San Pedro Sula North?…Not In Section 137

The match (and referee) were a disappointment on Saturday evening at the Home Depot Center, but even more disconcerting, though not shocking, was the continued lack of support for the USMNT on their home soil. Regardless of the validity of the overall attendance figures, the crowd was approaching 70 / 30 split between Honduran supporters and US supporters.

While no one expected a packed house awash in red singing God Bless America, the paltry support for the USMNT makes one wonder if the soccer hype and hipness generated by the Confederations Cup last summer expired when the calendar flipped to 2010.

The view from the American section.

US Soccer may point out that the January friendly saw an attendance increase of nearly 100% from a reported 9,918 for the match versus Sweden in 2009 to a reported 18,626 on Saturday night, but how much of that boost can be attributed to a blue-and-white opponent instead of a blue-and-yellow one?

With US Soccer spending a month on the ground, two MLS teams in residence and a population approaching 10,000,000 in Los Angeles the USMNT should have garnered better support. Of course one can contend the game was meaningless and featured the “B” team, but on-the-other-hand the US is kicking off a World Cup year after finishing first in CONCACAF qualifying and playing for the first time on the “home” turf since October.

No amount of lamenting in words is going to change the landscape overnight, but a group of people banding together in support of the USMNT has got this moving in the right direction. The enthusiasm of the US supporters in attendance on Saturday night should be commended. If you were in or around section 137 you saw what could be, and should be encouraged.

So, good folks of the American Outlaws, Sam’s Army and the US Soccer Supports Club keep fighting the good fight, think of creative ways to get people to the game and continue to forge the American soccer identity. (Any chance these groups can sit next to each other in a “super-section” of peace, harmony and raucous support?)

After a rough performance on Saturday night, US supporters need a little pick-me-up. Thankfully, Max of the Tony Danza Army has come to the rescue with another video for the people.

Home of the brave…indeed.

Added note from Matthew here:

I had the occasion to finally catch up personally with Justin Brunken, a founder of the American Outlaws USMNT support group. I have to apologize for not knowing the full history of the group at the time–I’ll claim that my writing fully envelops me completely and blindingly.

I was absolutely astounded by a few things that I wanted to add to Mark’s column here:

» Justin architected and now manages the American Outlaws (with his fellow founders) for free. I felt certain that a group as organized and as fervent as the American Outlaws certainly commanded at least one person fulltime on them. Not the case I learned; amazing. Even more amazing considering they only began in 2007.

» The chapter phenomenon is one that AO initiated and has served the American Outlaws well…..so much so that legacy fan support group Sam’s Army has decided to adopt the same approach through “brigades.”

» I had one member tell me, “These guys are great. I joined just this year and when I needed a place to stay for the Haiti game in Boston, a number of guys said I could crash at their pad.”

Can you imagine this parallel happening in other sports? I can imagine the conversation would go something like this on a message board.

“Hey I’m Matt. I’m a huge New York Giants fan and I’m going to be at the game this weekend in Kansas City. Anybody have an empty couch that they wouldn’t mind sharing for a big fan?”

“Freak!”

“Freeloader.”

“Do you have a criminal record?”

Nice work AO.

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26 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Lance on 2010/01/26 at 2:05 AM

    I would love to go watch every USMNT game regardless of “B” or lower quality but my poor college student budget doesn’t allow it. Anytime they come play at Rio Tinto in Salt Lake I’ll be there cheering my lungs out (as I was when we beat El Salvador there last year). The snow right now might not be what they want for a friendly–I would be there anyway though.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Matt Mathai on 2010/01/26 at 6:19 AM

    The vast majority of the sports public doesn’t care enough about soccer to come out to (relatively) meaningless friendlies. Another part of the problem is that familiarity breeds contempt. We’ve played Honduras a lot, and beaten them a lot recently. Been there, done that. Everyone loves an event (and even better, a winner), which explains the runaway success of the Confederations Cup, the World Cup in ’94, and the Women’s World Cup.

    Take heart. I remember being in a red-shirted ‘crowd’ of 13 (thirteen!) guys behind a goal at a USMNT game years ago. I remember walking into several stadia in this country and getting harassed, sometimes physically, because I had the temerity to wear US gear. Things have improved, and will continue to improve. You’re looking for generational change, sad to say, not overnight change, as you note.

