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An American in Brazil: Meet Teddy Goalsevelt

Teddy conquering the Amazon in Manaus. 

Mild-mannered Chicago advertising man by day. Legendary former American President Teddy Roosevelt by game day.

Meet Mike D’Amico.

Since his first appearance with Jimmy Conrad and KICK TV post-Natal and then in millions of home around the world during the broadcast celebrating during the USMNT-Portugal match D’Amico is currently the “face of American soccer”.

What started out as just a silly idea to enjoy his time as a fan supporting the national team in Brazil has grown into a viral journey few, especially D’Amico, could imagine.

Below is the story, in his own words, of how one man took Brazil by storm and channeled his inner 26th President, Teddy Goalsevelt.

Idea

The first part is the boring and lame part. Since October I had been letting my beard grow. I had a beard that maybe came down to my chest. It was a massive beard. I knew that I was going to want that beard. It’s like a face scarf. It’s too hot for that.

That was so much work. Like nine months. There’s got to be something I can do with this. Can I dye it? Can I shave it into USA? Into a statue? Can I carve it?

I travel a lot for U.S. Soccer and I always love the guys that no matter the temperature or what the conditions are they’re always dressed up. There’s the guy in the colonial outfit; the tri-corner hat and the wig. There’s always the guy with the World War II general helmet with the pipe and the aviator sunglasses. Those guys get people psyched. It gets people excited.

If I’m going to Brazil, if I’m spending all of this money… why not try and do something like that?

So I started brainstorming. I had the facial hair thing in my head. I had Brazil on my mind.  It all of a sudden it came to me: Teddy Roosevelt.

Who better to be that than Teddy Roosevelt in Brazil, in the Amazon? The mustache and the Rough Riders.

With that much beard growth is was pretty easy to turn it into his mustache.  In fact I had to trim it a bit.

I mentioned it casually to a few people, just to test the waters and the were like, “YES!”

I started to put it together in like March or April. Looking around and piecing things together. Ironically almost the entire costume was assembled from Amazon.com.

Tapping a rich cultural history

I was talking to a bunch of fans at the hotel before the Natal match and this was the first dabble into American soccer culture. They were looking around and there was me and General (George S.) Patton, and Duff Man, people with the face paint and the wigs. All the different kinds of people dressed up.

So a U.S. soccer match is kind of like the Super Bowl meets ComicCon.

The cool thing about being an U.S. soccer fan is the breadth of culture that we have access to that can immediately represent America. Some other countries don’t have that.

There are so many cultural things. There’s so much history.

Teddy Roosevelt is like you took American culture, rung it out, and made a cartoon character of it. Like he’s not real. This is a guy who born and raised in New York, he was a cowboy, a Rough Rider, a politician, a President, and all of the expeditions. The story of this man is almost fictional.

I think that’s part of the reason everyone loves the costume so much.  There are lots of President that could claim to be the “most American President”, but I think you’d have a hard time making a better case  than you can for Teddy Roosevelt.

An Unexpected Reception

I thought I was just going to be another guy. “Ohh… look it’s a super hero that’s cool. Ohh… look it’s George Washington. Ohh… look it’s Teddy Roosevelt.”

But it’s been like, “Superhero. George Washington. TEDDY ROOSEVELT!”

Then there’s like a line to take photos and people want to sign songs. It’s just been over-the-top craziness since day one.

I had absolutely no idea that is had gotten so big back home. Buzzfeed. I was on the homepage of ESPN.com. They were talking about intense fans of the World Cup and that’s not something that’s been apart of our vernacular.

Will Teddy ride again after the World Cup?

That is a question that I don’t feel like I get to answer. I feel like everyone else has already made that choice for me. One of the first emails, after returning from Manaus, I got was from a co-worker was, “You’re wearing that on Monday to work, right?”

All of the guys back home at American Outlaws: Chicago were like, “I don’t care what it takes you’re wearing the ‘Teddy Goalsevelt’ costume to the first game back. It doesn’t matter how many free beers it takes… you’re doing it.”

