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The FBM Blog

The Big Pitcher - Atlanta: MLS’ Next, Hard Step

Editor's Note: Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but It bends toward justice”. Sometimes we American soccer fans get wrapped up in the day-to-day, Monday morning quarterbacking (or centerbacking), knee-jerk reactions and miss out on the big picture. This weekly column will focus on picking out the larger themes and issues of Major League Soccer and the American game.

By Eric Betts / Senior Crystal Ball Correspondent

I was an Atlanta resident once, for four years during college. In no way did this experience provide me with the insight to speculate on the prospects or necessity of an MLS franchise in Atlanta.

I was also a baseball-crazed adolescent boy growing up three hours southwest of the Georgia capitol, and that, in its own limited way, does. I watched nearly every non-West Coast game, thanks to the team's increasingly bizarre national broadcast deal with TBS. Every relative knew some random, $15 Braves trinket was a solid birthday or Christmas option. I grew up wanting to be Greg Maddux. I still want to be Greg Maddux.

What I didn't do was actually attend Braves games. My family and I went once a year if I was lucky, usually around my birthday.

Much has been made of MLS pushing to expand its footprint in the Southeast, some of which wrongly assumes that Orlando and Miami count. Growing up, the closest MLS team to my tiny Alabama hometown was the Mutiny around six hours away, but at no point did this ever occur to me. The Mutiny may as well have been playing in the Bay of Fundy for all I cared; my sense of geography just didn't extend to Florida. By the time I thought to look for the closest MLS team, it was in Columbus, which...no.

It's understandable that everyone feels they have to dip the city and its nascent franchise into their own personal litmus test to determine its potential. Will a cavernous NFL stadium suffocate the atmosphere? Will a vibrant supporter culture spring up out of the sprawl? Will anyone want to play on its turf? Will they just shut the team down when college football season starts?

I have no idea how successful an Atlanta team will be out of the gate in 2017. What I do know is the league needs a team in Atlanta. That footprint that's been such a focus in the run-up to Wednesday's announcement matters. The MLS model of hopping from safe zone to safe zone has been an unqualified success during the last decade of post-contraction rebirth, which is why it's freaking everyone out a little that the league is starting to disregard some of those rules in the cases of Atlanta, Miami and NYCFC.

At some point the league is going to have to blaze its own path. If Atlanta isn't ready for an MLS franchise, then there's no better place start that process, not just for the metro area itself, but for the thousands of little me's scattered throughout the region starting to think they might be interested in this soccer thing. They don't matter much on paper in terms of the metrics most of us look at when we judge soccer markets: They won't buy season tickets or write new and clever chants for 2017.

But in the more stable position MLS finds itself in, it can afford to take a flyer on developing some of these youth prospects, and the long-term growth potential the Atlanta market represents.

Tags: Big Pitcher, Eric Betts, Major League Soccer

VIDEO - Monday MLS Skill Check

"Do you wanna play with fire, scarecrow?" - Dan Patrick

Tags: Major League Soccer, Video

VIDEO - Every Goal From MLS (Week 5)

 

Cue Max Bretos (circa 2002).... "YEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!"

(Via Kick TV)

 

Tags: KickTV, Major League Soccer, Video

We’ve Got History: Major League Soccer’s First Goal

Back then they were the "Clash", those jerseys (!), and there was the 35-yard running shootout. Sometimes babies are ugly.

But it's our baby and we love it. 

Major League Soccer's first goal was scored 18 years ago today by none other than one of the infant league's marquee players, Eric Wynalda. The San Jose Clash hosted D.C. United (who would go on to win the first three MLS Cups) at Spartan Stadium. Wynalda's finish was voted the league's inaugural "Goal of the Year".

Watch highlights from ESPN's broadcast of MLS' first match. Wynalda's goal near the end. 

Tags: Major League Soccer, Video, We've Got History

The Best of Both Worlds - Redhook Brewery Company’s Seattle Sounders/ECS Beer “No Equal” Blonde

Ahead of Saturday's always massive Cascadia clash between Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders (2pm CT on NBCSN) we received a package at FBM HQ from Redhook Brewery. 

Inside was their latest edition of "No Equal", the beer created for Emerald City Supporters, the Sounders' largest supporters group. The original version of "No Equal" was an amber, but, just in time for spring, they've released a blonde version of their popular soccer-specific-beer (SSB). 

"No Equal" was the first SSB in the modern American soccer era and, of course, not to be out done by their Pacific Northwest partners the Timbers Army collaborated with Widmer Brothers Brewing to release "Green & Gold" kölsch (and re-released again this season) and a more limited released of "Big Hearts & Brass Balls, a Caleb porter.

There's nothing better about American soccer than a good ol' fashioned rivalry and it only makes it better when two great beer cities also happen to be two great soccer cities as well. 

* All photography featured on this page was taken by the Free Beer Movement and is property of the Free Beer Movement.

