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On Attending Games

CARSON -- I spent much of the lead up to Sacramento Republic FC's historic 2-1 victory over the LA Galaxy in the U.S. Open Cup researching the lower league career of former Sacramento manager Paul Buckle. I went over hundreds of old game reports and watched more highlights of English non-league football than I ever thought I would.

The vast majority of those games went as expected -- usually the team with the larger budget and bigger ambition won or at least ranked near the top of the table at the end of the season.

But then I got to 2013, where a Buckle-led Luton Town became the first-ever non-league side to defeat an EPL club when they traveled to Norwich City and defeated the Harry Kane-led hosts 1-0 in one of the most shocking upsets in the history of the FA Cup. More than 27,000 attended the game that day and as I watched the highlights and read the recaps, the only thing I could think was, "Man, it would have been cool to be there."

I've always wanted to witness a classic upset like this in person, but the thing that makes them upsets is that they don't happen very often. I travelled to San Jose in 2014 and 2015 and watched the Republic narrowly lose to the San Jose Earthquakes in the Open Cup. I drove down to Phoenix for the 2020 playoff game where heavily-favored Rising posted a controversial win. Hell, I flew to Mexico City to watch the United States play Mexico to a scoreless draw at Estadio Azteca just this year.

None of those matches, and the many more I'd attended, produced an epic upset. So when I booked my trip to LA, I wasn't expecting a Republic victory -- the oddsmakers, who know better than anyone else, had Sacramento at +400.

And that's what makes matches like last night's so special, because they don't happen often. It might take Sacramento Republic FC 10 more years to beat an MLS team in the Open Cup. Or they might accomplish this feat next month.

Either way the outcomes in San Jose, Phoenix, and Mexico City become worth it when you witness the odd upset in LA. Every time you attend a game like that, there's a high probability that the favorite will dully win. Which makes it so much better when the underdog comes through.

This is why I attend games.


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