I think Teddy will live on. I think he has to.

Perspective

The fact that this many people are sharing and tweeting and posting my stupid face just means all of those people were watching U.S. soccer.

Which is incredible. How big this has gotten… it couldn’t have happened if there wasn’t a critical mass of eyeballs on the match. So the fact that so many people were watching the ability to turn my dumb face with this hat, glasses, and mustache into a viral hit is fantastic.

Not for me, but for the game.

Tags: American Outlaws, Major League Soccer, USMNT, World Cup

An American in Brazil: Rainy day in Recife

I had only been asleep for about 30 minutes when the alarm went off at 12:45am. My head wouldn’t meet a pillow for another 24 hours. I can tell you at the beginning of this story it would be all worth it.

When it comes to getting enough rest it’s never been something I’ve been particularly good at. I actually tend to thrive in low-sleep situations.

Which is good because this day is going to be one of those types of days.

By 2am we’re on the road to Recife from Natal; twelve busloads of American Outlaws including a spare bus just in case one breaks down. The rain is falling steadily. We’re anticipating a wet day, but certainly not the conditions we’ll push through in about five hours.

The thirteen buses are cruising down BR-101 courtesy of a Federal Police escort between the two World Cup host cities. Our bus “tour guide” cracks a joke about the Brazilian highway system saying that if the same people that were charge of paving these roads had built the Great Wall of China they’d still be at it today.

As dawn breaks it’s become increasingly obvious that this isn’t just a steady, tropical rain but full-on flood conditions. As we transition from rural Brazil to urban Recife the roads turn to rivers. Our bus caravan plunges, literally, on. I swear there would come a point where, like in Oregon Trail, we’d have to make a decision of whether or not to caulk our wagon and ford our way to the stadium.

Arena Pernambuco is located outside of the city proper and thankfully somewhat distant from what would later be reported as nearly thigh-high water in Recife. The exterior the pre-game party hosted by the American Outlaws is flanked by two ridiculous large inflatables on the outside, one of the World Cup mascot and the other, for some reason, a goat. On the inside both Good Morning America and the TODAY Show have staked out the entrance and frantic producers are fighting to grab the most unique dressed and loudest American fans for backdrops to their live-on-location reports.

Given our personal struggles to make it to the previous two matches on time this is the first pre-game party that myself and my traveling companions have made it to. We’re not disappointed.

The never-ending rain has added a special extra element to the festivities, forcing everyone into closer quarters since the risk of drowning outside it quite real. The sound of every chant of “USA” or “I Believe” sounds that much louder and feels that much more intense.

Teddy Goalesvelt and I at the AO tailgate. 

I haven’t tailgated this early since college and thinking about the time and space in those ten years is a brief and slightly depressing thought that is pushed out of my head as quickly as the next beer is pushed into my hand.

By the time we begin to march to the stadium everyone’s red, white, and blue is tinted by a translucent poncho or a new, darker shade compliments of the pouring rain. The perpetual showers don’t dampen the enthusiasm of the Outlaws on their trek to the stadium; many stopping occassionally to match the quantity of liquids going inside their bodies to that of the flow of rainwater cascading off them.

To be honest Pernambuco is the least impressive of the three World Cup venues the U.S. plays in. It’s boxy and impersonal. It doesn’t look like sand dunes or a woven basket. Perhaps it’s the drenched, grey sky or it’s missing the mystique of being in the middle of the rainforest or I didn’t just “Amazing Race” to this one.

Inside and situated back far enough to be under the arena’s protective cover the crowd’s energy has a much different feel to it that the other two matches. Ghana was outright intense; America and her fans making their boisterous debut on the World Cup stage. Portugal’s crowd was confident, surging until silenced in the last seconds. The chants and cheers are the same as their preceding games, but the spaces between each are more distant, spaced out by fans rubbernecking to the few people with working data plans keeping sections updated on the action in Brasília.