Tags: Beer, Major League Soccer, photography, The Best of Both Worlds

The After Bar: USMNT 2 - Mexico 2

 

Highlights:

Analysis from some of American soccer's best writers:

Grant Wahl (Sports Illustrated) - "A Tale Of Two Halves: Three Thoughts on the USA’s 2-2 draw with Mexico"

Mathew Dole (MLSSoccer.com) - "Three Things: Michael Bradley's role opens up World Cup options for USMNT"

Noah Davis (American Soccer Now) - "The Shape's the Thing: Klinsmann Adopts a 4-4-2"

Mike Prindiville (NBC Sports) - "U.S. Men’s National Team defense remains unsettled after Mexico draw"

Will Parchman (The Shin Guardian) - "USA 2 – Mexico 2: Odes & String Music To Beckerman"

Player Ratings/Grades:

Greg Selzter (MLSSoccer.com)

Brian Sciaretta (New York TImes) 

Steve Goff (Washington Post)

Tags: The After Bar, USMNT

A Brew For You…. And You… And You (USMNT vs. Mexico)

The pomp and circumstance has passed. We “Dos a Cero”-d Mexico otra vez. Tied them at Azteca (and won a year earlier there), and bailed their asses out all the way from Panama. We can close the book on that Gold Cup embarrassment from 2011, shelve it and let it gather dust. Right now there need not be any U.S. is this-or-that vis a vis Mexico.

Another addition of this age old rivalry is upon us, but for all inclined (unless you’re a Mexico fan DESPERATE to save some sort of face from World Cup qualifying) this match is nothing but filler before the main event in Brazil. Tonight’s match from Arizona is really an under-card fight pitting Major League Soccer versus Liga MX. It didn’t end so well for MLS in the CONCACAF Champions League, but we’re willing to bet this round will end better.

Will we or won’t we see Julian Green on the field tonight? Will Clint Dempsey find his USMNT form again? Can we please, please improve on the dreadful back line performance from Ukraine aka Cyprus? Will Michael Bradley grab this game by the balls?

These are the important questions not needless measuring sticks with Mexico.

Another important question is what to drink with your U.S. game tonight?

With any “rivalry” match (even if this one is relatively meaningless) is an occasion to break out the “colors”. If the new U.S. Soccer away jersey wasn’t chalk full of enough patriotism (I love it) then your beer should cover that for you.

We recommend Oskar Blues Brewery Company’s “Dale’s” Pale Ale (Longmont, CO). One of America’s best craft breweries “Dale’s” and Oskar Blues was also one of the first craft breweries to begin putting their suds in cans. Ingenuity… it’s the American way.

And while we’re talking about the can (we’ll get to the insides in a minute) you can’t go wrong with the color scheme for “Dale’s”. Red, white, and blue…. unmistakably patriotic to hold in your hand and hoist in the air when we score on El Tri.

Inside the can you’ll find a healthy dose of citrusy hops alongside pale malts. The New York Times even bestowed “Dale’s” with the title of “best pale ale” in 2005. Even almost a decade later this gem for Oskar Blues holds up as the craft beer scene has exploded.

Better yet Oskar Blues just recently opened a second brewery location in North Carolina meaning you can know enjoy some of Colorado’s finest in nearly every corner of the country.

Drinking Local?

If you find yourself in Phoenix for the match and our looking for something local to taste check out Four Peaks Brewing Company in nearby Temple, AZ. Consistently voted the Phoenix area’s best brewery/ brew pub. And they sell their wares in cans, too, around the area.

Cheers to soccer!

Tags: A Brew For You, Beer, USMNT

The Best of Both Worlds - All of Our 2014 FBM Beer-view in One Place

With Major League Soccer and the rest of American soccer kicking off we've curated an impressive list of players, personalities, broadcasters, front office folk, and fans to have them tell us (and you) about their upcoming 2014 season.

And, of course, pair their hopes and dreams for this season with a tasty local brew.

That's not just a preview... it's a "beer-view".

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Here is our entire series of beer-views all in one place for your view (and perhaps tasting) pleasure.

Eastern Conference

Chicago Fire and 3 Floyds Brewing Company "Robert the Bruce" Scottish Ale

Columbus Crew and Elevator Brewing Company "Dark Horse" Lager 

D.C. United and Port City Brewing Company "Optimal" Wit

Houston Dynamo and Saint Arnold Brewing Company "Bishops Barrel No. 6" Imperial Pumpkin Stout

New England Revolution and Samuel Adams "Boston" Lager

New York Red Bulls and Barrier Brewing Company

Montreal Impact and Dieu du Ciel "Moralité" Pale Ale

Philadelphia Union and Neshaminy Brewing Company "Neshaminator" Weizenbock

Sporting KC and Boulevard Brewing Company "Long Strange" Tripel

Toronto FC and Mill Street Brewery "Tank House" Pale Ale

Western Conference

Chivas USA and Border X Brewery "Abuelita" Chocolate Stout

Colorado Rapids and Great Divide Brewing Company "Colette" Belgian Pale Ale

FC Dallas and Lakewood Brewing Company "The Temptress" Imperial Milk Stout

Los Angeles Galaxy and Angel City Brewing Company Imperial Chai Stout

Portland Timbers and Basecamp Brewing Company "In-Tents" India Pale Lager

Real Salt Lake and Wasatch Brewing Company "Snap Down Header"

