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Making The Case - Please Drink Responsibly

This is a case of beer. We are making an argument or case about something. See the connection?

Last night 20,465 "fans" attended a Major League Soccer game between FC Dallas and Los Angeles Galaxy. We say "fans" because late in the match there was one person who couldn't help himself from being not a fan, but a massive idiot. It would be more likely to say that 20,464 fans attended the match along with a single, bumbling moron.

Late in the game, one that saw two PK saves and a red card, FC Dallas' George John redirected a header that already bounced off the crossbar to earn the home side a dramatic late winner against the defending MLS Cup Champion Galaxy. In the ensuing celebration John was struck by a flying projectile later identified as an aluminum Budweiser bottle. Directly behind the goal is FC Dallas Stadium's beer garden, home to one of the supporters groups, the "Dallas Beer Guardians", and, apparently, at least one total dumbass.

To be clear we've already spoken to the DBGs and they've informed us that the suspect (caught on camera above and arrested for public intoxication) was NOT a member of their group or any of the other FC Dallas SGs. Furthermore a member of DBG told us that they were concerned about aluminum bottles being sold in the garden (and informed the FCD FO as well) because of the potential of incidents just like last night's. Given Dallas' proximity to FBM HQ in Austin some our biggest adherents to the "FBM philosophy" are up in Dallas. We're proud of the responsible FBM-ing the Beer Guardians do and, more importantly, their condeming of the fan.

John's gash after being struck with a bottle.

Matches like those against high-profile teams like Los Angeles, (back-to-back Cup holders, stacked with talent like Robbie Keane and the just-returned Landon Donovan) often draw big crowds. Not too mention FC Dallas is sitting pretty in first place in the Western Conference so what you have is a recipe for a stadium full of relative newbies and/or casual fans. A last-minute goal, combined with too much alcohol, a first-timer acting stupidly, and a player ends up getting hurt. A team and its supporters painted with broad stokes.

The switch to put beer from the beer garden in only aluminum bottles was definitely a poor move. Certainly it was to speed up serving time versus tap beer and increase brand visibility on a bottle versus a plastic, see-through cup. More likely than not the FC Dallas front office will re-examine the issue of the bottles and listen to the SGs that warned them earlier. Hopefully it doesn't mean the closing or moving of of a place that is credited as a "a significant success and improved the usually quiet atmosphere of FC Dallas Stadium." The actions of one person shouldn't determine the future of many.

The Free Beer Movement creed is "building American soccer one beer at a time" and we firmly believe that the power of a few free beers can open the doors for many, many people to the beauty of soccer in the United States. Except for when the power of that beer is used to tear down the American soccer experience.

Posted at the footer of our site is the following: 

"Free Beer Movement promotes the RESPONSIBLE consumption of alcohol. While viewing matches at bars or stadiums please look out for yourselves and appoint a designated driver to return all FBM participants and guests home SAFELY.

Free Beer Movement is not responsible for the actions of its members or guests and asks that each member of guest of the Free Beer Movement exercise PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY in not over-consuming alcohol while viewing or attending soccer matches."

It's easy to get wrapped up in the "beer" part of the FBM, but beer is just the medium while soccer is the message. If at any point the over-consumption or irresponsible use of alcohol gets in the way of the greater message then you're doing it wrong. We've yet to hear about any FBM experiences that have gotten out of hand and, from our interactions with our friends, followers, and supporters FBM is just as much about beer education as it is soccer education; both how to be a good beer drinkers and good fans. Last night's individual was neither.

If the Free Beer Movement ever became associated with these sort of actions on a regular basis we will shut this thing down. Without hesitation. 

George John, to his credit, was a sport about the incident and posted to Twitter that evening:

 

According to the Dallas Morning News John is not pressing charges against the suspect. Certainly the Frisco Police Department will have other avenues to charge the man and FC Dallas and stadium security will make sure his first soccer game there was his last.

There is a reason soccer is often referred to "the beautiful game", but, unfortunately, it can also create some ugly moments. There's no questioning that these "ugly" parts of our game are influenced by a variety of factors around the world: racism, nationalism, civic pride, etc and often inflamed by alcohol.

It's important that we, as American soccer fans and soccer fans in the United States, hold ourselves to the highest standards as to avoid the darkest corners of the sport and where fandom sometimes exists.

For the Free Beer Movement it is important that we continue to promote the utmost responsibility when doing what we do best: "building American soccer one beer at time".

Drink on. Drink responsibly.

Tags: Major League Soccer, Making The Case

Making the Case - Why Local Matters

This is a case of beer. We are making an argument or case about something. See the connection?

On Friday, Toronto FC announced a major sponsorship deal with beer giant Budweiser for the upcoming Major League Soccer season. The five-year deal will give Budweiser and its sub-brands Bud Light, Stella Artois, Alexander Keith's and Michelob Ultra pouring rights at BMO Field, plus many promotional events in and around the stadium including tailgates and a new Budweiser "King Club" beer garden.

This is a disturbing move for North American soccer, which despite a league-wide sponsorship agreement with Budweiser, has been surprisingly open to the craft beer revolution going on in North America. In recent years, clubs such as the Colorado Rapids and FC Dallas have entered into deals with Coors and Budweiser respectively.

Meanwhile teams like Portland Timbers, Seattle Sounders, and Sporting KC grow closer to local craft beer brands to increase the mantra of "local soccer, local beer".

That's the natural extension of the Free Beer Movement way. Go local. Go local soccer. Go local beer. Go local economies. If you're making the decision to support live, local North American soccer you ought to be making the same commitment to local businesses. The more dollars we can keep in our communities the more we sustain them. 

If you work in the front office of a North American soccer team that chooses this approach then you've decided that authenticity is a central tenent of your organization. That community, the people that live and work in the town, are your most important assest and they need to be embraced and their wants and needs respect.

As soccer pushes closer to the mainstream of our sports scene the siren song of "major sponsorship agreements" has and will continue to tempt the front offices of clubs around MLS. Obviously the league has already attracted dozens of major partners that pump millions of dollars into the game, but now the individual clubs are attracting interest from big-time sponsors as well; the ones that make the game-day decisions: the "party zones" fans will occupy before the matches, the "meet-the-player" events they'll attend in-between games, and, lastly, and most importantly, the beer they'll drink inside the stadium.

The biggest question of all is whether or not this deal is for the benefit of Toronto FC or any other North American soccer club in the long-term. Certainly TFC's partnership injects a much-needed marketing boost for a team with slouching ticket sales. Since their founding in 2006, this Canadian side has never made the playoffs. In season's past the TFC faithful have weathered this disappointing storm, but cracks are showing. Last season their average attendance dropped to 18,681 from 20,267 in 2011. On television, seat backs have been more and more common as Toronto slumped to dead last in the league.

If you worked in the front office of a team like Toronto FC would you look a marketing gift horse like Budweiser in the mouth? Would you choose the long-term "potential" revenue growth of building authenticity with your fanbase or the fast-track, short-term cash grab (especially as a team like TFC is hemorrhaging dollars at the gate)?

It's a tough call.