On the field the U.S. has shown well. Thomas Müller’s goal, the lone tally wasn’t the result of some disastrous defense just a well-taken shot. The USMNT is giving Germany a game. Alejandro Bedoya’s cleared shot, reminiscent of Michael Bradley’s in the previous game, jolts the crowd who collectively remove their fingers from their nail-nibbling mouths to give some last-minute encouragement.

As the final whistle blows there’s about two minutes where we waited on our compatriots with the cell phones to give us a final Ghana-Portugal update. The U.S. players and coaching staff clearly have better service in the stadium than we do. They’re celebrations trigger ours as devices confirm what we’re witness in front of us.

We’ve gone through.

There’s a peculiar thing about the World Cup to celebrate advancing to the knockout rounds when you’ve just lost a game. It’s a tough feeling to reconcile. For me I haven’t seen the national team lose a game in over a dozen games over the past two years (all home games) so I’m standing there thinking about that. But then the result is insignificant because you’re through and it’s the elimination games that we have to prepare for.

Again I think the weather, the depressing drizzle, has affected my thinking because I’m focused more about the loss than moving forward. Ultimate my head will clear over the next five hours on the bus and by the time we return to Natal I’m fully over the day’s loss and eager to began our next World Cup challenge.

While the team and large chunk of American supporters will proceed onto Salvador I, unfortunately, will return to a bar stool in Austin, Texas. Several thorough loads of laundry between today and Tuesday will return my sun/sweat/rain-soaked jerseys to their former glory.

Travelling to Brazil with American Outlaws feels a lot summer camp. At the Houston airport where we’ve all landed, before departing to our own corners of the country, new friends exchange contact information and promises of dinner, drinks, and a couch or bed to sleep on if they should ever pass through each other’s city. Old friends, veterans of this soccer supporter dance of hello-game-goodbye, shake hands and hug until next time.

My journey to the World Cup, as an American in Brazil, was one amazing adventure; filled with more twists and turns that I ever could’ve imagined. It was both one of the most stressful and wonderful experience of my entire time and I wouldn’t trade any of it for anything.

Until next time.

Tags: American Outlaws, Major League Soccer, USMNT, World Cup

An American in Brazil: Thousands of MLS supporters come together for USMNT

NOTE: This article originally appeared on MLSSoccer.com.

RECIFE, Brazil -- They’ve come from all over the country clad in red, white, and blue. But they have other colors with them. 

The burgundy of the Colorado Rapids. The rave green of the Seattle Sounders. The red of Toronto FC. And so on. All the colors of Major League Soccer teams are here in full force.

For them, this trip to Brazil is about club and country.

Finding an MLS jersey inside the stadiums of Natal, Manaus, and Recife isn't easy. But on non-game days, they are everywhere. Fans are eager to rep their local side: Sporting KC t-shirts in the hotel lobby, New York Red Bulls jerseys at a Brazil watch party, a LA Galaxy cap for protection from the Brazilian sun, or a pair of Portland Timbers shorts for lounging poolside.

A few years after the Dynamo arrived in Texas and Houston native Rick Worley returned to his hometown from Washington D.C., he picked up season tickets as both a matter of civic pride and the natural evolution for his passion for soccer

“I definitely grew up loving the U.S. national team. I can’t imagine anything better than the U.S. winning a World Cup,” said Worley. “But BBVA Stadium is amazing and such a great atmosphere. The city has really embraced this team.”

Jake Beard, a director of the Iron Lion Firm, an Orlando City Soccer Club supporters group, echoed a similar sentiment.

“I think it’s different for everybody. Some take club over country. For me I was a fan of the national team before I ever had a club to root for,” he said. “So for me I’ll always be here to support the U.S. It’s been a two year journey to be here now and all the obstacles along the way. It’s been a dream come true to go to the matches.”

With the World Cup in full swing the club rivalries take a back seat to supporting the national team.

“No matter what we’re here for the team,” said Peg Manning, a Seattle Sounders season ticket holder since their MLS debut. “The players become our own even if they play for other teams.”