San Jose Earthquakes and Drake's Brewing Company "Denogginizer" Imperial India Pale Ale

Seattle Sounders FC and Epic Ales "It's Pouring Again" India Pale Ale

Vancouver Whitecaps and Granville Island Brewing Company "Cypress" Honey Lager

Tags: Beer, Major League Soccer, The Best of Both Worlds

CONTEST - Win the New USMNT Jersey from Soccer Pro

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

No. Not Christmas. That amazing time every four years when national teams release their new jerseys before the World Cup.

This spring is no different as the United States men's national team debuted both their home and away shirts for Brazil.

We've partnered with Soccer Pro to giveaway one of the new USMNT (or USWNT) home jerseys for our followers on Twitter.

How can you win?

Follow the Free Beer Movement and Soccer Pro on Twitter and then tweet the following:

"I want @FreeBeerMovemnt and @SoccerPro to hook me up with the new #USMNT jersey. #FBMContest"

We'll pick a winner on Thursday and announce on Friday who will be sporting the new shirt in the stands (or on the golf course!).

Good luck!

Tags: contest, DrinkWear, USMNT

VIDEO - Monday Morning MLS Skill Check (Week 3)

"Whoop!" - Chris Berman

Tags: Major League Soccer, Video

VIDEO - All the Goals from MLS (Week 2)

G.... G.... Goooooooooooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaal!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(via Kick TV)

Tags: KickTV, Major League Soccer, Video

The Best of Both Worlds - 2014 FBM Beer-view: Columbus Crew

With Major League Soccer and the rest of American soccer kicking off we've curated an impressive list of players, personalities, broadcasters, front office folk, and fans to have them tell us (and you) about their upcoming 2014 season.

And, of course, pair their hopes and dreams for this season with a tasty local brew.

That's not just a preview... it's a "beer-view".

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By Frankie Hejduk / USMNT and Columbus Crew LEGEND (and Free Beer Movement Spokeperson)

Times are definitely a changin’ over in the “MASSIVE” city of Columbus.  Crew fans are abuzz over this “New Era” of soccer.  NEW owner, NEW coaching staff, NEW home jersey, NEW songs, NEW chants, NEW team…The Black and Gold are ready to rock!!

With some new experienced additions looking to make an immediate impact to get the Crew back to their winning ways, things are looking bright gold.  Newcomers Clarke, Parkhurst, Gonzalez and Francis all have experience, three of which are currently in national team pools, and should bring leadership qualities to the backline.

The midfield will be as solid as ever with Higuain leading the way and Will Trapp holding down the fort.  A couple more additions in Paladini and two-time MLS Champion Hector Jimenez will provide more added experience, speed and ball possession to this “New Crew” soccer which likes to keep the ball buzzin’!!

Up front, the Crew have a number of options.  And whether they go with the speed of Oduro, the grit and fight of Arrieta or the newly signed 6’6” Adam Bedall, all bring a different look for the Crew. 

If preseason was any indication of what the Black and Gold can do, it should be a “MASSIVE” ride for the Crew this year.

Can Coach Berhalter and his All-Star coaching staff lead the Black and Gold back into the playoffs and let the Nordecke rock?...I…I believe…I believe that we will win…I believe that we will win!!

Beer: "Dark Horse" Lager (Elevator Brewing Co.) – Columbus, OH

 

 

Tags: Beer, Major League Soccer, The Best of Both Worlds

The Best of Both Worlds - 2014 FBM Beer-view: Colorado Rapids

With Major League Soccer and the rest of American soccer kicking off we've curated an impressive list of players, personalities, broadcasters, front office folk, and fans to have them tell us (and you) about their upcoming 2014 season.

And, of course, pair their hopes and dreams for this season with a tasty local brew.

That's not just a preview... it's a "beer-view".

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By Richard Bamber / Colorado Independent Supporters Organization

Head Coach:

Pablo Mastroeni (finally!)  Pablo retired as a player last season at LA Galaxy after a long and illustrious career in MLS including a period in the US National team.  The reasons for his last half season in the LA Galaxy reserves were explained when rumors surfaced that he and former coach Oscar Pareja did not really get on.  As soon as Oscar departed, Pablo was back almost immediately, first as a 'special assistant', then 'interim head coach for preseason' before the club gave him the main job last weekend.  The Rapids say they interviewed multiple candidates for the head coach job, however some cynical fans say all they did was write a contract for Pablo in that time.  We suspect the truth is a bit of both.

Is he the right man for the job?

That depends on whether you value experience over loyalty.  Pablo has always been seen as a natural leader in the locker room and the man himself has made no secret if his desire to move into coaching after his playing days were over.  He is also a club legend & the perfect example of someone who bleeds burgundy through & through.  After Oscar left, the club indicated they were looking to appoint a head coach who was likely to stay in the job 10 years which makes Pablo an obvious choice.  However the simple fact remains - this is Pablo Mastroeni's first coaching gig.