Consider the pieces of the TFC-Bud deal:

- Budweiser will launch a commemorative Toronto FC-branded Budweiser aluminum bottle at LCBO locations (Liquor Control Board of Ontario... where you HAVE to buy your booze) in the Greater Toronto Area beginning February 25 (An aside: If you're a TFC fan there's definitely some novelty in drinking a beer with your team's crest on it. But if you're NOT a TFC fan... what's the incentive to buy the TFC-branded four pack instead of, say, a plain, 30 pack? Surely there are few people who, in walking into their local LCBO, will spy the TFC Bud and exclaim "Oh my! We have a local soccer team? I never knew!")

- Having Budweiser "host a pre-game celebration at BMO Field with the Budweiser Big Rig (a mobile bar), live music and great giveaways"

- Fans will "enjoy food and beverages at the new Budweiser King Club at the North End of BMO Field"

- "For those watching at select bars across the GTA, Budweiser will extend the excitement with TFC prizing and giveaways for fans"

- Budweiser has committed to donating over US$350,000 to Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment’s (owners of TFC) Team Up Foundation, which funds charities that support children through sport.

The irony of Budweiser's approach is all of this is a Free Beer Movement wet dream. Each one of the elements of Budweiser's approach to marketing soccer through beer is the cornerstone of the FBM Philosophy.

With one, very large exception. Where's the authenticity? Where's the local connection? Why does this stink of a big, glossy PR campaign without a soul? This deal has all the style with none of the substance.

This isn't the direction we want for North American soccer. Given that MLS and the accompanying lower-division soccer pyramid is young we've got a unique opportunity. Given the intense amount of passion associated with soccer and for one's club we've got a unique opportunity. Given the relative small size of soccer and it's "nitch" corner of the sport-scape we've got a unique opportunity.

A unique opportunity to shape North American soccer in the proper way.  The local way.

North American soccer is in the unique position of being built while our culture, as a whole, is at a crossroads, where one path leads towards the "big box" approach: bigger, louder, inflexible, more santized OR the "local" approach: community-based, responsive, innovative, risk-taking, more subtle... kind of like how most would describe soccer as well.

Instead of locking itself in with Budweiser because they throw a good party with bad beer TFC should be looking to partner with craft breweries (and other local businesses) like Steam Whistle, Bellwoods Brewery, Junction Craft Brewing, Kesington Brewing Company, Great Lakes Brewing Company, Amsterdam Brewing Company, or Mill Street Brew Pub (thanks to several people on Twitter for the Toronto craft beer recommendations). The point is that there are over a dozen of craft brewers in the Toronto area that Reds fans most likely have an authentic connection to (and make a decent brew) and could partner in some capacity with their local team.

Yeah, none of these breweries could park a mobile "big rig" bar in the BMO Field parking lot or produce branded TFC aluminum bottles, but they certainly would communicate the idea that local and quality is a paramount focus for the here, now, and future of Toronto's soccer scene. That's something, especially in dire times for TFC's fan base, that they'd like to hear.

Ultimately that's what North American soccer should be about. A fan bleeds his or her local colors and they damn well should be able to drink a local beer in their stadium.

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

Making the Case - A Few Beer and Soccer Resolutions for 2013

2013. Both shed blood. Although one gives and the other takes.

The new year just kicked off and the 2013 Major League Soccer seaon schedule release is near at hand. American soccer is right around the corner! There's no time like the present to make a few "New Beers Resolutions" for both the upcoming domestic season and the year as a whole.

Here are five that we think you should have no problem committing to:

I'll show you mine if you'll show me yours...

1) Support Local, Live Soccer

Whether you have a MLS, NASL, USL, or NWSL (or any other team across our sorted pyramid) you owe it to yourself to become a season ticket holder (or at the very least a regular attender) of your local team. Ticket sales provide the economic base for our American soccer teams and sometime getting up and going to the games is half the battle.

There really is nothing like experiencing an American soccer match live and in person. Every extra seat filled, every extra clap and shout of support helps add to the atmosphere that helps sell our domestic game.

Of course if you're there regularly then you can....

You'd be surprised who will go to a game for a free beer.

2) Bring a newbie to a game this year.

You had to know that this one was on the top of our list! You're already going to the games and already heading out to the bars to watch your favorite teams from coast to coast and a few across the pong. So why not bring a few newbies?

We've got millions of soccer fans in this country and if we call resolve to just bring one, two, or a handful of friends, family members, and/or co-workers to a game sometime this upcoming season (with the offer of free beer, of course) then we've really got something going here with the FBM in the United States.

Its certainly not a difficult concept to grasp. 1) Attend Game. Done. 2) Buy Beer. Done. 3) Educate. Done. 4) Support Soccer. Done.

If you just insert "with a newbie" at #1, ""for a newbie" at #2, and "together" for #3 you've mastered the idea of the FBM. Throw a bit of soccer education and field a few questions from the newbie and you've got your doctorate in the FBM philosophy.

Do it. Make a "New Beers Resolution" to make this the year that you'll trying a bring at least one... ONE.... newbie to the stadium or bar this season.

(Note... Also see #5 for a bit of follow up)

There a huge beer world out there for the tasting.

3) Get out of your beer comfort-zone.

We've all got our favorite beer. We're partial to certain brands, certain styles. But this can often mean that we're stuck in a rut with our beer drinking. Too often we fall back to the beer we know the best.

Make 2013 the year that you push your beer boundaries. If you're a mass-market beer drinker begin to explore some of the wonderful tastes of the craft brewery world. You might find that one of your fellow soccer fans (or maybe one of your newbies) might be able to point you in the direction of something quite tasty that you would've never tried before. Don't have someone to lean on? Head to one of our nearest beer stores or bars with a quality selection are there are many on hand to help you select a beer that will suit you.

Even those who already consider themselves a "craft beer enthusiast" should break the mold. Coming from from a self-declared "hop-head" it was hard to go in search of beers that didn't pack the same bang as an IPA, but over the years it's been hard to turn down a beer of any style in search of new flavors. Plus, it became increasingly difficult to find an IPA that hadn't been tried in our distribution area.

Through the end of 2012 the taste buds of FBM has experienced nearly 2000 different beers from breweries across the U.S., from massive to micro, and styles that run the whole gambit.

4) Get movin'

Sure you're watching the games, but are your experiencing them to the fullest? Playing soccer helps you see a game in ways that will astound you.

Maybe you used to play "back in the day", but you're a little rusty and think the game has passed you by.

Maybe you fell in love with the game, but never set foot on the field and don't know where to start.

Maybe you've had WAY to many free beers and look round like the ball rather than "fit" like the player.

Don't let this fears hold you back. Chances there are leagues in your area to match any experience level. The exercise will let you take down a few more beers without regret and it will probably do the ol' ticker some good too.

If you're already on the field then try and sneak another game into your weekly schedule. You'd be surprised how addicting, and satisfying, a second or third game of soccer-ball can be.

Ultimately playing the game gives you an intimate (although sometimes frustrating) experience of soccer that you'd never get solely from the stands or the stool.

5) Give American soccer a chance.

With the risk of calling out some loyal readers (and anyone that might stop on by... thank for reading mom!) there are several adherent to the FBM philosophy that use their powers of good for the global game, but wouldn't touch the American version with a ten-foot pole.

So if you find yourself waking up at 6am to watch a game half-a-world away (and there's nothing wrong with that... we do it EVERY weekend) then certainly it wouldn't seem like too much of a stretch to take in a MLS (or other local, live soccer) game this season.