“Our joke all this year has been 'It's not June yet',” Manning’s husband, Tim Blanchard, interjected with a laugh.

“Now it’s June: Go Kyle (Beckerman)!” Manning added.

MATCHCENTER: 7 MLS players in starting lineup against Germany
For the teams that sent MLS players to represent their country, there’s an extra special amount of pride for their fans.

“What’s not to like about that (having club players on the national team)?” Blanchard asked rhetorically.

Worley was excited to see Dynamo players past and present on the USMNT squad.

“I was really lucky for the first game against Ghana I was in the front row right behind the U.S. bench and to see when the guys stood up and started clapping the first one I was congratulating was Brad Davis. To see (former Dynamo) Geoff Cameron out there too was cool. To see those two guys out there representing the orange was pretty great.”

During the Portugal match, Manning and Blanchard were represented by not one, but two Sounders’ players on the field.

“I was screaming for DeAndre (Yedlin) so hard,” said Manning.

“It was tremendously exciting to see Dempsey and DeAndre on the field together,” added Blanchard.

MLS’ connection to Brazil gets stronger when Beard’s OCSC joins the league in 2015. The team’s majority owner Flavio Augusto da Silva is a native of Rio de Janeiro. Beard said his purple jersey has caught a few eyes down here in Brazil because of his club’s owner. And his future fellow MLS fans are quite welcoming as well.

“I’ve met so many cool people here on the trip and everyone has been so receptive of Orlando.”

Even in faraway places like Manaus MLS fans are discovering each other.

“We’re walking from the stadium back to the buses for the airport," Blanchard recounts. "About halfway back we stopped in this crammed spot. There were just two seats in this tiny place. We asked the folks if we could sit down and started talking to them. Turns out they sit in section 109 (of CenturyLink Field) and we sit in section 209. She’s Brazilian and lives in the Seattle now.”

They exchanged information and plan on meeting up back in Seattle before a game.

“It really is such a small world,” Manning added.

Tags: American Outlaws, Major League Soccer, USMNT, World Cup

An American in Brazil: Madness in Manaus

The U.S. fan’s World Cup is defined, so far, by 30 seconds. Thirty seconds in versus Ghana Clint Dempsey send us into a frenzy onto three points. Thirty seconds left and Portugal knocks the wind out of us and we settle for a draw in Manaus.

Thus is the roller coaster ride that is the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. If you told most American fans that we’d leave the Amazon rainforest with four points I think most of us would take that in a heartbeat. But standing in the stadium at full time on Sunday night I couldn’t feel anything but cheated.

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The trip itself to Manaus was another intriguing story. We finally found ourselves with a spot the charter flight, but delay after delay departing from Natal meant that we would miss the American Outlaws/U.S. Soccer pregame party.  Another straight-to-the-stadium sprint. We were getting pretty good at this.

On the plus side we were able to march, briskly, with other American fans on their way to Arena Amazonia. While it probably wasn’t as epic as what we heard about the Natal march, the experience of being surrounded by hundreds of U.S. fans in foreign country on their way to a World Cup game was incredible.

Arena Amazonia is a gorgeous stadium. Designed to look like a woven basket sold in the local markets it is a crowning achievement of architecture on par with Teatro Amazonas, Manaus’ historic opera house, built in 1896.

As the lineups were announced the largest cheer/squeal was reserved for Portugal’s Ronaldo and his first touch was met with a roar of approval I’d never heard in my life. But as the match wore on and he faded from the match (minus the his last cross, of course) the crowd turned against him, fueled by the growing confidence of the American side and the American fans.

I was situated right behind the Portugal goal the U.S. was attacking in the second half. When Jermaine Jones ripped his shot… that curve… I swear I saw a blinker on the ball it was turning so dramatically.  And Dempsey’s… err… ball into the back of net; at that point of the match anything was possible. Top the group? Sure. Win the World Cup? Why not us.

I thought the United States had the corner on late-game-drama magic, but Portugal had different ideas.