Player(s) to Watch?

Many Rapids fans will be pinning their hopes on there clubs' first ever designated player, Honduran international Gabby Torres, to lead with the goals this season, able assisted by Deshorn Brown who was one of the standout draft picks of last season. Veteran Vicente Sanchez is able to distribute the ball with pinpoint accuracy and could be instrumental in setting up the Rapids' attacks this year.

At the back we have youngsters Chris Klute & Shane O'neill who are on the fringes of the USMNT camp plus 2nd year goalkeeper Clint Irwin is expected to remain solid between the sticks & continue to be a complete salary cap bargain for his minimal MLS base salary. Lastly, after a protracted transfer process, our Cameroonian teenager Charles Eloundou is ready to go. This kid is really really fast...

Editor's Note: Oh... and they have MLS' reigning Rookie of the Year Dillon Powers.

Predictions for 2014?

All the top sides in the MLS Western Conference appear to have had a relatively stable off season and we think the likes of Portland, Seattle, Real Salt Lake and LA Galaxy will be up there again this year. The thing about the Rapids is, despite the improved roster quality, we don't appear to be able to put it together consistently, particularly away from home. I predict we'll grab a play-off spot but have to contest the play-in game again.

Beer Pairing:

If you go by what the fans drink on the supporters terrace at DSG Park then the answer to this is most definitely Strongbow cider! In possibly the smartest business decision ever, the now club sells it by the truckload on gamedays for pretty reasonable prices considering the stadium environment.

However an imported English cider wouldn't really pay homage to Colorado'a rich tradition of craft brewing which gives me literally hundreds of beers to choose from and a very tough decision.

After careful deliberation & also drawing from extensive road tests with our supporters I am going to stick my head out, risk a hundred different opinions and recommend Great Divide Brewing Company's "Colette" as a perfect a compliment to a Rapids game. Colette is a Belgium style ale that is produced just a few blocks down the street from the British Bulldog in Denver.

Formally only available during the summer months put now produced all year round, it is intended to be refreshing as well as have a distinct fruity taste making it perfect for those hot & sunny gamedays we are lucky to have in Colorado. It is not too heavy in the stomach which makes it perfect to consume just before jumping around in the supporters sections at the game. It also also as an ABV of 7.3% which you the added option of having a few extra, should the team play so badly that you wish to forget about it afterwards!

Tags: Beer, Major League Soccer, The Best of Both Worlds

VIDEO - Monday Morning Skills Check (Week 2)

MLSSoccer.com's Jason Saghini does his best SportsCenter impression and takes us through some of the sweetest touches, through balls, and juke moves from the second weekend of Major League Soccer.

"Supple foam Nick RImando!" - Craig Kilborn

Tags: Major League Soccer, Video

The Best Of Both World - 2014 Beer-view: Chicago Fire

With Major League Soccer and the rest of American soccer kicking off we've curated an impressive list of players, personalities, broadcasters, front office folk, and fans to have them tell us (and you) about their upcoming 2014 season.

And, of course, pair their hopes and dreams for this season with a tasty local brew.

That's not just a preview... it's a "beer-view".

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By Jeff Crandall / Senior Content Producer, Chicago Fire

Team: Chicago Fire

Coach: Frank Yallop

Is he the right man for the job?

Yes. Yallop has brought a fresh air to a Fire team that saw 2013 end in bitter disappointment after a great fight back from the start of the season. He’s clearly accomplished in MLS with three domestic titles and two Coach of the Year awards to his name but beyond that, he’s shown to be a coach that always gets the most out of his players.

Yallop has put together a strong support staff in the form of assistants C.J. Brown and Clint Mathis and Technical Director Brian Bliss. Training sessions run more efficiently and players seem to be grasping the directing being given much more easily than in the past. Simply put, Yallop and crew do well to relate to the MLS player because they all were at some point in their career. They keep things loose for the guys but are able to command respect and be serious when it’s called for.

Player(s) to watch?

With Mike Magee being the obvious one, I’d point to new Fire youngsters Benji Joya and Harry Shipp.

Joya comes in as a very young professional with two-and-a-half years experience already from his time with Mexican side Santos Laguna. The San Jose, California native can play throughout the midfield has been adept at playing two ways, scoring and setting up some quality goals in preseason. In his first real game for the Fire in Sunday’s 3-2 defeat to Chivas, Joya showed poise, scoring literally seconds after entering the match

After a very successful senior season at Notre Dame where he helped the Irish to their first College Cup and finished as runner-up for the MAC-Hermann award, it was a huge win for the Fire to claim Shipp as a Homegrown player. Most agree Shipp would have been a top three pick in the SuperDraft and he backed up the hype with two goals and an assist in preseason. Shipp has fantastic attacking vision and a soccer brain that you don’t see from a lot of players that have played four years collegiately.