This past MLS season was our best yet and the talent pool, competition, and dramas is blowing up. Sure, there's loads of duds throughout the season, but every league in the world has their "stinkers". That doesn't mean you've got to write off the whole league.

So if you're an American soccer fan, take one of those Euro-loving fan (we don't use "Euro-snob... that's just mean) out to the park and show them what MLS has become, FBM-style.

If you're a global game guy or gal... take another look at the domestic game (with reasonable expectations).. you'll be surprised that local, live soccer is a nice treat.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

So there you have it. A list of five, simple things you can do to make yourself a better soccer fan in the U.S. AND make help us build it one beer at a time.

** Which of these do you think you can hold yourself to this 2012?

** Any other "New Beers Resolutions" we should've included on the list?

Let us know in the comments section.

Tags: Beer, Making The Case

Making the Case - A Publishing Plea for Porter in Portland

"Come on. Do it!"

Photo Credit: Associated Press

By Eric Betts

For the majority of MLS fans, last weekend’s final whistle marking the end of the regular season didn’t mean it’s time to start thinking about kick-off in 2013. That majority doesn’t include me.

Ohh sure, I’ll watch and enjoy the playoffs, but I’m already thinking about next year. Actually, I’m thinking about December, when the Portland Timbers hand the reins over to soon-to-be former University of Akron head coach/definitely-former U.S. U-23’s coach Caleb Porter and instantly become one of the most fascinating teams in the league. I’m not a Timbers fan; I really, objectively believe that. In fact, I think they’ll be so fascinating that I’m desperately hoping someone will write a book about their 2013 season.

Much of the press on the Porter hire focuses on how he’s going to remake the team in his image, from the comments from Portland that they’ve been making player moves for months according to his wishes to the joking(?) suggestions that he’s going to sign and trade for all Akron guys and rebuild his college juggernaut. Rebuilding years are the most interesting from a storytelling perspective, a season-long wave of advances and setbacks. Championship seasons either have a sense of inevitability or come out of nowhere, with little hint that suddenly a team will gel and make a late run. Contenders' seasons often come down to one or two performances that everyone has been anticipating since the beginning of the season; how they do in those games makes for a good movie but often leaves the feeling in a long project that the rest of the year is less important.

But a team trying to make the leap from being bad to good: that could go either way. The process of retooling a team in MLS is even more fascinating than any other league; there are so many avenues to acquire talent domestically and abroad, but just as many restrictions and work-arounds to take advantage of them.

In Porter, we have a coach whose background and narrative arc sets him apart from his peers. There's a reason "meteoric rise" and "sudden fall from grace" sound like cliches:  they're used so often because they work well in an account like this. Porter is a smart coach with an attacking style and getting a glimpse of how he communicates that style to a new team and compromises it when faced with MLS defenses will be fascinating reading. 

Photo Credit: Nick Hernandez (OregonLive.com)

In Portland, we have an ideal setting for this: a rabid and forthcoming fan base in a sporting locale undiluted with teams in two of the three major sports (sorry hockey, you don't count). Plus, there's the appropriateness of setting something like this in Portland, a city whose Trail Blazers were the subject for the best book of this kind anywhere: David Halberstam's "The Breaks of the Game". (Seriously, I don’t care if you think that Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant are actors from 'The Wire', if you have any interest in any game played with a spherical or oblong object of any size, then you should read "The Breaks of the Game", because it is absolutely fantastic.)

That has to be the model here, no matter how high of a bar it sets. The project I’m describing is a work that, like Halberstam's book, will need to zoom in to provide profiles of individual players around the league and pull back to get an overview of the entire MLS organization. (The three-page description of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 'Breaks' is such a perfect summation of his career to that point that it feels like it was fifty pages in hindsight.) This league is filled with characters and interesting personalities, and for a project like this that roster isn't limited to the Kei Kamara's and the Alan Gordon's out there.

At the same time, the league itself is building momentum. Every year they can point to new progress being made – stadiums that are newer and fuller, a level of play that’s constantly improving, the ceaseless march toward team number 20, and the big “Now what?” that will accompany it. Part of what makes “Breaks” great is the timing of it. It covers the 1979-1980 season, the year Magic and Larry entered the league, and so sits perfectly on the precipice between what the NBA was and what it would become. We’re at that time now in MLS. Every year brings developments that would have seemed a pipe dream only the year before.

For this project to be successful, these layers will have to stack as seamlessly as an set of architectural renderings. It's a book that would follow the Portland Timbers, but one that would be about the entire league.

So please, someone with some cachet, some writing ability, and around twelve months to kill, please write this. I’d do it myself, but I only have one of the three, and a year with nothing better to do is hardly a compelling argument.

Instead, you do it, and I’ll be first in line.

About Eric

Eric Betts is a freelancer writer who lives in Austin, Texas with his wife and his dog Lando (yup). He is a contributing writer for "The Other 87 Minutes", their brilliance featured every Tuesday on the Free Beer Movement in the form of "the Tuesday 10" or the "Tuesday XI".

Tags: Major League Soccer, Making The Case

Making The Case - Poo Poo-ing Portland’s Pong (and anyone else like him)

Last night's Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup upset of the Portland Timbers by fifth division Cal FC will be etched in American soccer fans' memories for a long time. Indeed the third round of matches where Major League Soccer teams were introduced resulted in eight "can you believe it?!?!" wins by lower division sides and earned it's own Twitter hastag: #MayMadness.

While soccer journalists and bloggers will comb over, pick apart, debate, celebrate, or fear the rise of the Eric Wynalda-led Cal FC and their run through the Open Cup, we're concerned with an incident that followed the match.

Throughout the match the Timbers Army and the rest of the fans that went to JELD-WEN Field that night bemoaned the missed opportunities of their beloved Timbers. Thirty-seven shots, 15 on goal and a 79th minute missed penalty by Kris Boyd left you wondering if it just wasn't going to be their night. Five minutes into the first overtime period that feeling became a reality when Cal FC's Artur Aghasyan broke through the Timbers' defense to put home the game's lone goal.

The Timbers Army, creative as ever, voiced their displeasure.

"Care like we do."

"This is MLS?"

"This is bull sh*t".

"You deserve it."

Honestly you can't fault the frustration of the Army. It's been a rough season for the second-year MLS outfit and sinking out of the U.S. Open Cup to an amateur side certainly doesn't take any of the sting off.

As the team was leaving the field, one fan, "Pong" took to demanding the players give up their jerseys. The scene was reminiscent of a recent match in Italy when "ultras" demanded the shirts off the backs of Genoa's players. The difference being the Portland incident being the action of one, deranged fan and not mob mentality.

Timbers defender Jack Jewsbury took offense to the notion and exchanged words with Pong, only to be restrained by others.

We're not here to paint a broad brush over Portland's fans and the Timbers Army. Pong's response (and his alone) to his team's loss is downright embarrassing.

There's no doubt that Pong is a passionate fan and a committed one to the Timbers' cause. His righteous anger was probably representative of many of his fellow supporters. The team's effort, as demonstrated by the result, easily pushed him over the edge to unfortunately lash out.

As soccer fans in the United States we've taken a beating from all corners for loving this sport. Naturally we're sensitive, defensive, and sometime hostile.

But, Pong's actions Wednesday night signal a trend that we're worried about. That this game is bigger than everything else.