This U.S. team was dominant. Despite two defensive breakdowns at both ends of the game we were the better team on the night. I can take solace, in the long view, that standing up to the likes of Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo on this night in Manaus is a huge step in the right direction for American soccer.

Those will have to be the thoughts that carry me forward to Germany when we face our next “greatest World Cup test ever” ™.

Now there’s just one number to focus on: 90. Ninety minutes of greatness needed on Thursday and we’re through.

Tags: American Outlaws, Major League Soccer, USMNT, World Cup

An American in Brazil: Beach soccer in pictures

NOTE: This article originally appeared on MLSSoccer.com.

NATAL, Brazil - Having finallly arrived in Brazil and settled down it was time for some much needed relaxation. Our insane sprint to the Ghana game was in the rear-view mirror and a couple days of full of fun and sun lay ahead. 

Our host city for the first World Cup match; our triumph over the Black Stars, Natal, sits in the North-East of Brazil. Natal, meaning "Christmas" in Portugese was founded on its saint's feast day in 1599. 

The city has rapidily grown into an popular beachside destination as Brazilians look to escape from the hustle and bustle of some of the country's major metropolitian areas like Rio and Sao Paulo.

With great beaches, of course, comes great beach soccer. Cruise up and down the coastline of Natal and you're guaranteed to see game after game after game cutting across the sand.

Beach soccer, or beasal, as its called here, started in Brazil back in 1992. Wth so many people kicking about in Natal and elsewhere -- not to mention the number of beaches -- it's no wonder that Brazil have won the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup 13 of the 15 times it's been held. 

The beauty of beach soccer, much like soccer in general, is its simplicity. Just a few warm bodies, a ball, and something -- anything! -- to mark off goals. 

Here are just a few sights from Natal's beach soccer scene:

1) The first thing you need is a ball.

2) And a few friends.

3) Set up a goal.

4) Any goal will do.

5) Really.... any goal will do.

6) Even if your goal is still being used for it's original purpose. 

7) Maybe just a game of keepy-uppy instead.

8) Perhaps a kick-about with a difficult defender.

9) The games can sometimes be a bit casual.

10) Or they can be as intense as the real thing (American Outlaws play against Ghanaian fans at their hotel). 

11) But with always one GOOOOOOOL in mind. 

Tags: Major League Soccer, photography, World Cup

An American in Brazil: We’re Ghana (get it?) make it to this game?

It took just 29 seconds to erase almost 48 hours of terrible traveling.

When Clint Dempsey slashed through the Ghanaian defense and buried that ball in the back of the net the stress, the madness, the lack of sleep… it was all worth it. We made it to the World Cup.

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Just two hours earlier our personal 767 landed on the tarmac in Natal. The charter company, after several false starts, finally made amends. We were picked up in Georgetown, Guyana, and after a heartfelt apology from the captain on behalf of the company, we settled into the first-class seats.

Just "the AO 14," as we called ourselves, on a plane designed to carry over 200. Weird.

We landed in Natal and sprinted through immigration and customs, opened specifically for us as we were the only international flight landing that day. Obviously the rest of the American (and Ghanaian) fans had already arrived comfortably early for the day’s game.

We piled into a small bus and took off for Arena das Dunas. Less than three hours to go before the match.

Traffic was awful, so we were biting our nails the whole way. Several times we asked the driver if we should get out and run. How far is it? Our driver insisted he continue with us, but when he got us as far as he thought possible, we all jumped out and began rushing toward the stadium. As we got closer, we noticed that we were not alone. More and more people were joining us on our walk – fans from everywhere -- like a snowball rolling down a hill.

Then the stadium emerged. For the better part of the last 24 hours, it had been unknown as to whether or not we would be at the game. So I admit: I teared up.

First stop after getting our tickets scanned and entering the stadium? A nice, cold beer of course. We barely had a moment to drink in the moment (or drink our beer) when Dempsey scored.

Pandemonium. More tears. Lots of hugs. My wife, Anah, Landon (my best friend since high school), and I in euphoric embrace.

