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  • Writer's pictureRichard Fleming

British reserve must be overcome if this is my last 4th July

Marcelo Balboa and I will be appropriately attired for next week’s 4th July occasion at DICK’S Sporting Goods Park, when the Colorado Rapids face Austin FC. Both will push the envelope a little; after all, it may well be our last Independence Day covering the league we have watched grow, and in Chelo’s case, helped grow.

As we both wait anxiously for word from any quarter on our fate post 2022, I know my respected and talented colleagues from across the league are patiently waiting, also. So, short of any updates, each game, each interaction with fans, each laugh alongside my bearded buddy Balboa, will be savored.

The previous eight 4th July games (Covid prevented the 2020 edition) have all been extra special, even for this fella with the funny accent from across the pond. The national pride is not something we in the U.K. experience around a single day, rather these moments are left to Royal celebrations – such as a wedding or jubilee – or a major sporting occasion, such as the World Cup, Wimbledon, or the Olympic Games.

In the past, I’ve done my best to be respectful with my clothing, without being over the top (it’s not very British, you know). The most I would push to was a Stars and Stripes tie, and no more. This year, I’m going perhaps a little further than my British reserve ought to allow, all the while knowing that Balboa will outdo me whatever my get-up.

My 4th July debut was a 2-0 win over a star-studded New York Red Bulls in 2013. I recall Thierry Henry shrugging in disgust whenever a pass failed to hit him on a precise point on his boot. He was the main attraction, but there were others, including former Australia and Everton striker, Tim Cahill.

One of Henry’s four shots were on frame, but none troubled Clint Irwin. Rapids goals came from Nathan Sturgis and Deshorn Brown. The crowd was 18,359.

Skip along to 2015, and Kevin Doyle scored the winner against Vancouver Whitecaps in front of 18,356. The sun shone, the crowd cheered, and I was again able to take my seat alongside family on the field for another fireworks experience.

And that was the last home victory on this most special of days. We’ve witnessed back-to-back defeats by Seattle, a drab draw in Tim Howard’s MLS return against Portland, and an agonizing loss to New England Revolution, in 2019, with so many weather delays that the match actually ended on 5th July!

When the commentary booth door closes behind me for that final time on October 9th, there will be much I will miss. These special nights will absolutely be up there.

Last year, I departed as soon as the TV cameras switched off, eager to avoid the masses post display. This year, assuming it will be my last, I plan on cherishing every moment.

And I'm also preparing to hear this a few times: "Sorry about us kickin' your ass, and all that. Hope we can still be friends." I hope we can as well.

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