Don't get us wrong our love for soccer is unconditional, but at the end of the day it doesn't define us. Soccer fans are men and women, young, and old, married, single, divorced. Blue-collar, white-collar. We have kids and pets and jobs and hobbies that all define us more than just the color of our jerseys and scarves.

"Blanky-blank Til I Die"? Booing a team performance? Sounding off on blogs, talk radio, and the like? Those are perfectly acceptable sentiments and worthy ones, but we're not assholes.

We're American soccer fans. We're not England's hooligans, Italy's Ultras, or Latin America's barra bravas (despite having a similarly named supporters group in D.C.). We should pride ourselves on passion and commitment to our teams and our sport, but not to the point that it leads to outrageous actions like Pong's.

As fans we've got to be the best of what soccer has to offer and not its worst. American soccer has come too far and still has too far to go for the fan culture to slink into the gutters of what global soccer has already shown us.

For 90 minutes care about nothing but for your team then take a step back and consider what is really important.

Players like Jewsbury and the thousands of other guys trying to make it a go in this league don't deserve this. Most of them make less that your average firefighter or cop. Reserve league guys might as well be teachers for their pay. The show up at hospitals, grocery stories, youth tournaments and bars. They're you and me with a much cooler day job.

When they blow it we're pissed. When they win we're euphoric. Games can make and ruin days, but we move on. There's always next game and there's always next season.

No one wins "fan of the year" by being more "hard" than the others. Harassing the most opponents or rival fans. Pretending that we're all in "Green Street Hooligans" doesn't earn us better seats at the next game.

We've got to stop this sort of behavior before it comes to define us. It's not just Portland or Pong. It's the guy who lights the smoke bomb at the U.S. game when those get all of the American Outlaws in trouble. It's the Houston fan that launches the flashlights at the Galaxy. It's trying the LA fan trying to pick a fight with Beckham. It's the odd beer can or cup that makes its way toward a player. It's the jingo-ism, racism, sexism, or homophobia in our chants.

We're better than that. We tailgate and post-game and trade scarves with traveling fans. We shake hands with people of other nationalities when they walk into our bar for the U.S. game. We gush over players when we seem them outside the stadium. We tell them "good game" even when we don't really mean it.

In your team's darkest days don't you want to think that this is when you should try and hold your head the highest? That when your team needed you the most you were there to support them?

We should be decent. And should be rational. That's what American soccer fans should aspire to. It's the way we grow the game.

Portland sucks, Seattle sucks, LA sucks. New York sucks, Dallas sucks, Houston sucks, Your favorite team sucks. Our team sucks. OK. Good. Heard it. Got it. Let's move on.

Let's go have a beer. 

Tags: Making The Case

Making the Case - No More Trolling

This is a case of beer. We are making an argument or case about something. See the connection?

By Mike CardilloThat's On Point

"Crawl. Walk and then run." -- Clay Davis

"I'm just a troll who's intentions aren't good, oh lord please let me be misunderstood."  -- Anonymous

Where are we as soccer fans in America?

Certainly past infancy and the terrible twos. Perhaps we're now in the petulant teen mode.

(I must file a strongly-worded letter to the
maker of this graphic, post haste!)

We want everything -- immediately. Right now! Every game, every second, every play should be a World Cup final multiplied by the Champions League wrapped in the 5-foot-7 frame of Lionel Messi with a cooing Ray Hudson shrieking in the background about champagne bubbles. 

Right or wrong behavior or mentality, that's sometimes how it seems. Yes, sure, it's progress from the "modern" era of U.S. soccer that began with the 1990 World Cup, but maybe it's a little unrealistic.

One place where we can all, as American soccer fans, agree is that we probably need to grow up -- or at least grow a thicker skin -- when the old, dying wave of media members with an ingrained hatred of the Beautiful Game open up their yaps or get behind their keyboards and spew garbage, as Joe Queenan, a "humorist" did in the Wall Street Journal, trying to frame the U.S. U-23 team's failure to qualify for the London Olympics as proof nobody in America cares about the sport.

At the same time last week, apparently, UFC president Dana White called soccer boring in advance of promoting a fight at a soccer stadium in Brazil, leading to some banter back and forth on Twitter.

My question: why give these trolls any credence?

The Queenan story in the WSJ was so fraught with factual errors it was actually hilarious and, come on, does anyone truly care if the UFC president does or doesn't like something? Does it cause you to lose sleep at night?

Same thing goes for the King of American "soccer haters," Jim Rome. His schtick is about as fresh as rollerblades, stuck somewhere in 1993 where calling your listeners "clones" was considered edgy.

Truly, why engage people who are have nothing left to cling onto other than the fact, as has been proven for years, that America soccer fans have the softest skin in the world? (I, like all of us, is guilty of this, admittedly.)

Look, in a way, trolling especially via Twitter and other Internet means fascinates me. Gun to may head, the ultimate troll account, @Fansince09 might be the most hilariously brilliant use of the medium out there. If you don't get the joke, I feel bad for you.

As it is, when you go onto an online forum whining -- yes whining -- about the mean things a Queenan writes or a Rome says, you're playing into their hands when realistically these idiots are no better than a pranking troll like Fansince09, albeit much less offensive or hilarious. For decades there was no lazier sports' columnist trope than writing how soccer was for commies or would never be accepted in America, and watch the teary-eyed fans lash back and retort.

More than anything, as soccer and soccer fans mature in America, shouldn't we be past worrying about who does or doesn't like the sport? Sure, the anchors of "SportsCenter" still can't pronounce half the names correctly when they read a highlight -- but soccer plays are a almost a daily fixture in their "Top 10" plays.

Over the weekend when New York Cosmos legend Giorgio Chinaglia died it garnered more attention than was expected, all with the proper amount of reverence -- especially for a player who was most famous for playing in a league that became extinct nearly 30 years ago.

And let's face it too, when the NASL died in the early 1980s soccer did nearly fade away from the American sports landscape. Nowadays you almost can't go a day without a major soccer event on television. Just look at this week, starting with the weekend's European action, the Monday Manchester United/Blackburn game, the (UEFA) Champions League and CONCACAF Champions League on Tuesday and Wednesday, MLS and Europa League on Thursday ... there's never a dull moment.

That's not even to mention the new generation of kids on playgrounds kicking a ball around or sitting in their bedrooms trash-talking me when they beat me at FIFA, who've grown up not knowing a world where soccer wasn't part of the mainstream American sports culture.

So yeah, if you want to fall into the fading, desperate trap in the last wheezing breaths of the soccer-haters, be my guest. Yet when people leap to the defense of the sport they themselves end up coming off as preachy, evangelists. It's a free country. People can like or dislike sports as they please. Personally, I loathe professional golf and tennis. I understand why people are interested in it -- maybe not rooting for an individual golfer who probably wouldn't piss on them if they were on fire -- but it doesn't bother me one way or another. Yet no matter how much purple prose is waxed poetic about Roger Federer, I'm just not going to care. In one ear, out the other.

Granted, soccer fans have had thin skins for years of being told that their sport sucks, is for fancy European divers and will never be popular in America. At the same time, trying to convince someone why they MUST like something gets tiresome after a while (EDITOR'S NOTE... No... never.).

In the world we live in circa 2012, shouldn't we all better than that? There's enough high-level soccer easily accessed that a person can decide on their own whether or not they like it. (ANOTHER EDITOR'S NOTE: Free beer does help, though)

Shouldn't we all have grown up, if only a little?