    The good news is that the soccer landscape has changed radically. I get Setanta, GolTV, FSC, ESPN Deportes, Galavision, and Univision, and can watch soccer shows on all those channels, sometimes 24 hours a day. And there are more channels to come, some in HD. We have the Internet to spread the gospel quickly. Just look at how quickly the Charlie Davies #9 movement spread. All these things raise the profile of soccer. Also, the country is changing demographically. That will also have an effect.

    I tell my friends who only love the big sports (football, baseball, basketball) that they should enjoy it while they can. Change is coming, and I believe it’s coming in my lifetime.

    Reply

    • You should buy these friends a beer and start the conversion of their dark and twisted souls.

      Reply

      • Posted by Matt Mathai on 2010/01/26 at 6:41 AM

        Dude, I buy them tickets to the games and drive them there if the games are local. They buy ME the beer. That’s my deal. I’ve done this a number of times and I’ve made more than a few converts.

        Reply

        • That’s awesome. You should write something like that up and send it over to the FBM (http://freebeermovement.blogspot.com/). Not that what you have done was inspired by the movement, but it’s nice having these stories to add some credibility to the “If you offer it (beer, tickets, rides), they will come.” mantra.

          Reply

  3. Again, I think it comes back to the accessibillity and the exposure of the National Team. Excellent point that the game took place in a city of 10,000,000 and the population probably jumps into the 15+ million if we expand the radius to people within a 4 hour drive of LA (not counting the notorious traffic in LA), but how many of those 15 million are soccer fans? And how many of them have the cash, time to spare, etc. to go to a game? How many people even knew there was a game being played on Saturday? I watch FSC and GolTV religously when I do watch TV and I barely recall a single advertisement for the game on these channels, let alone seeing any on the major networks.

    If US Soccer wants to get more Americans involved, not just us hardcore few who will travel thousands of miles via whatever means necessary, they need to start getting the word out there about these matches well before a week ahead of time. I liken it to an awesome band that hasn’t hit it big with the main-stream radio stations yet. If you want to see them live you have to keep checking their website for the tourdates, whereas if the band achieves the status of U2, Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, etc. you will hear about their concert dates in your town or the nearest city months ahead of time.

    US Soccer, Nike, Gatorade, and everyone else needs to get their grubby little hands deeper into the cookie jars to make this work (the following won’t necessarilly work this summer, but every other year); have fliers and announcements about when/where games will be in the coming months and recommended hotels and airlines to use for travel & accomdations. Example, I get season tickets to the new Minnesota USL/NASL team, with my season tickets comes a “newsletter” from US Soccer mentioning when & where they’re planning friendlies, qualifiers, and Gold Cup matches (or possibilities if nothing is ironed out yet). Every week/month whatever I get another newsletter telling me when things have been finalized and what hotels and airlines USSF has special rates through. Now I can start budgeting and planning which games I can and want to attend. Now if I was Joe Blow who has three kids playing the sport and I’m just getting into it, I’ll have a better idea when, where, and how I can get my kids some better exposure to this game. If we’re going to Chicago, DC, LA, Dallas, etc. for a family vacation I can now look into MLS games to take my kids to as well as possible USMNT games that I didn’t know were going on. End Rant.

    As for your Super-Section idea, I like the fact that Sam’s Army takes up the seats behind one goal and AO usually has the seats behind the other, no matter which way the opposition is facing they have rabid fans to contend with. But, a Super-Section would give US Soccer, its sponsors, and everyone else a better idea of how many people at these games actually want the US to succeed, instead of the current smattering of groups of fans throughout the stadium surrounded by the opposition.

    Reply

  4. Posted by matthewsf on 2010/01/26 at 6:48 AM

    In my opinion you have to hand it to the players who worked their asses off in front of home crowd that was decidedly not in their favor. I imagine that has to be tough knowing that you are playing at home, but that cheers will likely erupt when things *don’t* do your way.

    That being said as an older fan now and with an appreciation of the game and the cultures from other countries’ that bring their brand of the game to play ours being able to interact and talk with Honduran fans was very rewarding as well.

    One of my favorite pictures on the evening: http://shinguardian.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/usa_honduras.png

    Reply

    • Posted by Matt Mathai on 2010/01/26 at 7:39 AM

      I agree completely with your second paragraph. When I went to Columbus for our Mexico WCQ, my wife and I were completely surrounded by fans dressed in green and white. We had a fantastic time. There was a ton of good-natured banter, and I spent the entire second half talking to three Mexican fans about the states of our teams, what the holes were, who the prospects were, etc. It was great.

