Lloyd Sam looks back on his return to Red Bull Arena

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by DAVE MARTINEZ

HARRISON, N.J. – Lloyd Sam didn’t know how Red Bull fans would receive him on his return to Harrison. Would he be cheered by the South Ward? Would fans scorn him for wearing the Black and Red of D.C. United?

In many ways, that question remains unanswered. On a day where a late arriving crowd gathered under the shadow of the 15th anniversary of 9-11, Sam was clearly an afterthought. Yes, those in attendance before kickoff gave him a polite applause when his name boomed over the loud speakers — but Sam barely noticed, especially with all the activity leading towards the match.

When told he received a warm welcome on his arrival, a muted Sam flashed his trademark smile and said “Obviously, I still remember a lot of people here so it’s good to hear that.”

Unfortunately for the long time Red Bull, that was about as good as it got for him on Sunday.

Yes, D.C. United came back from the brink of defeat to find two goals in the dying minutes of the match to salvage a road point. And yes, that certainly lifted Sam’s spirits.

But Sam was an onlooker during those key moments, watching on as his teammates mounted an unlikely comeback.

“It didn’t go according to plan on a personal level,” Sam said after the match. “But my teammates bailed me out there and we got the late point and kept fighting to the end which was good to see.”

Sam left the match in the 59′ minute, with just a yellow card to show for his play. He was visibly driven on the day, leading several DC forays into the Red Bull area. However, he came up short in some instances, and in one case, helped the cause of his former team.

“It was my mistake that led to Bradley’s goal on the counter which was two big plays in five minutes,” he lamented. “I felt terrible on the bench but it’s good to see them rallying together to get the draw.”

The other play in question happened on a one-on-one with Luis Robles. With Sam heading straight to his former teammate, Robles stood his ground and prevented a possible goal from the returning Red Bulls vet.

“It felt like it took ten minutes to get to the goal,” Sam recalled. “It was weird, it was weird. I thought I would score, though. It was a good save. He stood up well. We talked about it after and he said he thought I would wait and he would stand as long as possible – which was a smart move by him.”

In between, there were some physical battles, including one poignant tackle from Felipe that seemed to catch Sam off guard. “It’s the same in training when I was there. That’s how it was,” he recalled. “Quite physical.”

Following that passage, Ben Olsen pulled Sam from the match, putting an end to an encounter that was two months in the making.

For Sam, the match didn’t live up to his personal expectations, but the team’s performance certainly helped ease his pain. Now two months since he was traded, Sam barely speaks about his move to D.C. While he admits initial surprise, Sam also tells media members he has finally moved on from his abrupt departure.

“[The trade] was a shock. Definitely a shock. Four years, even if it was one year, the way it happens here, it surprises you,” he said. “Everyone knows I was here for a longtime and there was an attachment here. It’s not the easiest thing, but I am over it now.”