And isn't one of the biggest leaps from teenager to adult learning to be comfortable in your own skin and not worrying about what everybody else thinks?

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Tags: Making The Case, That's On Point

Making The Case: We Call It Soccer

Preview: For those reading this (and that'd be you right now), this post is about more than semantics in calling our sport "soccer" instead of "football". It is about defining our own history with the sport and our own identity within the global game.

In the last few weeks we've been reading David Wangerin's (author of "Soccer in a Football World") "Distant Corners" which chronicles the emergence of soccer in the United States. Even though we consider ourselves passionate American soccer fans we've found ourseves woefully ignorant on the depth and complexity of the beginnings of the sport here.

Inspiration.

For many younger soccer fans in America it's easy to assume that our sporting history does not extend much before the 1994 World Cup or the foundation of Major League Soccer in 1996. For those more seasoned veteran fans of the game they can recall the heyday of the North American Soccer League, the New York Cosmos, and a gaggle of foreign stars on our shores. You may even have heard or read a blurb about Joe Gaetjens and the "Miracle on Grass" in 1950 or that the United States somehow managed to field a side in the inaugural 1930 World Cup.

The truth is that since the end of the Civil War this sport has slowly, ever slowly, grown. From a game played by a sparse few and fertilized by "hyphenated" Americans to one embraced by all-American squads from New York to Pennsylvania to St. Louis and beyond. From the likes of the "Father of American Soccer" Tom Cahill to the birth of the American Challenge Cup in 1913 (that would later become the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup), American soccer has history.

With that being the groundwork for everything written henceforth, the Free Beer Movement declares that we must erase the term "football" from our collective vocabularies and instead replace it with soccer when referring to the game as it's played in America.

Before anyone swells up into righteous anger, please hear us out.

At the most basical level this is to reduce confusion. Our American nation already has one football and, at this time, is the most popular sport in the country. Continually referring to soccer as football is confusing and ultimately unnecessary. For any of us that have friends, family, and co-workers that tolerate our soccer talk, blending "football" and "football" is at the least confounding and at the most, annoying. We've been prone to referring to "football" as "throwball" and that is most certainly insulting to fans of that game (whether you care about hurting their feelings or not... many of them are potential FBM converts).


As cited by an English gentleman, Daryl Grove, on the "Total Soccer Show" countries that have dueling "footballs" often defer to the term "soccer" to avoid confusion. And well, if that's good enough for Australia I don't know why it isn't good enough for us.

Semantics aside, though, soccer means something. Despite the fact that "soccer" itself is a Oxford-"er" abbreviation of "association football" that originally evolved in the 1880s, the word "soccer" has taken on a uniquely American identity.

Despite the best efforts of many ex-pats in the United States to establish "football" as the prevailing title for the round ball sport emerging in the early 1900s, "football" of the gridiron-persuasion took hold, and as we know in today's Bud Light/NFL world, has not relented since.

To use the word "soccer" instead of "football" is to make a greater distinction than just separating ourselves from the pointy-ball version. It is to declare our independence from the "football" of its birth nation, much like we did from its political system over 200 years ago.

The bright lights of Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge, and Anfield are alluring, like the Sirens from Greek mythology, crashing our expectations for what this sport should be on their rocky shores. Their sport is football and there's no crime in calling it so, but when referring to the Chicago Fire, it should be as their full name implies, a "Soccer" Club.
 

Fall River Marksmen from the
1921 American Soccer League season.

The first "significant, viable professional league" in the United States even adopted "soccer", the American Soccer League, which lasted from 1921 to 1933, before they fell victim to the Great Depression and political infighting. 
Despite their failure it was understood that their name be distinctive from both the "American Football" played professionally and on college campuses and "European Football" played overseas. 

The national federation has, as Wangerin, explains, gone through "a confusing number of name changes, first founding itself as the United States Football Association (until 1945) then the United States Soccer Football Association, and then correcting themselves as the United States Soccer Federation in 1974. A proper name for a proper soccer nation.

For better or worse our history has earned us "soccer". From innovative ideas like substitutions (first used in ASL games in 1926) to the less-so, like the 35-yard running shootout of the NASL and early MLS days or running our season contrary to the FIFA calendar and shying away from promotion/relegation, American soccer is unique and deserves a name that attests to that. We're "soccer" in that we embrace the franchise system and playoffs as the rest of our sports do. Our supporters culture is uniquely "soccer" in that, much like our nation's history, the stands are a melting pot (or the more properly and preferably, but less recognized "salad bowl") of diversity.

By virtue of years of watching, waiting, and dreaming in the shadows of our other major sports and the global versions of this game we should embrace the word "soccer" as a badge of honor; to indicate the hard fought battles of sporting integration to legitimize a game birthed far away from here. 

Give credit where credit it due. Football, invented an ocean away, has inspired generations and millions of Americans (and immigrant Americans throughout) today. We can be fans both of the continental game (and other leagues of the world) and our domestic game, but it's time to call a duck a duck and soccer, soccer.

We eat cookies, not biscuits. We have fries on the side, not chips. We wear pants, not trousers. We go to the bathroom, not the loo. We've declared our independence from so many other English words. Why not football?

For a nation so enamored with "exceptionalism", "leading from the front", and "making the world safe for democracy" we're awfully content to take our cues from our more experienced brethren. We think by now we've gotten what we need from them and it's time to continue our evolution and develop our own, American soccer identity. It's not to say we don't still aspire to the level our continental counterparts, but we must make sure what we produce is as unique as the country our domestic game grows within. Using the word "soccer" is a good start.

But really using "soccer" is just a way of sending a signal to the rest of the world (and many fans of the game here) that we're through subscribing to the way things were or the way things are. There is only the way things will be.

We call it soccer.

Post-Script: The title of this post is both to make a point (obviously) and a tribute to a now defunct blog titled, "We Call It Soccer". The author of said blog first came up with the idea of the Free Beer Movement, which we now curate.

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Tags: Making The Case

Making The Case - Women’s Soccer… Yup… We’re Still Stuck in “That” Place

Abby Wambach's dramatic stoppage-time header, Hope Solo's amazing reflexes, and an incredible 10-women team effort saw the United States Women's National Team triumph over the anti-soccer tactics of Brazil and capture the nation's interest.

Unfortunately, no matter how many heroics these women perform there will be one thing that they can't triumph over.. the blatant sexism that exists in our media. It's nothing new, but just like American soccer bashing, the mainstream sports media just can't seem to get enough of it.

Today's attack on what should be a seminal moment in American soccer history comes from the site, "Tauntr" (which I won't even link to to give them the page views they crave), who's sole mission seems to be make bad jokes that piss off everyone.

"Tauntr is a new brand in sports entertainment that stands for original, edgy, humorous and intelligent multi-media content. Games, videos, animations, images, articles, comics and taunting tools are distributed through platforms such as the web, mobile devices, print, radio, TV, merchandise and live events. Our very unique, rapid content creation company is comprised of professional writers, animators and designers as well as a game development team. Tauntr content is designed to evoke emotion, spur debate and achieve viral activity."

There will be a few of your that tell us that we've played right into their hands with our outrage, but we tend to fall for the trick a lot when the lamestream (yeah Sarah Palin... we stole your word!) sports media trots out their tired attacks on soccer. Being the promoter of American soccer and soccer in America also comes the responsibility of being its defender. An attack on soccer, men's or women's, is worth a sturdy rebuking.

