Former Quakes and U.S. international defender Jeff Agoos, looking nearly as fit as he did in his playing days, stood near a field entrance wearing a suit befitting a man who holds the title of MLS vice-president of competition. He’s best known for his playing career; in addition to earning 134 U.S. caps, he played 244 MLS games and earned five MLS Cup titles. He finished up a decade ago with the MetroStars, the third of his employers and the first of that trio to play in its own facility.
He was a member of the Red Bulls’ organization when Red Bull Arena opened in 2010, and started out his playing career with the league’s first dynasty club, D.C. United. In between those stints he labored in San Jose, and during those four seasons (2001-04) he won two league titles when the Quakes rented out Spartan Stadium on the campus of San Jose State University for practices and games.
Seldom was Spartan available for training sessions, so the players would change to their practice gear in the locker room and take vans or drive their cars to one of several local fields, after which they would return to Spartan to shower. “It wasn’t great, but we made it work,” says Agoos. “To see all this makes us realize how far this team and the league have come.”
After the move to Houston and rebirth of the team in 2008, San Jose played seven seasons in another college facility, Buck Shaw Stadium, at Santa Clara University. The team’s history goes all the way back to the days of the original North American Soccer League and dozens of former players from that era (1974-84) were on hand Sunday to see the new place; like Agoos, Spartan was the only home they knew as a Quake. Not until this year had a team with four decades of tradition found a home.
He’s a decade removed from his playing days yet Agoos knows intimately how the current players regard what it means to have their own place to play. “You feel like there’s security, you feel comfortable, you know what to expect,” said Agoos, 46, after the Quakes topped Chicago, 2-1, to officially christen their new home.
“You always know from one day to the next that things are going to be routine and as players, you need a sense of routine. To have something permanent, that you can call your own, that you can create and decorate the way you want, I think that makes a huge difference.”
To get a sense of the aesthetics, Agoos wandered through the stadium prior to kickoff and ticked off some notable details. The use of redwood – which grows throughout Northern California as well as the Northwest -- caught his eye, and he referenced the message encoded by the shading of different colored seats. (Red seats depict a binary code that translates to GO EQ). A massive outdoor bar and picnic area behind the open goal and its status as the league’s first cloud-enabled facility add up to a unique package.
“You can tell they went to a lot of different places and did their homework and took a little bit of things from different places and made it their own,” said Agoos. “They should be very proud of the organization. Every club needs a home, and this feels like as good a home as you could possibly have.”
When he left San Jose after the 2004 season, only two MLS teams played in their own facilities: Columbus, which opened Crew Stadium in 1999, and the Galaxy, camped at StubHub Center (formerly Home Depot) since 2003. Since then, more than a dozen MLS facilities have been completed, with Avaya the 15th such facility to be unveiled.
One of the stragglers is, of course, his first MLS team. Despite winning three of the first four league titles as well as international trophies (Inter-American Cup, Concacaf Champions Cup) only recently did D.C. United get over the hump on a stadium project.
The long-delayed, oft-interrupted Buzzard Point plan is on track, In a few years, the days of falling concrete chunks, flooded parking lots and cockroach encounters will be things of the past. Like those at Spartan Stadium, RFK Stadium’s drawbacks far outstrip its history, and Agoos is anxious to attend yet another unveiling as soon as possible.
“For D.C., to have anything like this would be fantastic,” Agoos said, gazing around wistfully. “They’ll have something that will be unique to the community, and to the club.”