Jason Minnick

Road trippin' to Rio Tinto

SALT LAKE CITY -- It’s 1,219 miles from Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas to Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. That’s 21 hours in a car. A whole day of your life dedicated to just getting to a soccer game. And don’t forget the 90 minutes of chanting, screaming, singing and celebrating you’ll be doing once you get there.

Seven FC Dallas fans made the journey for Saturday’s Western Conference Semifinal between FC Dallas and defending MLS Cup Champions Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium (9 p.m. CT kickoff on Fox Soccer Channel).

Warren Abao is one of them. He was kind enough to keep updated throughout the trip via text message. Here is his account. 

On the road: 1 p.m. Central Time – Friday, Nov. 5 – Dallas, Texas
“I am actually getting ready to leave right now,” Abao said. “Some of the other cars took off work and left this morning, but logically, with three of us, we should be able to alternate drivers and go straight through the night.

“I imagine we’ll get there tomorrow morning or late afternoon. We’re planning on riding the adrenaline and going straight to the stadium. We’ll probably hit a wall right after the game, maybe not. Considering how amped up we’ll be should we get a good result, we might just go out after the game.

“We are staying in the same hotel as the team, so if we have reason to celebrate, I imagine we’ll take the train up from Rio Tinto and maybe buy the players a drink. I’m not one to fraternize with the players, but I would love to be able to congratulate them. I’ll look for [Ruben] Luna because I know he’s not old enough to drink. That will keep my bill low.”

Obviously, this is not Abao’s first rodeo. He’s driven from his former home in West Palm Beach, Florida to multiple U.S. National Team games at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts.

“Driving up to one of those games was certainly worth it,” Abao said. “The U.S played Jamaica the same day as the U.S. invaded Afghanistan [May 16, 2002] so nobody would show the game on television. I was one of the only people who got to see the game.”

As a member of Sam’s Army, Abao also traveled to Germany in 2006 to watch the U.S. Men’s National Team draw eventual World Cup Champion Italy, 1-1.    

12 a.m. Central Time – Saturday, Nov. 6
“I drove up to Amarillo, Texas and now Adelaide [Arriaga] has taken the wheel at I-40,” Abao text messaged. “I am kind of in and out of sleep. The drive to Amarillo reminded us all of the drive to Denver when we come up to watch FC Dallas play the Rapids. It’s the same route – 287.

“Our Hyandai Accent (FC Dallas red of course) is equipped with absolutely power nothing – windows, locks or anything. We’re getting 35 miles per gallon though, so we’re doing our part to protect the environment. More importantly, the FC Dallas flags fit in the back seat and the brass drum fits in the trunk – it meets all our requirements.”

Abao’s companions on the trip, Jose and Adelaide Arriaga are members of El Matador, the other half of FC Dallas’ main contingent of supporters.

They must also be insane.

“We travel to watch FC Dallas in pursuit of the emotion that exists between soccer teams and their fans,” Abao said. “There is a level of emotional commitment and expression in soccer that is unmatched in any other sport. The excitement and frustration in the buildup to the goal, the emotion that pours out of us when we give up a goal – that’s why we go to such great lengths.”

3:24 a.m. Central Time – Saturday, Nov. 6 – New Mexico

“We just passed by Santa Ana Casino north of Albuquerque,” Abao said. “We saw a coffee shop called ‘Bad Ass Coffee.’ I wonder what they put in their espresso?”

8:53 a.m. Central Time – Saturday, Nov. 6 – Moab, Utah
“Good morning,” Abao said. “We just passed Canyonlands National Park in southern Utah.”

1 p.m. Central Time – Saturday, Nov. 6 – Salt Lake City, Utah
“I drove the last leg of the drive and we just arrived at the Sheraton in downtown,” Abao said. “We’re planning to meet up with the other Inferno guys at the BeerHive Pub in an hour and a half.”

Heading straight to the pub dots the "i" and crosses the "t" on what is already an incredible show of team loyalty and passion for the game -- but for Abao and the Inferno faithful, it's only just beginning. 

“We’ve all got tickets in section 234,” Abao said. “We are amped. We cannot wait to get to Rio Tinto and throw streamers from our upper deck seats down on the Real Salt Lake fans below us.”