The pair above were the only two to get significant minutes with the first team group in preseason and it wouldn’t surprised me to see one or both of them continue that during the year.

Predictions for 2014?

Photo Credit: AleHeads.com

I truly think that the Eastern Conference is a crap shoot in 2014. There are certain teams you would say for sure will be in the playoffs but I have no reasonable prediction for them. Yallop has had to deal with an incredibly tight salary budget inherited from mis-steps made by the last group so expecting many reinforcements isn’t likely. That said, I think the Fire will be a playoff team but will probably have to battle through the Knockout Round again in the East. The hope every year in Chicago is to catch that elusive fifth U.S. Open Cup title and Yallop has earned high praise for saying he plans to take the competition seriously.

Myself and many others would probably take Open Cup glory over a fourth place finish in the East.

Local Beer Pairing:

I’m not sure it fits with our team but my favorite “Chicagoland” beer would be 3 Floyds Brewing Co.  “Robert the Bruce” Scottish Ale (Munster, IN).

Dark, malty goodness is right up my alley. If I have to find a way to relate it to the Fire, I would say I hope this team battles as well against MLS as this guy did against England.

Tags: Beer, Major League Soccer, The Best of Both Worlds

#ItAllStartsHere…. With A Beer

Editor's Note: I don't often post personal items on the Free Beer Movement site. The FBM, is, after all, a grassroots organization, so by definition is about the people and their actions that define us. That being said there are times I like to drop in to share a few things about myself, my ideas, and my hopes and dreams for soccer in America. 

Today is one of those days. Lucky you.

Major League Soccer is running a contest called #ItAllStartsHere where American fans share their stories of their soccer beginnings. I'm not interested in the prizes, but it certainly inspired me to think about where the Free Beer Movement all started. 

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By Dan Wiersema / Founder, Free Beer Movement

I wasn't born with a ball at my feet. I was awkwardly introduced to soccer during my middle school years after it became very obvious that there was no hope for me in pretty much every other sport. 

I was a serviceable defender, then a serviceable midfielder, then a serviceable forward. Then I wasn't. In high school the starting goalkeeper found himself on the receiving end of too many knocks and so, I, in a desperate attempt at getting some playing time clocked in between the pipes. I never returned to wearing the same shirt as my teammates again. 

But you didn't stop by to hear about my mediocre playing career.

You're here for the beer. 

When I travel to soccer games around the country a lot of people ask me, "Where did the Free Beer Movement start?" That question is usually before or after another common question, "Can I get you a beer?". They're both delightful questions because I love telling the FBM story and, well, I love beer. 

What up Naperville? Home of the Chicago Fire from 2002-03.

_____________________________________________

I remember the first season of Major League Soccer back in 1996. I ended up with a full-page ad from USA Today with all these American and international stars on it, one per club, plastered across it. That "poster" hung on a closet door for years (I wish I still had it.. the flowing locks of Lalas and Valderrama... Wynalda, Harkes, the whole denim bridage from '94). But I was a terrible American soccer fan.

My parents bought my a USMNT replica t-shirt jersey (they had a knack for that... I also owned a Florida Marlins t-shirt jersey... cheapskates) that I wore with pride until, when watching the 1998 World Cup in a bar in Hungary (at 15... the beer flowed early), the Steve Sampson squad embarrassed themselves, and more importantly, me in front of all these Europeans.

The stage was set for me to go full-on EuroSnob. 

My first soccer jerseys were a 1998 Netherlands jersey (I'm Dutch by heritage), a Chelsea jersey, and a Michael Owen Liverpool shirt. I was lost. Clearly directionless when I came to my fandom... desperate to latch onto any shiny object of Euro-success that I caught wind of. 

Then the 1999 Women's World Cup happened. USA! USA! USA! My faith in American soccer restored. The women's national team saved my fledging American soccer fandom. I've documented my love of the USWNT before, but it doesn't do justice to the fact that if it weren't for Hamm, Akers, Foudy, Scurry, and Chastain... there would be no Free Beer Movement. 

So I was (kinda-sorta) an American soccer fan again. The Chicago Fire joined MLS. I attended a bunch of games. Born and raised in Wisconsin this was my closest club, but.... a Chicago team? This was a bridge too far. My MLS fandom waned.

Enter the 2002 World Cup. Early mornings! Take that Portugal! Take that Mexico! Germany.... screw you!

Dan... you still haven't mentioned beer yet. You're droning.

Yes. Yes. The beer.

MLS, the USMNT, and the USWNT all floated in and out of my soccer life. FIFA entered. College soccer... playing more than ever before; coaching soccer, too, but I still wasn't the greatest fan. I was also a crappy beer drinker. High Life's and slaying werewolves with the "Silver Bullet". Sigh...

Honduras, 2008. Early victims of the not-yet created FBM.

_________________________________

Then I moved to Honduras in 2008. There's nothing like living in a futbol-mad country to reassess your personal fandom. Back then, before leaving the United States, I thought I was a pretty good fan, but clearly I was wrong. I followed the Honduran national team and the local Liga Hondureno with zest (as much as my poor Spanish would allow). Los Catrachos were on the cusp of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup and when they did (Gracias, Jonathon Bornstein) the nation went bonkers. 

