Supporter Series: What A Wolfpack!

The Supporter Series is back! Dan Wiersema from the Free Beer Movement files this “report”

That's Alexi, not Alan, Lalas: Hello… how bout that ride in? I guess that's why they call it Sin City haha. You guys might not know this but I consider myself a bit of a loner. I tend to think of myself as a one man wolf pack. But when AO asked me to speak this past weekend, I knew I was among my own. And my wolf pack, it grew. So there… there was two of us in the wolf pack, I have a brother. I was alone first in the pack but then I joined AO. And six months ago, when Justin asked me to speak to you guys I thought “wait a second, could it be?” And now I know for sure, I just added a whole supporter section to my wolf pack. AO wolves, running around the desert together in Las Vegas, looking for strip..."

The old adage “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas” shouldn’t hold true when one is talking about the first-ever American Outlaws Soccer Supporters Rally which took place this past weekend. From prime presentations by former USMNT defender Alexi Lalas and FIFA Presidential candidate/Sports Illustrated soccer writer Grant Wahl to the simple act of hanging out with 100 of your closest AO friends, an event like this needs to be talked about from sea to shining sea.

For Outlaws President Korey Donahoo and Vice President Justin Brunken this weekend’s events were the culmination of months and months of leg work finding a location for the rally, nailing down speakers, filling gift bags, and getting sponsorship commitments from companies like Golazo Energy Drinks, Pepsi Max, Parlaid Clothing Co. and Fox Soccer Channel. After all was said and done, a visibly exhausted Brunken acknowledge that every late night was worth it.

“We didn’t really know what to expect,” he said of the rally which was attended by over 80 members of the American Outlaws. “It was surprisingly smooth. It was awesome.”

Justin & Korey.....SUITS?! (photo credit: Renee Krenk Photography)

Brunken said that the Rally’s main goal was to energize their members, network, exchange ideas, and talk about what works (and doesn’t work) for AO without the pressure and hectic schedule that would have accompanied a weekend tied to a National Team game.

“Everyone I talked to had an amazing time,” Brunken added.

The American Outlaws Rally featured speeches and Q &As with the Outlaws leadership, Lalas, Wahl, Little Feet, Free Beer Movement, and a sneak preview of One Goal’s new South Africa film “Laduma”.

Lalas...

It was Lalas, member of the 1994 and 1998 USMNT World Cup squad and current ESPN commentator that got the festivities rolling in the morning. For as enamored as AO members were with Lalas (especially as the real Ginger Prince partied with fans both nights in Vegas), he was just as impressed by the organization. Lalas called his speech “a love letter from me to you”.

“From the bottom of my heart… thank you,” Lalas told the assembled audience, both hung over and wide-eyed. “We’re all a part of this soccer family.”

The former Serie A and Major League Soccer player recalled his days playing for the national team, from his youth days to his days as general manager of the Los Angeles Galaxy less a world-wind tour of his own exploits, but how the fans have shaped him and how they’ve grown since his early days from “pockets and pockets” of U.S fans to crowds “that were getting bigger and bigger” each time the USMNT stepped on the field.

“I feed off of you. You have passion from the bottom of your soul,” Lalas said.

He continued, “The people who have done the work off the field have done just as much as we have on the field” to grow the sport.

Little Feet in action...

In the afternoon AO members saw a moving presentation and appeal from Little Feet founder Trevor Slavik, whose program donates one LF soccer ball to kids in need across the United States and the developing world every time someone purchases one on their own. Slavik spoke of the power that a soccer ball could have for good in the world and challenged AO members to go back to their chapters and become a part of his “Little Feet Army”.

Sports Illustrated head soccer writer and FIFA Presidential candidate headlined the afternoon (although had a tough act to follow, the Free Beer Movement’s Dan Wiersema!) Wahl’s arrival on stage was met by a Golazo-fueled crowd. The soccer-specific energy drink company out of Seattle made a real meal of Wahl’s candidacy printing posters and handling out American flags, courtesy of the Los Angeles AO chapter, to members; and all of a sudden a simple speech became a political rally (and an impromptu march outside will soon become another Wahl campaign video).

Wahl: Addressing the populace...(photo credit: Renee Krenk Photography)

But like Lalas, Wahl’s speech wasn’t really about him, but about the incredible growth of U.S. soccer, and more specifically, the fans’ role in that growth. Catering to his audience he singled out American Outlaws for a lot the sport’s recent strides. He pointed specifically to the Outlaws’ show of support for USMNT forward Charlie Davies during the 2009 World Cup qualifying game against Costa Rica in Washington DC. AO (along with help of this soccer publication) was able to organize and mobilize the “9th Minute Tribute” for Davies at this game that took place less than 48 hours after his career-threatening car crash.

Through the smoke bombs and “number nine” signs emerged the fact that the American Outlaws had landed on the nation’s soccer radar (and did not go unnoticed by Davies, who indicated to Wahl, in an interview coming out in next week’s SI, that the gesture was incredible motivation for his recovery).

“You guys have something going on here and I can’t wait to see what’s next,” he said.

He pointed out that American soccer fans were a part of an extraordinary time in the sport’s history here.

“We’re all creating this American soccer history. Not many countries get to do that.”

That’s what made this weekend’s American Outlaws Rally so crucial because it gave members of this supporters group and opportunity to work and talk and play with other member that are writing the next chapter of this country’s history in terms of soccer. The Outlaws are a shining example of the strides that it has made.

