some school Monday.
David Dominguez, 11, was at the airport with his cousins and his aunt Bianca. The Dominguez clan, recent immigrants from El Salvador, squeezed 11 people into the family's van to attend Sunday's game.
``We were dancing inside the van all the way home,'' Bianca said.
© Copyright 1996 The Associated Press