I returned to the U.S. a year later having irreversibly changed my perception as to what kind of soccer fan I thought I was. Because I wasn't one really. What had I really done to help turn the United States into a country like Honduras where the sport flowed in the streets and in the veins of nearly every person?

Nothing. There were builders of American soccer. Those who took up banners and flags when Major League Soccer started in 1996. I had a newspaper clipping on my door. Those who gravitated to the sport in the league's darker days around the turn of the millennium. I was nowhere to be found.

But now it was 2009 and up until that point I had done precious little for soccer in America. 

Dan! Beer!

Yes, the beer.

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Before I moved to Honduras I lived in Milwaukee, "the Good Land", where my craft beer education began. Living down the street from Lakefront Brewery changed my perception of what beer was and having moved to Honduras, a craft beer desert, during these formative years, put a damper on my growth. 

Having returned to the land of the free and the home of the brave and settling in Austin, Texas I had dual goals: be a better soccer fan and consume as many of the diverse options that the craft brewing world would possible allow me.

The Free Beer Movement was born. At first a personal journey of my own soccer and beer exploration. Then a resource for others who might also be following my same enlightened path.

Mrs. FBM's first USMNT match. January 2010. She got me into craft beer. I got her into soccer.

____________________________________________

Since the founding of the FBM I've attended dozens of matches from the NPSL to MLS to NWSL to USMNT/USWNT, I hold season tickets to my local Austin Aztex, and have probably tried countless thousands of unique beers from around the country and the world. 

More importantly, though, is that it wasn't just about me anymore either. It was the invitation extended to friends, family, or even a stranger in the barstool next door to have a free beer and join me on my soccer journey. I didn't just need to be a better soccer fan myself, but I needed to be a better ambassador for soccer as well. 

Most importantly, though, is the discovery of hundred if not thousands of like-minded fans who believe in the power of the pint to build American soccer. That something as simple as a free beer offer (and a bit of educator alongside it) can transform a sport. 

It's a Movement that has re-defined what it means to be more than a fan and to help "build American soccer one beer at a time". The success stories come in bunches to FBM HQ from East Coast to West Coast and what started as a silly idea now has a serious goal.

Now the Free Beer Movement isn't so much about me anymore. And that's a good thing. I mean, someone still has to bang at the keyboard, but it has taken on a life of its own with empowered American soccer evangelicals (polite and not too pushy I hope) taking charge of their own destiny, growing the game, and enjoying a few beers with a few new fans along the way.

That's the essence of the Free Beer Movement. One game. One newbie. One offer. A chance to build American soccer. #ItAllStartsHere.... with a beer. 

Tags: Beer, Through The Drinking Glass, USMNT, USWNT

The Best of Both Worlds - 2014 FBM Beer-view: Philadelphia Union

With Major League Soccer and the rest of American soccer kicking off we've curated an impressive list of players, personalities, broadcasters, front office folk, and fans to have them tell us (and you) about their upcoming 2014 season.

And, of course, pair their hopes and dreams for this season with a tasty local brew.

That's not just a preview... it's a "beer-view".

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By Richard McGovern / The Soccer Desk

Team: Philadelphia Union

Coach: John Hackworth

Is he the right man for the job? 

Probably not.  Promoted to head coach in mid-2012, Hackworth was originally brought in to build the Union’s Academy.  The Former US U-17 coach has shopwn a clear ability to identify and develop young players, but seemed out of his depth running a senior squad.  Hack shows blind loyalty to “hard-working” and more easily coached players to the exclusion of more creative types, often a sign of insecurity in a less-experienced coach.  While his teams are well-prepared, they seem incapable of adapting to changes in their opponents game plan.  Union fans have taken up a collection to buy him a copy of Inverting the Pyramid.

Player(s) to watch?

Brian Carroll.  The Union’s Captain-by-default looked terrible in 2013, a seemingly obsolete model of a holding mid, a winged Polish lancer charging the Panzers of Ozzie Alonzo, Dax McCarty & Juninho.  How much of that was Carroll feeling his 32 years, and how much the strain of cleaning up after a midfield that had a worse collective first touch than Stephen Rea in The Crying Game.  Union fans should have an answer this year, as the team brought in former US International Maurice Edu to run in tandem with Carroll, and former Souchoux captain Vincent Nogueira to play the top of their triangle.

Predictions for 2014?

The Union have improved, but so has the rest of the East, and a real lack of depth on the backline (read: no starting LCB, no true LB) leaves them in the clear second tier.  A big pickup in June, or a breakout season at centerback by Ethan White gets them into the playoffs, but barring that, its another year of unhappy nights and unpaved parking on the banks of the Delaware.

Local Beer Pairing:

The "Neshaminator" by Neshaminy Creek Brewing is the Union in beer form.  The Weizenbock made from the very waters that feed into the Delaware 30 miles north of PPL Park has real bite up top and a solid body, but the back end feels unfinished and has a bitter aftertaste.  Just like the club, it probably needs to age a bit.