      It was also an interesting look into the mentality of at least some of the fans. They were lamenting the lack of Mexican players coming up to take the places being vacated by the big names. I found myself reassuring them about their young guns like Vela and dos Santos. They were generally pessimistic that Mexico could keep up with the development of the game in the US. I think they know what’s coming.

      They were also pissed off about the importing of players like Sinha, and we talked about how that’s pretty commonplace. We did it most recently w/ Regis, I think, and the Irish team is famous for it. The Swedes have a couple of black players, and even the Poles got into it with a naturalized Nigerian. Forget his name – Oli-something.

      It was great to spend time with them and it was all very amicable. We communicated in their broken English and my broken Spanish. We bought each other rounds of beer. It was an awesome experience, and the best of what we all hope soccer can be.

      Reply

  5. Posted by matthewsf on 2010/01/26 at 7:19 AM

    One off topic note on the video. Man, I wish Eddie Johnson would put it altogether….hoping Greece is the tonic for him.

    Reply

    • I agree, same with the kid formerly known as Freddy Adu. Even if they don’t make the same impact that we thought they would, coming back and making some impact, even if it’s just pushing a few people for their places in the squad would be a major bonus right now.

      Reply

  6. Posted by Bob on 2010/01/26 at 7:58 AM

    I agree with Nick. There needs to be better advertising and access to games. For example, I would not mind driving 7 hours to watch the El Salvador game next month, but I cannot since it is on a Wednesday. I know the USSF cannot control international dates, but it makes it hard in this country to travel so far on a weeknight.

    Also, the other problem in the U.S. is that most sport fans are focused on the NFL right now. I think this is a major reason why MLS does not play winter games. How many Americans are passionate about college and pro football? Is anyone really talking about the USMNT right now if they are more focused on American football? It is bad timing at least in this country.

    Third, how many of us will or have gone to see a minor league baseball game in the past year? Or better yet a Division II or Division III football game? Or a college soccer game? If LD, and Howard, and Dempsey were playing I bet the place would have had more American fans. The fact that it was a B team (and only 10 of them at that) was a major reason even hardcore fans did not buy tickets.

    Reply

    • Posted by ed on 2010/01/26 at 11:56 PM

      yeah, i posted pics from the game on my facebook account and a “friend” insulted me, basically because football is going on. he told me to keep living the dream. i’m like, it’s my effin facebook, the game was on saturday and i watched football on sunday. and i thought about saying more, but i didn’t want to alienate people.

      Reply

      • Posted by ed on 2010/01/26 at 11:56 PM

        i mean, i didn’t want to alienate people that obviously don’t give a crap about alienating soccer fans.

        Reply

  7. Posted by Timmy on 2010/01/26 at 8:47 AM

    I agree also. I can not make the trip from Miami to Tampa this time because the game is on a Wednesday. I have made the trip over there on both previous occations (2007 friendly vs Ecuador) and 2008 Olympic qualifier vs Honduras. Both previous games were on Saturday. In 2007, I thru my bachelor party in Tampa surrounding the US v Honduras game and brought about 15 guys to the game (Donovan hat trick game). Good times… The exposure to the game has increased significantly over the past 10 years and it will continue to grow with time as will our success both locally and internationally. Keep fighting the good fight!

    Reply

  8. Posted by Joe on 2010/01/26 at 8:53 AM

    Nick, exactly what you wrote about is what I emailed Gulati about. His response was very weak from a fans perspective. When have you seen a commercial about the team on ESPN during prime time? Did they put commercials about the game at all? NO one knew the game was on TV unless they were big supporters or readers of certain sites. I am an American Outlaw and love how they are making strides at getting fans to the games but without the backing of the team it will be almost impossible.

    Its a WORLD CUP year, 5 months away actually. The US team should be getting packed houses and huge followings from new fans but they are not. I put the blame on the team itself. They do not do enough to get fans to follow the team, even when it should be automatic since the WC is so close.

    Can you imagine how outnumbered we will be at the WC? I will be there with a group but I highly doubt we will have anything near most other teams.

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/01/26 at 10:14 AM

      Joe, Nick:

      Wanted to let you know I’m inventorying your comments for a future column or future research.

      I’ll just add here that….I don’t know what the US budget is.