The next 80 minutes were sheer terror as the US team held on to that tentative lead. When André Ayew scored Ghana’s equalizer it was a gut punch. How could this happen? We had come so far? We had endured so much? How could Ayew do this? To us?

And when Graham Zusi lines up for that corner in the 86th minute, I closed my eyes and whispered to myself (I swear I did), “I know we, the team, don’t deserve to win, but I think WE deserve this win.”

John Brooks plowed that ball into the goal and I lost it. I just lost it. This was what it was all for. This made up for all the rebooked flights, the airport waiting lounges, Guyanese customs hall, the taxi ride from the airport, sweating through my Waldo hat. This was everything.

I don’t even remember hearing the final whistle.

Tags: American Outlaws, Major League Soccer, USMNT, World Cup

An American in Brazil: Wait! Trinidad & Guyana are NOT on the way to Natal

NATAL, Brazil – Twenty-four hours ago, I was in Georgetown, Guyana.

Trust me, I’m just as surprised as you are to be uttering those words. Don’t worry, I’ll catch you up in a moment.

Originally we – Anah; my best friend from high school, Landon, who currently lives in Los Angeles (no, not that Landon); and I – were scheduled to depart Saturday evening on "AO Force 2": the second of the two American Outlaws charter planes. “AO Force One” had left the night before bound for Natal and without any hiccups we were to follow right after.

Until we were informed that the original “AO Force Two” was experiencing “mechanical troubles” and was going to be grounded in Houston. The point of charter planes, of course, is to avoid headaches, but ever since the package was announced nearly two years ago, headaches is all that AO leaders Korey Donahoo and Justin Brunken (full disclosure: two very good friends of mine) had experienced.

Rather than a wake-up call from the front desk of our Houston hotel, my phone was blowing up with texts from Donahoo and Brunken with this unexpected turn of events.

“No worries,” the charter company assured us. “Another plane is on its way. You’ll all make it to Natal on time. Oh. Except for one thing … the new plane is a little smaller. You’ll have to find about 15 people to step off the plane and we’ll find a way to get you to Natal later.”

In other words, AO needed 15 volunteers who were willing to take a chance on a different itinerary.

Of course, there was still the chance that the original itinerary, the new, smaller “AO Force Two,” wouldn't hold. But it did. Without any further hitches the second plane took off.

I know because I watched it go.

Yes, Anah and I were one of the 14 that stayed behind. Actually, stepping off the plane to help AO was a no-brainer for us. Donahoo, Brunken & Co. have not only worked tirelessly to make American Outlaws the largest US supporters group, but also are friends. If sidetracking one’s own dream to get to the World Cup wasn’t apart of being friends then what was the point of friendship anyways?

I don’t think most people on "AO Force Two" even knew there were 14 people that stayed behind in Houston. (One of the needed 15 was able to get on the plane when a package member missed his connecting flight and made his own arrangements to get to Brazil.) But there we were: my wife, me, Landon from LA, Brunken and his wife, Tyler from Spearville, Meggie from Lincoln, Chris from Kansas City, Jimmy from Pittsburgh, Robert and Cody from New Jersey, Erin and Ashley from Indianapolis, and a representative from the travel company.

To pass the time in Houston and distract ourselves from the mounting list of unknowns, “the AO 14” – every good adventure needs a good nickname – coined a game called “AOmazing Race.” We’re on Twitter at @AOmazingRace, with the objective of awarding made up points for the journey ahead.

Meanwhile, the charter company was scrambling. The first info we got was that the trip to Natal was going to require some zigzagging: Houston to Miami to Trinidad to Guyana, and finally to Natal. At least that was the first plan.

The schedule would put us in Guyana – yes, the land of Jim Jones – less than 24 hours before the Ghana match. This was cutting it close, but it seemed like enough time. Oh, but wait: Turns out there is no flight service from Georgetown to Natal. So, it turns out, the president of the charter company was going to have his personal plane pick us up in Guyana and whisk us to Natal.