Tags: Beer, Major League Soccer, The Best of Both Worlds

The Best of Both Worlds - 2014 FBM Beer-view: Seattle Sounders FC

With Major League Soccer and the rest of American soccer kicking off in just over a week we've curated an impressive list of players, personalities, broadcasters, front office folk, and fans to have them tell us (and you) about their upcoming 2014 season.

And, of course, pair their hopes and dreams for this season with a tasty local brew.

That's not just a preview... it's a "beer-view".

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By Dave Clark / Sounder at Heart

Team: Seattle Sounders FC

Coach: Sigi Schmid

Is he the right man for the job? 

They blew up the roster for him, so yes!

Player(s) to watch?

There are more exciting players (Obafemi Martins, Clint Dempsey, DeAndre Yedlin, Marco Pappa) but it may just be that Kenny Cooper’s performance determines if Seattle is just a playoff team or a contender. If he’s slotting goals like he did paired with world class talents before the Sounders FC offense is going to nearly impossible to stop.

Or you can just watch the shiny things. There are lots of them and they’re fun.

Predictions for 2014? 

The Rave Green will earn at least a trophy in 2014. It’s been too long without one out here and there’s a strong balance to a squad with pure top end talent.

Local Beer Pairing:

Epic Ales "It’s Pouring Again" India Pale Ale (Seattle, WA) – for two reasons.

A celebration of Seattle sunshine is a great way to get the MLS season started up here. Also, it’s an IPA, which is kind of a Northwest beer stable. Epic though does not have a core IPA. This one is only around for a couple more weeks, so you should grab the “bone dry and super hoppy” one off now.

Tags: Beer, Major League Soccer, The Best of Both Worlds

The Best of Both Worlds - 2014 FBM Beer-view: Houston Dynamo

With Major League Soccer and the rest of American soccer kicking off in just over a week we've curated an impressive list of players, personalities, broadcasters, front office folk, and fans to have them tell us (and you) about their upcoming 2014 season.

And, of course, pair their hopes and dreams for this season with a tasty local brew.

That's not just a preview... it's a "beer-view".

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By Ryan Turnbow

Team: Houston Dynamo

Coach: Dominic Kinnear

Is he the right man for the job?

With two MLS Cups, four Conference Championships, two Conference Runner Ups & having only missed the playoffs once in eight seasons, Dom’s success with the Dynamo is as unquestioned as his authority. 

Player(s) to watch?

The Dynamo allowed Bobby Boswell, a six year Dynamo starter, to test the free agent market after the 2013 season.  DC United signed Boswell through the Re-Entry Draft and named him team captain for their preseason match with Houston.  Boswell’s departure left an obvious hole in the Houston backline.  The Dynamo responded by adding David Horst and Generation Adidas defender AJ Cochran to a stable of center backs consisting of Jermaine Taylor, Eric Brunner, and Anthony Arena.  Horst and former Timber teammate Brunner are lead candidates to start alongside defensive anchor Taylor.  Horst started with what looks to be Dynamo first team in the most recent preseason game and appeared to have the inside track for the starting spot only to respond to Kinnear’s first team nod by scoring an own goal.  In doing so, he may have reopened the door open for speculation that Brunner should reclaim the starting spot he occupied throughout the 2013 post season. 

On the opposite end of the field is a player who has logged over 7,500 minutes in his first three seasons for the Dynamo, Will Bruin.  Bruin has proven to be a divisive figure amongst the Houston fan base.  Those who compare him to the likes of Chris Wondolowski are as unfair to the player as those who want him banished to Pittsburgh to play for Houston’s partner ULS Pro Team, the Riverhounds.  After a promising scoring progression in his first two years, Bruin was seen as a player with a nose for the goal.  However, in his third season, despite Bruin’s career high minutes and shot attempts, his goal count fell off pace.  More worrying than the any other statistic, Devin Pleuler awarded Bruin the distinction of being the player with the league’s lowest expected goals added rate.  No surprise to any Dynamo fan, Bruin had enough quality chances to be squarely in the 2013 season’s Golden Boot Race but instead finished with single digit tallies.  The 2014 pre-season has not been much better for Bruin with his lone strike coming against the Dynamo Academy.  In a contract year, the time is now for Bruin and midfield support will never be better.  Bruin and Dynamo fans alike can hope that last year’s dip in production is just that, a dip, and not a sign of things to come.

Predictions for 2014?

Offensive production, depth at defense and formation flexibility will be key to Houston’s season. 