Tauntr in their juvenile "Beavis and Butthead" sense of humor decided to make "propaganda posters" to help promote women's soccer and make even help them get the "right to vote". Very clever. We're still making voting jokes 90 years later.

Here are the posters in reverse order of how they're on the Tauntr website.

Exhibit C

 
We'll only half mention what a shitty Photoshop job this is. So eager to make the joke that they don't even try to do it with any creativity. Women's soccer is only an opportunity to see someone take off their shirt. Go to a beach. 

Exhibit B





Sigh. An accomplished coach gets reduced to being compared to a man in the looks department.


Exhibit A



At first this one wasn't so offensive to us. We used the original "Rosie the Riveter" image in our post yesterday explaining our "lust-to-love" affair with the Lady Nats. After seeing the rest of the posters, we realized the entire project was meant to be demeaning, it hit home that this one wasn't even celebrating the women's strength but mocking them that it took until the closing minutes of the match to get the job done.

Fine... Tauntr rolled out a bunch of tired stereotypes about women and soccer. We get that. This is their shtick. We're at the all-star break for baseball and basketball and football are in the off-season and locked out. They're desperate for content.

If they REALLY wanted to ACTUALLY be edgy as they claim in their "about us" they could've made propaganda posters that DID promote the women's game. The Abby Wambach poster would've been epic without the cheeky parenthesis, the Alex Morgan and Hope Solo poster should read "We're more than just a bunch of pretty faces... we'll kick your ass", and if the graphic artist dropped the "who looks like a man" line from the Pia Sundhage poster it might have been a legitimate criticism of the men's team.

Opportunities lost for a quick, cheap joke.

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Tags: Making The Case, USWNT, Women's World Cup

Making The Case - On Rivalries And Race

Making The Case - On Rivalries And Race

 

It was a tough day to be an American soccer fan. Saturday's 4-2 loss to regional rivals Mexico after holding an early, 2-0 is one of those games that will hurt for awhile. Processing what went right, what went wrong, and what to do about it all is a question for the players, the coach, Sunil Gulati, and the Big Soccer message boards.

A loss to Mexico is always hard to take. As teams and fans we measure ourselves to the performances of our neighbor to the south. Of late things looked pretty good. Chants of "dos a cero", a reminder of eerily similar results the U.S. has racked up against El Tri in some crucial contests, a favorite of supporters.

Now it's Mexico's turn. Consecutive winners of the CONCACAF Gold Cup they now will be booking tickets to the Confederation's Cup as our regional representatives; a tournament the Americans made so magical a short time ago in South Africa.

Our concern today, though, is not the results that took place on the field, but the worrying actions that occurred beyond the edges of the field at the Rose Bowl. By now you've probably read the shocking allegations of American fan treatment in Pasadena (if you haven't it's important for context). The actions of these Mexican fans are nothing short of embarrassing.

In a stadium filled to capacity (93,420) fans of the U.S. National Team were easily outnumbered 90-10 by their continental counterparts. For anyone who's ever been apart of one it's easy to see how "mob mentality" took over many Mexican fans and fueled their actions. From verbal and physical harassment of American fans, to the tossing of various objects (bottles and the like) in a crowd that size and overwhelming numerical superiority, those guilty of such inappropriate behavior mostly likely thought they would get away with their actions. And they did.

It's unfortunately that these actions by individuals who retreated back into the crowd after their acts of cowardice are left to rule the day and fuel the frustrations of American fans already upset by the game's results. For any fan, of any nation, to be treated as such is a disgrace and only inflames the difficult relations between these fan groups.

No one is disputing the fact that the rivalry between the United States and Mexico isn't going to be heated. And certainly American fans aren't without fault. There was our share of off-color stupidity on our side of the fence as well. But rivalries should never disintegrate into racism or worse, violence.

For some the knee-jerk reaction is to respond with the same tired remarks about Mexico and Mexicans and to make an indictment of an entire people. But for every cringing story of abuse from the Rose Bowl came a counter-story of incident-free interactions with the fans of El Tri.

Unfortunately this latest edition of US versus Mexico played out on so many levels. Beyond the soccer pitch is the elephant in the room with the issue of immigration. In recent months several states have enacted (with many more states considering them) several tough measures regarding stemming the flow of undocumented immigrants into the United States and political candidates on both sides of the issue have continued to use the issue as a political football (whichever football you prefer). Frustrations from Mexicans, Mexican-Americans, and white Americans color the entire scene. As these tensions rise outside the lens of soccer it's not surprising that issues play out in the parking lots and stadiums of our two nations' matches.

What happened on Saturday shouldn't be forgotten, but it also shouldn't be used to justify retribution or continued racism. For those that suffered at the hands of some outrageous fan behavior they have every right to demand answers and changes before future match ups between these two teams.

Before the next edition of U.S. against Mexico whether it be in the CONCACAF Gold Cup, an international friendly, and/or World Cup qualifiers there needs to be a complete overhaul of how the venues of these matches are secured, policed, and rules enforced.

This time the blame for not adequately protecting the fans fell to CONCACAF and officials in charge of the Rose Bowl. Russel Jordan the author of the letter we linked to above wrote that he's already had conversations with the general manager of the stadium who admitted that they had the most security ever at the Rose Bowl it wasn't enough. National soccer columnist Steve Davis (Sports Illustrated) wrote on his own site that if the aging facility, while a huge money maker for CONCACAF, cannot be adequately policed then it shouldn't be used for matches.

U.S. Soccer, the Mexican Federation (FMF) Soccer United Marketing, which helps promote the Mexican National Team in the U.S. are now aware that if incidents like the ones making the rounds become more and more frequent it could put every future U.S.-Mexico fixture at risk. Even though Gold Cup Finals and World Cup qualifiers will remain on the docket, huge revenue streams like international friendlies between the two or further U.S. tours of by Mexico will be under the microscope. Most importantly the spirit of healthy competition between the region's two biggest teams will be lost.

Another concern for U.S. Soccer has to be how many fans or potential fans were lost on that sunny Saturday attending a match they were unprepared to experience. American soccer can ill-afford to alienate its small fan base with experiences and stories of dangerous game conditions and security problems.

Moving beyond Saturday's events common sense will have to be CONCACAF, U.S. Soccer, and the FMF, and any venue hosting these matches' guiding light. It was very clear that they will have to put profits behind protection of fans on either side. Dedicating a separate and/or secure section for U.S. fans (while bizarre as that may be fore a game INSIDE the U.S.) at the expensive of fulling filling it should be on the table. Just like some Major League Soccer teams are struggling in dealing with how to "handle" (for better or worse) soccer crowds security at these types of matches need to be in sufficient numbers and properly trained. Be in front of the problem not behind it.

And while not a solution one of the reasons the stadium was SO disproportionately one-sided was because one team's fans bought Finals tickets in good faith while the other team's fans' dilly-dallied. Support your National Team and have faith!

Lastly, despite these terrible incident alleged we, as American soccer fans, must remain above the fray. The American Outlaws have posted their "Act Above" Code of Conduct that asks its member to avoid similar behaviors that they might experience and we can all take a page from that. It might feel good initially to lash out with some choice words about our southern neighbors or to take matters in our own hands next time, but in the long term none of that pays out.

