Archive for the ‘The Supporters Series’ Category

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...

The Supporter Series: Tony Danza Army

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The Supporter Series on TSG celebrates supporters clubs across the US.

Supporters groups aren’t just for big clubs and national teams. In a tiny, but beautiful corner of Los Angeles, a light blue clad army exists, the Tony Danza Army.

Before you ask if Galaxy or Chivas USA has changed their colors let me introduce you to, arguably, the most successful soccer club in Los Angeles, the Pali Blues. The W-USL is the second division of women’s professional soccer in the United States and the Pali Blues have won two championships in as many seasons behind the support of the Tony Danza Army (TDA).

TSG first learned of the Tony Danza Army following some research (i.e. we clicked on a link) when Max Goldman, founder of TDA, put together this video to pump of USMNT fans after the World Cup draw in December. However, opposing teams and Pali Blues management are well aware of the vocal group of supporters. Said, Pali Blues General Manager Jason Lemire:

[TDA is] one of the best things about our organization. In a league that generally struggles for genuine stadium atmosphere, The Tony Danza Army brings entertainment and credibility to our gameday. They personally motivate me [as General Manager] to match their enthusiasm. The coaches and players love having them at the stadium and say that they are the type of fans any organization would want.

Max Goldman answered some questions for TSG about the Tony Danza Army and Pali Blues and, along with the folks TSG met at the US-HON match, helped inspire The Supporter Series.

TSG: Why did a bunch of dudes take an interest in women’s soccer and, in particular, second division women’s soccer?

I would attribute this to the very nature of the Tony Danza Army, which resonates with people on a variety of levels.  On one level, we’re all good ol’-fashioned sports fans, the guys who love to attend games and be the most enthusiastic fans in the house.

On another level, a lot of us are passionate soccer folks, the types who would watch any game, anywhere, and follow our team to the bitter end.

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The Supporters Series: Celebrating What’s Right

Support for soccer in America is still about quality over quantity.

Supporters under the flag after Goodson's goal.

No place was this more evident than the opening match of 2010 for the USMNT when a small, but raucous group of American supporters where outnumbered by the Honduran counterparts by a wide (wide) margin at a friendly in Los Angeles.

The TSG community spent time last week discussing what is lacking in the landscape of American soccer touching on marketing, partnerships, location and the USSF itself, among other things. While there are many reasons why soccer in America hasn’t progressed at the pace diehards (and sponsoring organizations) would like, there are probably an equal number of reasons why soccer has managed to get as far as it has since 1990.

One of the reasons soccer has finally achieved a sustainable foothold in the American sports consciousness is the dedicated, loud and, at times, irreverent supporters clubs creating a unique fan experience at each contest.

So today, TSG is announcing a new article series, The Supporter Series, to celebrate what is right about soccer in America and the effort of individuals and organizations across the country doing more than their fair share to elevate the sport in the US.

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