In 2013, all MLS teams combined produced only nine players who shot the ball more than 90 times.  Two of those players, Bruin and Barnes, wear orange.  Unfortunately for Dynamo fans, they also happened to be the only two of that group unable to reach double-digit goals.  Despite their lacking numbers, the duo will be given incumbent treatment to start the season.  But Bruin and Barnes should not sit too comfortably.  Omar Cummings was brought to Houston before the 2013 season to provide speed up front and a goal scoring spark.  Injuries kept him from doing so most of last year, but he has been healthy and on target this preseason.  If goals don’t come early and often from Bruin and Barnes, Cummings won’t hesitate to take on the roll as Houston’s lead hit man.  With a talented and deep midfield to provide service, all three will have ample opportunities to play the role of hero.  If all goes according to plan, the Houston trio will right the wrongs of 2013 and deliver Dynamo fans multiple double-digit goal scorers this year.

Nobody will be happier to see the above prediction come true than the Houston defense, whose midseason form is as crucial to the Dynamo’s success as any other part of Houston’s lineup.  Houston’s summer heat and its ill effects on players are well documented (Right, David Beckham?).  July will see Houston square off against conference foes NYRB and Toronto twice apiece, with a trip to Seattle coming early in August.  If rumors of a Didier Drogba move to Seattle pan out, Houston’s defense could line up against Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill, Jermaine Defoe, Clint Dempsey & Drogba in a span of 37 days.  Starting outside backs Corey Ashe and Kofi Sarkodie, who logged a field player team high of 2,948 minutes in 2013, are up for the challenge, but if either is out due to injury in July, Houston fans have reason to worry.  The proposition of facing that caliber of attacking power is worrisome even for the healthiest of MLS defensive lineups.  Houston attempting to do so without Ashe or Sarkodie is downright terrifying.  The most likely and reassuring replacement is Willie Creavalle, but Creavalle may be needed in midfield if Boniek and/or Davis are in Brazil for the World Cup.  Speculation that a preseason guest appearance for European journeyman Euan Holden, little brother to hometown favorite Stuart Holden, may turn into a roster spot could help.  Other likely options are Mike Chabala and Brian Ownby, who has been lining up at defense in the preseason.  Heavy perspiration is the norm at BBVA come July but even the coolest of Dynamo fans will have pre-game sweat beading on their brow at the prospect of anyone but Ashe or Sarkodie lining up against their late summer foes.

Houston fans might find the answers both question above in its midfield depth and the flexibility of players like Boniek Garcia, Giles Barnes, Willie Creavalle, and Ricardo Clark.  Kinnear has shown a willingness to shift lineups in order to best exploit the talents of his players.  Garcia can excel as both an outside midfielder and an attacking midfielder.  Barnes has been playing forward since coming to the Dynamo but many see him as a better fit at attacking mid.  Creavalle has played all over the field for Houston including central midfield and outside defense.  Clark can fill the role of a defensive or attacking central midfielder. 

For arguments sake, let’s assume Horst will win the starting defense spot next to Taylor and Houston starts the season in a 4-4-2 formation.  If 2013 and preseason games are any indication, the Dynamo starting lineup will consist of Bruin and Barnes playing attack while Davis, Clark, Garcia and Cascio occupy the midfield with a defense made up of Ashe, Taylor, Horst and Sarkodie. 

Injured defensive back?  Move Creavalle down, Clark back, Garcia to attacking mid and insert Cascio at right midfield.  Need more fire power?  Drop Clark to defensive mid, Barnes to attacking mid and place Cummings up top.  Want to own the center of the field?  Employ a 3-5-2 with Clark and Creavalle playing deep behind Davis, Garcia & Cascio.

Unlike other MLS teams who have brought in headlining DPs, the Dynamo have stayed consistent, hoping small additions to a successful core can propel them to the next level.  Going into the 2014 season, Kinnear has put together the deepest, healthiest lineup yet to start a season at BBVA.  Houstonians should be excited about the prospects of the 2014 season.

Photo Credit: Beers and Ears

Local Beer Pairing:

St. Arnold’s Bishop Barrel 6 – Pumpkinator (Imperial Pumpkin Stout) Aged in Rum Barrels

Brewed: April 26, 2013
Racked: May 16, 2013
Bottled: February 6, 2014
Enjoyed by Houstonians: February 17, 2014
Pumpkinator – 10.4% ABV
BB6 – 13% ABV
Bitterness – 30 IBU
Pumpkinator – 1.094 Gravity
BB6 – 1.024 Gravity

Coach Domenic Kinnear is the patron saint of Dynamo soccer so where better to look for a beer to pair with his Dynamo than Saint Arnold’s, the old guard of Houston breweries?  Taking a fan favorite beer, Pumpkinator, and aging in Appleton Estate 30 Year Rum Barrels can only result in good things.  Much like the 2014 Dynamo Roster, Saint Arnold’s Bishop Barrel 6 is a tried and true formula with a little something added.  And just like the Dynamo in the post season, this beer, best served around 50 degrees, hits its stride after warming up a bit.  Houston fans can hope Canetti’s additions to the 2013 roster do for the Dynamo what barrel aging did for Pumpkinator, take a Houston institution and make it better.

Tags: Beer, Major League Soccer, The Best of Both Worlds

VIDEO - Every Goal From MLS Week One

 

Meow, meow, meow... please, please score.

Tags: KickTV, Major League Soccer, Video

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