If there's any silver lining to this past weekend's difficulties it is that American soccer is growing and growing stronger. While outnumbered and out-cheered USMNT supporters were not alone in their struggles. Rather than fans roaming isolated into the crowds of red, white, and green many were together in the AO section or in decent sized groups. Each new fan we make is another stalwart against being singled out at matches and someone to march with us in solidarity again the terrible actions of an angry few bent on ruining our American soccer experience.

It can't and won't be that easy to deter our fandom. Soccer in America and American soccer rises as surely as the sun does and there are no terrible words or actions that can stop that.

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Tags: American Outlaws, Making The Case, USMNT

Making The Case: A Troubling Time for Supporters in New England

At this point in American soccer I thought we were really past this. I thought that, for the most part, Major League Soccer teams had decided that supporters were a good thing. Yeah, sure they occasionally dropped the f-bomb and, oh yeah, we'd really appreciate it if you left the smoke bombs at home, but you all keep on doing what looks good on TV and to the rest of the fans at the stadium... cheering your brains out for the home team.

Wrong.

Last weekend the New England Revolution took to the field at the massive Gillette Stadium against the Chicago Fire and what occurred around the 60th minute of this match can only be described as madness. The solid New England site, "The Drug is Football" has documented the incidents well and we''ll be borrowing their descriptions liberally.

"What can only be described as a planned operation took place against the Fort (the supporters section for Revs fans) and Revolution Supporters Groups. Gillette Stadium security, TeamOps, went about ejecting and in multiple cases having the Foxborough Police Department make arrests. The start of all of this is from the "You suck asshole" chant that is routinely done around the league after goalkeepers take a goalkick."

From various accounts of the incident, which you can also read in more detail at two other Revolution sites, "The Indirect Kick" and "The Bent Musket", supporters of the Revs were forcibly removed from the stadium after security responded to multiple complaints over language (during this match and all season) coming from "the Fort". Of others who were not removed many left the game in silent protest of the security details' tactics.

Whether or not this was a premeditated operation is unknown., but members of "the Fort" noticed an increased security presence during the match, more security supervisors from TeamOps (which is owned by Revs team owner Robert Kraft), and the lack of the Revs Girls who normally roam freely around the section cheering with the supporters. An omonous foreshadowing of things to come.

"The Drug is Football" reported that at least 10-12 people were arrested and more than 20 people have been banned from Gillette from the match. Their account again:

"One person who was arrested has gotten in touch with us, due to pending legal action we will not publish his name however he told us he was arrested for disorderly conduct. We witnessed him being arrested and he was peacefully leaving The Fort along with many others. He also has told us that when he was arrested by the Foxborough Police Department he was not read his Miranda Rights, when he asked he was told by the arresting officer "Fuck your rights", in addition when they ID'd him he gave his military ID to which the officer said to him "You must be in the Navy because you're acting like a pussy". 
Obviously we cannot blame this directly on the team, but these actions by the Foxborough PD are appalling and the disrespect they gave to an active member of the military is shameful considering we are a nation still fighting multiple wars. These officers may be or have been members of rival branches of the military but there is no excuse for bringing that into their job. One cannot help but think this all could have been easily avoided."

The Revolution's Chief Operating Officer Brian Bilello confirms what sparked the incident (full statement here):

"Unfortunately there was an issue last night in the fort which was a culmination of multiple weeks of complaints from many of our STH who do not sit in the fort. This was related to one particular chant which our supporters' liaison has spoken to the supporter group leaders about on multiple occasions this season."

While Bilello calls the situation from last Saturday an "issue" for the members of the supporters groups (the Rebellion and the Midnight Riders... both previously profiled in our "Better Know a Supporters Group" series) and other unaffiliated fans in "the Fort" this was more than just an issue. His PR backing of the security's actions will only make the current situation worse.

Why TeamOps decided Saturday's game was the day they were going to come down on "YSA" or any other poor language we may never know. Given the treatment some supporters experienced the response by Bilello appears short-sighted and tone deaf. Blaming supporters without giving a hint of remorse to how they were treated or maybe acknowledge that TeamOps may have been over-zealous will haunt him and the team for a long time.

The New England Revolution are one of the founding clubs of MLS (and the only team still with its original crest) and the former home of some great American soccer players including Steve Ralson, Clint Dempsey, and Taylor Twellman. The team missed out on several MLS Cup titles in the league's early years and, since success in the in the 2007 U.S. Open Cup, the team has struggled missing the playoffs in 2010.

Gillette Stadium, home to the NFL's Patriots and located 30 minutes south of Boston in Foxborough, is the home of the Revolution, but even decent crowd sizes, something that has been hard to come by lately, are swallowed up by the nearly 70,000 seat behemoth. The team's owner, Robert Kraft, one of the saviors of MLS in its darkest years has been accused of indifference to the team and whether or not that's completely accurate it's easy to see why that charge has been leveled against him.
 

"The Fort" during last Wednesday's poorly attended TFC match
and what it might look like each game going forward.
Photo Credit: The Drug is Football

What occurred on Saturday night at Gillette was the culmination of years of difficult relations between the Revolution Front Office, the ever rotating set of TeamOps security personnel, and the supporters of the Revs.

Rebellion Vice President Brendan Schimmel said, "The failure is everywhere. The FO has to respond to complaints from STHs, in doing so they risk alienating a majority. Security, for their tactics employed being perceived as disorganized, inconsistent and indiscriminate. Everyone and their mother knows the behavior at a Pats game is ten times worse, except they don't have one section they can scapegoat.

"Although, I can assure you the FO did intervene before security took action Saturday night allowing us the chance to curtail the profanity. The expectation that anyone had the power to prevent a crowd like this from swearing is unrealistic and the result was unfortunate. The response to these requests is what forced Security's hand. This is a bad situation that put good people in difficult positions."

"I love the Revs. But the feeling of being treated like criminals in your own house is frustrating," he continued.

"Celebrating supporters for their joint road trip to Red Bull Arena one week and then having ejections occur for the same behavior a week later at home is inconsistent and it brings multiple underlying issues that linger with many supporters to the surface."

Schmimmel even acknowledged that Revolution supporters have been working to stamp out "YSA" as it is offensive, annoying, sophomoric, and unoriginal. Both the Rebellion and Midnight Riders released a joint "Fan of Code Conduct" which looks to rid the supporters section of such actions. Unfortunately, running a supporters group is much like herding cats and cultural change takes time.

The mess that transpired only serves to highlight the bigger problem the Revolution organization has... that they are stuck in what is commonly referred to as MLS 1.0. The fact that newcomers (and even some older clubs) to MLS have soccer-specific stadiums, supporter friendly policies and expectations, and successful marketing that shows positive growth in their team's area. The Revolution has none of these markers of a successful MLS franchise.

And while Schimmel points to "healthly" relationships with the Revs FO, the rot in the club comes not from well-meaning people behind desks, but a lack of understanding coming from the ownership of what it takes to become a successful American soccer franchise. Look at the Revs hesitation in signing a "designated player" (Benny Feilhaber basically fell into their lap via the allocation order rule and even then it seemed as though they were going to pass), look at the lack of progress of finding the team a proper soccer home, look at the limited marketing and family-sanitized approach to game day operations and one can see the frustrations underlining what transpired last weekend.