Whoa. Full-on damage control.

But then, we learned about plan B. It was a simplified itinerary. Miami and Guyana were out. Now we would fly from Houston to Trinidad, where the private jet – our winged chariot – would meet us for the final leg of the journey. This itinerary had us arriving just 12 hours before the AO pregame tailgate. It all sounded too good to be true.

Which, of course, it was.

We landed in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, with visions of luxury travel in our heads. How stocked will the private jet's mini-bar be? Can we start a dance party?

I made it through immigration before the rest of the group and went ahead to secure our bags. Then I waited. And waited. No one else showed up. I doubled back only to be confronted by an immigration officer.

“You need to give up your passport," she informed me. "You don’t have a flight here yet.”

Turns out there was no private jet. It couldn’t get clearance to land in Trinidad. Or perhaps there never was a plane. Either way, the AO 14 were now in the Trinidad airport without our passports

Immigrations officials held onto our passports while Robi, our travel representative, called her bosses to get us off the island and to Brazil. Guyana was back on the flight plan.

Once again, there were assurances that a plane would be waiting for us. We didn't feel very confident.

After we landed and breezed through Guyanese customs, our fears were confirmed: no plane.

By now it was one in the morning and we we had no idea if we were going to ever reach Brazil, let alone fulfill the destiny of this trip: Seeing the US national team play in the World Cup. The game against Ghana in Natal was set to kick off in about 16 hours, and we were stuck in an airport in a tiny country on the South American coast. Was this trip ever going to end? And how was it going to end?

At 5, we had an answer. Salvation came from an unlikely source that brought everything full circle. "AO Force One," the charter jet that took the first group of Outlaws to Natal, was on its way to Guyana. It would arrive by 9, and an hour later we would be en route to Brazil.

If everything worked out – and why wouldn’t it? – we would be in Natal and in the stands by kickoff...

Tags: American Outlaws, Major League Soccer, USMNT

An American in Brazil: The USMNT’s patriotic packing guide to Brazil

Editor's Note: This column originally appeared on MLSSoccer.com.

"If it's not red, white, or blue... it's not going in the suitcase.”

Meet my wife everybody.

Anah held herself pretty accountable to that rule while I strayed just a little bit after some of my shorts were not of the American flag variety. Note I said “some”; there ARE several pairs of American flag shorts in my luggage.

Packing to watch the World Cup in Brazil for two weeks was a lot easier than I expected. I’ve done long trips abroad before where packing for all the possible weather permutations and every other thing but the kitchen sink was the bare minimum. But this wasn’t preparing for a week in the Canadian wilderness or living in one of the most dangerous countries on earth (Honduras, if you were wondering).

This was for beach life. Natal, for two weeks, with a day’s excursion to Manaus and Recife sprinkled in. To follow our national team, Anah’s patriotic declaration was proving to be pretty on point and leaving loads more room in our luggage that we first thought.

When traveling to a tropical country like Brazil there were two considerations we kept front and center in our mind: sun and rain. So we have plenty of items to deal with them, like USA sunscreen, USA toothpaste, USA toothbrush, USA bug spray, USA malaria pills…

You seeing a trend here?

Well, here are a few more musts for traveling to the World Cup:

1) Waldo hat. The national team may have adopted the world wanderer’s look as a shirt in 2012, but I’ve been repping my doppelganger since college. If you’re wondering, yes, it is hot, very hot, and yes, I will wear it to the games. So if you see it during some fan cutaway on ESPN, you'll know it's me.

2) Multiple US jerseys. Because being an American soccer fan has no off-days.

3) American Outlaws gear. I’ve been a member since 2008, the year after they were founded, and their shirts are some of the best gear, design and comfort-wise to wear when I’m not pulling a jersey over my Waldo hat. In case your wondering, yes, I put the hat on first.

4) Assorted other soccer shirts. Because why would I wear anything other than soccer shirts? Some of my favorite soccer brands include adidas, Live Breathe Futbol and Bumpy Pitch.