      In my opinion, if you are going to have, let’s say Nike make your jerseys that deal should also include promotion of the team.

      I’m sure USSF’s budget are tight (I’m not positive…but it’s something I am going to look into after this commentary here) ….anyway….don’t worry….I won’t forget this column.

      Reply

      • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/01/26 at 2:51 PM

        I cannot believe that the USA do not get more coverage. I was actually fairly disgusted last summer when not many people knew that the ConFed Cup was on, but people sort of jumped on the bandwagon during the SF vs Spain. It would have been “manageble” if this acted as a springboard, but nope. Apart from FSC, I did not see one advert for a US WCQ. And in NYC, you wouldn’t even know a game was being played. Considering how much money Nike spends on advertising in major markets with the likes of Rooney, Messi, Ronaldo et al, you’d think that they’d spend a little more in the US to increase awareness, especially in a WC year – even if it was to sell more replica shirts…

        Reply

  9. Posted by Matt "Justice" Connolly on 2010/01/26 at 10:55 AM

    Matt, if you want to come and crash at our place in KC, your more than welcome. We have Houston’s AO Pres. crashing for our Snuggie Barcrawl this weekend. Can anyone say last minute flight deals?

    Reply

  10. Posted by kaya on 2010/01/26 at 11:26 AM

    US Soccer’s got way too low of a profile. Somebody who cares has to have connections to the primtimes, billboards and jumbotrons of the country to get the fat cats to subsidize some publicity for our *national* team and get them some exposure. (I’m assuming the budget isn’t there w/o, maybe I’m wrong.) People have short attention spans and they get hyped about the games in big sports in part because they’re plastered all over the place.
    I think the helLA attendence stats show they better keep moving the games around. People with limited local attendence opportunities in other locales would likely appreciate the appearances. I’m pretty gutted that they aren’t doing a friendly in the bay area this time and they cut us out of the 2018/22 bid cities, too.
    P.S. I like that photo, too, Matt.

    Reply

  11. Apparently we’ll have to wait a little longer before we get another chance to stage the biggest event in the world, thus garnering guaranteed publicity:

    http://www.soccerbyives.net/soccer_by_ives/2010/01/tuesday-kickoff-europe-plotting-move-for-2018-cooper-returns-to-1860-and-more.html

    Reply

  12. Posted by bw on 2010/01/26 at 12:25 PM

    Typical fan perspective: “Oh really, they’re playing? Where? Home Depot Center. Again? Yeah. Against who? Honduras? Again? Yeah. What’s the score? 2-0. Again? Yeah. Isn’t there a Duke game on? Yeah. Ok, let’s watch that.”

    Reply

  13. It’s funny, I wrote about the same thing today. Section 137 was legit. the rest was not. I really think it is time to consider a new location for the Janufriendly, as LA just becomes a home game for everyone else. I mean, USMNT comes to the west coast once or twice every year. If I can make it from SF and my boys and girls can drive from SLO, how does anyone from San Diego to Santa Barbara have an excuse? It’s sad. The best part isn’t even the game, it’s the camaraderie with the other fans that make it such a worthwhile journey. Props to AO, TSG and everyone else who was there, cuz at least we are out there trying to make it a home game.

    Reply

  14. Posted by ed on 2010/01/27 at 12:09 AM

    where on the west coast is the a better venue than the home dept center? let’s be real, the stadium, the complex, the access, etc can’t be beaten. it’s not like most of the tickets were sold at some local box office, they were sold on the internet. everyone has the same opportunity, should they want to attend. i drove down from fresno – about four hours. i talked to guys from modesto, which is about another two hours north of me. sf people, it’s only six hours (same as modesto), and i’m very confident that there are cheap flights from about every west coast & other major airport in the u.s. to los angeles.

    let’s stop making excuses. if fans want to show up, they will. yes, it’s a very competitive sports market in the u.s., and soccer isn’t the top dog, but i drove 4 hours for a friendly. i brought 5 friends that had never been to a u.s. game, and they all were excited enough to pay for their own tickets and join the american outlaws. i drove like 13 hours to salt lake city for the el salvador qualifier. if you want to be there you will.

    having bitched everyone out, i also would agree that they need to really step up their marketing of games, to build on the excitement of the upcoming world cup.

    Reply

  15. [...] TSG community spent time last week discussing what is lacking in the landscape of American soccer touching on marketing, partnerships, [...]

    Reply

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