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LANDOVER, Maryland — FC Barcelona’s fans in the Washington DC metropolitan area picked up right where their New York counterparts left off. A day after Barça’s open training session drew over 6,000 paying fans to a 60-minute session of drills and short-field games right here at FedExField, the stadium, the home of the NFL’s Washington Redskins, was filled to capacity, with a sellout crowd of 80,162 on hand to catch the game on Wednesday night.
As Barça’s team bus made it out of the District aided by a DC metro police motorcade that sliced through the notoriously dense traffic like a hot knife through butter, scores of cars which were headed to the game but had been ordered to the shoulder of I-695, had their windows rolled down as drivers and passengers gave the bus full of players signs of approval while snapping photos and videos of the rare spectacle.
Inside the stadium, on the main concourse, fans donning every bit of blaugrana garb imaginable were everywhere. They stood in long lines to buy even more Barça merchandise, as well as pizza, hamburgers and drinks, while the vendors’ ubiquitous cries of ‘Cold beer! Cold Beer!’ echoed throughout.
With still an hour before kickoff, and with the outer ring of the cavernous building already bubbling with life, there were droves of fans who, worried they might miss something, anything, out on the field, filed through the turnstiles and headed straight for the bleachers.
A striking rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, which is a requirement at every sporting event in the country, provided a patriotic image of legions of Barça fans standing upright, with their right hands over not just their hearts—but also the Barça badge on their shirts.
Neymar put Barça up 1–0 in the 31st minute and by the 35th, FedExField was doing the wave. All three levels were synchronized, with the ebb and flow getting louder and more intense each time around the stadium.
Throughout the first half, rushes into the final third, regardless of which team was attacking, had the fans at both ends rising out of their seats in anticipation. Stellar dribbling evoked one collective gasp after the other, and shots, saves and near-misses drew out the deafening oohs and ahhs at a pace more reminiscent of an NHL playoff game than a preseason soccer match.
The Messi-Suárez-Neymar show provided most of the on-field entertainment. Mere touches by any of the three, of which there were dozens, were meet with widespread cheers.
The second half had far fewer of those breathtaking moments, but the fans played a key role in ensuring that any worthy moment, in their eyes, was duly recognized. And for a second straight game—and second straight Barça win—the crowd’s performance mirrored that of the stars on the field.
Now, it's on to Miami for an El Clásico, where fan passion is expected to dwarf that of New York and Washington.
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