5) Patriotic bottoms. Very important. I’ll be rocking the “bomb pop” and American-flag-themed shorts. Because red, white, and blue shouldn’t be reserved for just your top half.

6) Reading material:

- Howler’s latest issue is the single most amazing and comprehensive World Cup preview I’ve seen; plus beautifully designed and well-written.
- Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s auto-biography. Somehow this player needs to make it to Brazil even if it’s just in book form.
- The 10 Shirt: How the United States National Soccer Team (might have) Won the 1982 World Cup. Hey, a boy can dream.
- Party Brasil Phrasebook. Apparently there are all sorts of helpful phrases in Portuguese about the ref’s mother and/or how he’s a thief. Given the calls already in this World Cup -- except by the American! -- this book might be the most useful. And how to order multiple beers. Indispensible.
- Instant City, a new book about Karachi, Pakistan, by National Public Radio’s Steve Inskeep. No, I’m not kidding. This is the book I’m actually looking forward to the most. What can I say: I'm a history teacher.

There you have it. The American fan’s super patriotic packing guide.

There’s a passport, visa, and tickets squished somewhere in there, too. I’ll find them before take off.

Tags: American Outlaws, Major League Soccer, USMNT, World Cup

An American in Brazil: Allow Myself to Introduce Myself

Editor's Note: FBM's founder, Dan Wiersema, is traveling to Brazil as a part of the American Outlaws travel package along with his wife, Anah, and best friend and soccer teammate from high school, Landon. Along the may he'll be documenting the American soccer's fan experience in Brazil on MLSSoccer.com. His travelogue will be posted here as well. 

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My name is Dan Wiersema and I am an American soccer fan.

That statement is not some quiet confession or a shameful admission to others sitting around in a circle in a community center basement. I say it proudly. Because I believe it should be shouted from the rooftops and declared unconditionally for the rest of the world to hear.

Or perhaps typed on a keyboard for publishing on a website. Which is why I'm here. Over the next two weeks (and, fingers crossed, maybe more), I will document the American fan's experience in Brazil, from Natal to Manaus to Recife, from the bars to the beaches to the back row of a raucous bus.

Who am I?

I am the founder of the Free Beer Movement, a grassroots organization dedicated to “Building American Soccer One Beer at a Time.” Since 2009 the FBM has used the power of the pint to convince newbies that soccer, as Men In Blazers describe it, is the “sport of the future.” Have a friend, family member, or co-worker that doesn’t know much about the sport? Buy ‘em a beer and educate them. Beer is the medium… soccer is the message.

I’ve been a fan of Major League Soccer since I pasted a USA Today ad with Lalas, Harkes, Balboa, Wynalda, and Co. on my bedroom closet door to support them as they launched the league back in 1996. I suffered through the 1998 World Cup in Europe defending the Yanks despite their disastrous finish. My faith was restored during the USWNT’s World Cup victory in 1999 and celebrated in euphoric silence at 3 a.m. from my best friend’s parent’s basement as we shocked Portugal in 2002. From Germany to South Africa, Kansas City to Salt Lake City, I’ve seen this sport grow to unbelievable heights.

So, yeah, I’m a pretty big fan. Or supporter or enthusiast or whatever semantical rules you play by. Certainly there are bigger fans than I am, and smaller ones, but who cares. Regardless of the level of fandom, we’re all fans of the same country and the same team.

Right now, I’m sitting between two dogs on a couch in Texas. But tomorrow, I’ll be sitting between two palm trees. Or maybe two beach chairs. Or two Caipirinhas. Or all of the above.

I'll be one of thousands wearing red, white, and blue, chanting "I believe that we will win," and representing our nation as a member of the American Outlaws, the vibrant US national team supporter group. We all have our stories, some of which I will tell as our journey goes, some of which are yet to be written.

My name is Dan Wiersema and I am an American soccer fan.

Tags: American Outlaws, Major League Soccer, USMNT, World Cup

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 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

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

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