Where do the Revolution and its supporters go from here?

Schimmel wondered out loud, "Honestly, there is no one solution that can probably satisfy everyone. Regardless of the advances we make, overall, the perception of our ownership and the venue we play in will always serve to create discord."

"The incident has ballooned into something far bigger than a simplified argument about a fan's right to swear. It is now for better or for worse serving as a referendum on how the club's most loyal fans feel about the organization," he said.

Teams across the league use its supporters to market the team, the atmosphere they create is the stuff that draws the TV cameras in, and is, more often than not, celebrated by the fans in the rest of the stadium. In the cavernous Gillette "the Fort" is often the only audible crowd noise and when the majority of the section left the match the difference was clear. The Revolution can't both promote "the Fort" culture and then actively restrict some of the elements (and off-color comments) that come from it.

This is a crucial time for American soccer in New England. After drawing 65,000 to the same place for the U.S.-Spain match the Revolution drew barely drew 6,500 to a midweek match against Toronto FC (although it was during the Stanley Cup Game Seven with the Boston Bruins) and 14,500 to the Fire match. The potential for growth in the Boston-area is there and has been since the Revolution's arrival in 1996.

Stories like this one only heighten the perception that the ownership isn't serious about American soccer and putting down solid roots. With much of the American soccer world's eyes on Kansas City last week and seeing their ownership's commitment to American soccer and the positive working relationship the club has with its supporters (including its own members bar!) just shows that it can be done.

Many long-time season ticket holders and members of the supporters groups are questioning their commitment to a club they've given so much support to, but that the club has given so little back to them. If the actions from Saturday's game and Bilello's comments are to be taken as evidence, the team appears to have put its lot in with family-sanitized game day "atmosphere" (which research shows the family dollar in American soccer is credibly fleeting) rather than the supporters who are there game in and game out. If the Revolution loses "the Fort" then they may have just lost the entire plot.

The Revolution supporters have meetings scheduled with the Front Office, but only time will tell if American soccer in the Boston-area can survive such a disaster that occurred this past Saturday. At this point both sides are talking past each other with the Revs FO concerned about the language and the supporters concerned about their treatment by security personnel and other issues festering underneath this latest incident.

In the end the best solution to this problem might come from the most simple idea. One commentator wrote that to end the "YSA" chant just "put the fucking ball in the net and there won't be a goal kick."

There you go.

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Tags: Major League Soccer, Making The Case, New England Revolution, Supporters Groups

Making The Case: The Great Jersey Question. Buy American

At Saturday's shambolic U.S. National Team game the goal was the fill the stadium with red.

Nike had earlier debut their red national team strip and helped outfit the American's unofficial supporters group, the American Outlaws, with a cool Shepard Fairey designed "Indivisble" collaboration to add to the already red 2011 AO members shirt.

The result? A "Red All Over" supporters section to rival any other behind the goal.

The rest of the stadium, from crowd shots and close ups revealed a similar red wave, but fueled less U.S. fans, but the brighter red of the Spanish National Team and red and blue Spanish side Barcelona's jersey.

Sigh. Here we go again.

In the United States, a nation of immigrants and one of the most diverse countries in the world, American soccer fans are no longer surprised to be outnumbered within their own stadiums. Its one of the reasons the American Outlaws and the Free Beer Movement were founded; to grow the sport here and grow our presence each game day. It's readily conceded that for matches against teams like Mexico and other nearby Central American nations the visitors will turn out in force.

On Saturday, however, the USMNT was betrayed by its own. Americans in Spain jerseys. Americans with Messi's name splashed across the back. Americans in Manchester United jerseys!
 

Let's play a game. How many DIFFERENT jerseys can you spot?

For high profile matches this is also not uncommon. But it is infuriating. Americans who seem to go out of their way NOT to support their country of birth.

Were many of those people from Spain living in the United States? Yes. Completely acceptable.

Were many of those people of Spanish-decent honoring their heritage? Yes. Also totally fine.

Were many of those people Americans of little connection to Spain or Spanish teams sporting the colors of World Cup, European Cup, and Champion's League winners? Yes. Not OK.

The beauty of the Spanish National Team was on full display on Saturday and the dominance of Barcelona a week earlier at Wembley against Manchester United in the Champion's League Final and we can appreciate the fact that both of these teams are probably the best example of the greatest of soccer in our day and, for many, represent what has brought them to the sport of soccer and created their connect to it.

If this is what soccer IS for you... super. If this is what you want to treat people to for the Free Beer Movement... go for it.

But we just cannot condone wearing those teams to our National Team games.

It isn't something jingoistic or Tea Party-fueled nationalism, but a enduring and deep love for this nation and the desire to see AMERICAN soccer succeed so we don't replicate Saturday's result again and again.

We own loads of soccer jerseys. Many different clubs from around the world. Many different National Teams as well. One from Honduras where we once lived. Another from the Netherlands, our ethnic roots, and even one from Hong Kong where a sister once visited. They are worn with regularity, but NEVER on a U.S. game day.

We get it. America likes winners. Spain and Barca are winners. Here's Sporting News' Brian Straus, post-game in the media zone:
 


As someone said to us on Twitter, "That kid, if alive in 1980 would have worn a USSR hockey jersey at Lake Placid."

That's the mentality for many soccer fans in America, "Maybe if the U.S. wins a few more games."

Sure this Spain game was a set up, but what else does the National Team have to do for some people?

Isn't qualifying for six straight World Cups good enough?

Paul Caligiuri's 1989 "Shot Heard Round the World" (to qualify the U.S. for its first World Cup in 40 years) didn't get ya?

Didn't our magical run to the 2002 quarterfinals and oh-so-close knock out to eventual finalist Germany grab you?

What about Landon Donovan's stoppage time game winner against Algeria last summer? Really? That didn't do it?

What will do it? Maybe the goal posts (for lack of a better term) keep moving for some soccer fans in America.

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What is comes down to is really a choice. A choice where, today, right now, we can make an investment in American soccer and not just soccer in America. We've got an opportunity to get in on the ground floor of building American soccer and soccer in America. To invest, to spread, to share, to love through ourselves and through others and to others.

It's not perfect, but it is ours. It still has a long way to go, but as the Preamble of the Constitution states, "In order to form a more perfect union". We're working on it.

Spain and Barcelona and Liverpool and AC Milan are going to be just fine, but Major League Soccer and the U.S. National Team need your support because if American soccer fails.... soccer in America fails.

No more high-profile international friendlies. No more World Football Challenge. No more World Cups in the United States. It all dies.

We're not being dramatic. If Americans can't prove they're hungry for soccer (and watching loads of English Premier League on Fox Soccer doesn't count) then the clubs take their business elsewhere. They chase the China yuan or friendlies in Qatar.

The Free Beer Movement wants everyone to become fans and everyone's path to becoming a soccer fan is different. In the end, though, we want you to become American soccer fans. Even for us our first experience with soccer was Michael Owen and Liverpool, but more crucial to our development was the 1998 Men's World Cup and the 1999 Women's World Cup. Locked. Us. In.

That the natural evolution we're going for. Get into soccer. Get into American soccer. (And, of yeah, do it with beer!)

When the United States National Teams rolls into your town, fold up your other jerseys, and put on the red, white, and blue.

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Tags: American Outlaws, Making The Case, USMNT