AO was founded in Lincoln, Nebraska, as President Korey Donahoo joked, a “soccer hotbed” in 2007, to “unite and strengthen” American soccer supporters. Sam’s Army paved the way, but AO has taken the baton and pulled around the bend. Today, less than four years later, the organization has nearly 4,000 members in 46 official chapters and every state in the nation.

Through strong brand identification, passionate support in the stands, and, like every growing movement in world today, a great grasp of social media, the American Outlaws has become THE United States soccer supporters group, eclipsing Sam’s Army and even U.S. Soccer’s own “Supporters Club”.

Wahl accurately pointed out that with membership like AO’s “any city in America can now be a soccer hot bed” because of the Outlaws’ work.

For one weekend in March it was Las Vegas, Nevada.

Editor’s note: And of course there was Dan of the Free Beer Movement who brought down the house with his speech as we understand.

"THE" Free Beer Movement in action...

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16 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by John on 2011/03/08 at 6:22 PM

    Just wanted to clarify something. The flags that were handed out weren’t from Golazo, but a contribution from the Los Angeles Chapter.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Johnie on 2011/03/08 at 7:19 PM

    AO Austin in the house! Great work Dan!

    Reply

  3. Posted by Crow on 2011/03/08 at 8:02 PM

    Awesome! Here is the coverage I was hoping for!

    Reply

  4. Posted by StevenG on 2011/03/09 at 1:04 AM

    lol ‘soccer specific energy drink’

    Reply

  5. Posted by John on 2011/03/09 at 8:33 AM

    [espn] Great attendance at the quarterly Sam’s Army membership drive in Atlantic City, now back to Poker after dawn![/espn]

    Reply

    • dear shinny,

      please add this comment to the hall of fame. it is GOLDEN.

      -everyone

      Reply

      • Posted by WK on 2011/03/09 at 12:46 PM

        Enough with the anti-SA sentiment already. SA started out in completely different circumstances than when AO set out. Both groups are there to support the NT. No reason to take shots at SA.

        - Everyone Else

        Reply

        • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/03/09 at 12:47 PM

          Yeah, that’s not anti-SA and I’d ask you to direct me to where there are anti-SA stuff on the site?

          That’s anti-ESPN.

          Reply

        • Posted by Crow on 2011/03/09 at 1:08 PM

          I see how it can be taken anti-SA at first take, but if you read it again its clear it is poking fun at ESPN. If John Harkes calls American Outlaws Sam’s Army one more time, though, I’m going to snap.

          Before we slam ESPN too much though on this site, at least they are televising soccer and tried to do a decent job with the World Cup. Believe me, I have problems with some of ESPN’s coverage but it isn’t like another network is stepping up… ahem…. Fox Soccer Channel.

          Reply

        • Posted by John on 2011/03/09 at 2:50 PM

          Sigh.

          It’s a nerd joke.

          IE

          [espn]WE LOVE LEBRON JAMES [/espn]

          would indicate that espn is saying they like lebron james. this should be read as BEGIN ESPN STRING text.. END ESPN STRING … other examples such as

          [harkes]The two goal leads is the most dangerous[/harkes]

          or

          [Freddy adu] I’m not coming back to MLS [/adu]

          or

          [Ray Hudson] MAGICIAN MESSI OAAMFOSIDNFBRALLALSHRO *** Cue RAPTURE! [/Ray Hudson]

          And now the joke is dead. Massacred by over analysis.

          Reply

  6. Posted by Crow on 2011/03/09 at 1:10 PM

    By the way, does anybody know how the supporters section tickets work for the Gold Cup knockout stages. I want to go to the games in DC and LA (assuming the US advances), but I haven’t heard anything about tickets for those games. Does anybody know how it has worked in the past?

    I’ve been checking the AO site hourly.

    Reply

    • Anyone who is still unaware, this is the low down on Gold Cup tickets:

      For the Group stages (US supporter’s section) either:

      1) By tickets through American Outlaws website (while they last)

      2) Go to ticketmaster.com and use the code “STAND” and get tickets in the supporters section (which appears to be a hodgepodge of AO & Sam’s Army in the same section)

      For the quarterfinals, semis, final
      1) AO says they probably are not going to be able to get a section of tickets
      2) Go to ticketmaster.com and use the code “STAND” and get tickets in the “common” US supporters section

      If anyone wants to NOT be in the supporter’s section but get good seats throughout the stadium, enter “USAFAN” at ticketmaster to get $5 off of seats anywhere in the stadium.

      Crow, I guessing you already found this out but if not hope it helps.

      Reply

      • Posted by Crow on 2011/03/09 at 5:32 PM

        Thank you very much! Extremely helpful. Its kind of annoying that the supporters groups are being messed around a bit but I guess CONCACAF is in charged. At least there is a supporters section of some sort even though the organization wont be the same.

        Reply

  7. Posted by Korey on 2011/03/10 at 8:24 AM

    Just a quick clarification…Tickets bought from the Outlaws website are in the same section as tickets bought on ticketmaster using the code STAND. Wasn’t sure if that was clear.

    Great article Dan! And you’re not giving your own speech nearly the credit it deserved. The Free Beer Movement brought down the house! Thanks again

    Reply

    • Thanks Korey, but the real story is about AO and its supporters. It would seem kinda weird if I wrote how great I was in this article (even though I DO rule). You guys deserve as much credit as possible for all the work that you and AO do. Certainly more than just a bunch of free beers!

      Hardy har….

      Reply

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