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The After Bar: USMNT 2 - Mexico 2

 

Highlights:

Analysis from some of American soccer's best writers:

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

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

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

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

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

Player Ratings/Grades:

Greg Selzter (MLSSoccer.com)

Brian Sciaretta (New York TImes) 

Steve Goff (Washington Post)

Tags: The After Bar, USMNT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drinking Local?

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

Cheers to soccer!

Tags: A Brew For You, Beer, USMNT

CONTEST - Win the New USMNT Jersey from Soccer Pro

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

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

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

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

How can you win?

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

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

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

Good luck!

Tags: contest, DrinkWear, USMNT

#ItAllStartsHere…. With A Beer

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

Today is one of those days. Lucky you.

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

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By Dan Wiersema / Founder, Free Beer Movement

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

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

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

You're here for the beer. 

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

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

_____________________________________________

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes. Yes. The beer.

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

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

_________________________________

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

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

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

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

Dan! Beer!

Yes, the beer.

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

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

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

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

____________________________________________

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The After Bar: USMNT 0 - Ukraine 2

Photo Credit: REUTERS/Yorgos Karahalis

Show of hands. How many of you were fine never seeing Oguchi Onyewu in a U.S. jersey BEFORE today's match?

OK... most of the room.

AFTER the match?

There we go. Everyone now.

Well, that settles it. No more Gooch, right? Right?

Obviously it wasn't all the Borgetti-stare-down-man's fault today (cough cough... John Anthony Brooks... we're looking at you), the entire defense was a mess, the midfield was inept, and the forwards nearly starved to death for service.

There was about 20 minutes of blind optimism from the USMNT in the middle of the second half, but then it was all undone with a quick strike Ukrainian attack to double their lead. 

Aron Jonhannsson.. you're awesome. Brek Shea... not too shabby. Tim Howard.... two sweet saves only to see your back line bail on you faster than teenagers at a house party when the cops show up. 

Roll the highlights, Sunil. 

Highlights: 

 

Analysis from some of American soccer's best writers:

Graham Ruthven (MLSSoccer.com) - "Jurgen Klinsmann says USMNT "definitely" missed MLS players in loss to Ukraine"

Matthew Doyle (MLSSoccer.com) - "Armchair Analysit: Three things we learned about USMNT's technical difficulties vs. Ukraine"

Grant Wahl (Sports Illustrated) - "Three thoughts on U.S. Soccer's "dreary" loss to Ukraine" (VIDEO)

Brian Straus (Sports Illustrated) - "Failed Auditions: Three thoughts on the USA’s 2-0 loss to Ukraine"

Richard Farley (NBC Sports) - "Looking back on our five focal points"

Joe Prince-Wright (NBC Sports) - "Three things we learned in USA’s defeat to Ukraine"

 

Player Ratings/Grades:

Jeff Carlisle (ESPN)

Brian Sciaretta (New York Times)

Greg Selzter (MLSSoccer.com)

Tags: The After Bar, USMNT

DrinkWear - Futbol Artist Network’s “San Zusi” Print

The don't call it "the Beautiful Game" for nothing. Soccer is art. A great Lionel Messi goal or a stunning David Beckham free kick is a thing of beauty.

These small moments in soccer can create life-long fans of the sport (with the help of a beer or two, perhaps?) and the memories of such sporting excellence can hang in our memories like fine art in a gallery.

This is the premise behind the "Futbol Artist Network". Their idea is to highlight soccer through artistic expression.

The Free Beer Movement, through our "DrinkWear" series will be highlighting some of the cool combos of art and soccer that the FAN is coming out with.... just don't spill on it.

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On October 15, 2013 the United States men's nationa team faced Panama with little except for bragging rights on the line. Our CONCACAF compatriots Mexico, however, were fighting for their survival in Costa Rica.

Despite having not done their job and losing 2-1 in San Jose Mexico found salvation when Graham Zusi headed home a Brad Davis cross in the 92nd minute. Zusi's goal tied the match at 2-2 giving Mexico the fourth spot in the group (and a backdoor to the World Cup if they won a two-legged playoff against New Newland). Aron Johannsson tailed a minute later sending the already shocked Los Canaleros to defeat.

Back in the United States national team fans celebrated topping "the Hex" for the second-straight qualification campaign while also poking fun that El Tri's biggest rival had to bail them out.

In Mexico the Sporting KC midfielder was christened "San Zusi" and honored for "saving" Mexico's Brazil hopes.

In the spirit of "San Zusi" comes this piece by Mark Smith that features on the pages of the upcoming issue of Howler Magazine.

Just a print, framed (FREE framing by-the-way this week), on stretched canvas, or acrylic box this piece is a great reminder of how sweet a moment that was to utter "De Nada Mexico".

If you haven't yet perused Futbol Artist Network's site we highly recommend it for some pretty amazing soccer art.

Tags: DrinkWear, USMNT

VIDEO: “The Hex” - Yanks Qualify for Brazil, El Tri in Crisis (Episode 13)

The biggest match of the USMNT qualification journey is always against Mexico and at home. Columbus, Ohio is home for this crucial game. Just like the three previous incarnatons of U.S.- Mexico it ended "Dos a Cero" for the good guys.

Kick TV has been with the U.S squad every step of the way and this Columbus special is just as amazing as every other piece in the series.

And we're not just saying that because FBM is in most of them....

Tags: KickTV, USMNT, Video

The After Bar: USMNT 2 - Mexico 0

It couldn't really end any other way. Dos a cero. The year was different and so were the goal scorers, but the venue was a similar as the scoreline was as the United States men's national team waxed Mexico, 2-0 at Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.

A smashing Eddie Johnson header just past halftime and a backpost goal from Landon Donovan mid-way through the second half and the U.S. booked their ticket for Brazil next summer. El Tri sits in a precarious position, fifth place with eight points with only two games left to qualify for the World Cup.

The USMNT punched their Brazil 2014 tickets with two games to spare. Kansas City against Jamaica and at Panama will now provide a solid send-off for the U.S. and chance for Jurgen Klinsmann to get some good reps in for some fringe squad players.

Highlights:

 
Analysis from some of American soccer's best writers:
 
Grant Wahl (Sports Illustrated) - "Three thoughts on USA 2, Mexico 0"
 
 
 
 
Noah Davis (American Soccer Now) - "Lesson Learned in Costa Rica Leads U.S. to Win"
 
 
Mike Prindiville (NBC Pro Soccer Talk) - "Man of the Match: Eddie Johnson"
 
Player Ratings:

Greg Seltzer (MLSSoccer.com)

Blake Thomsen (American Soccer Now)

Jeff Carlisle (ESPN)

Brian Sciaretta (New York Times)

Tags: The After Bar, USMNT

The After Bar: Costa Rica 3 - USMNT 1

Whelp. That one stung. The United States men's national team, looking for their first win ever in Costa Rica walked away empty handed, temporarily setting back the finalization of their World Cup qualifying. The Nats dropped an ugly one, 3-1, in San Jose.

Michael Bradley went off injured in pre-game training and the USMNT looked listless the entire match giving up two goals in the opening ten minutes. Captain Clint Dempsey's 100th cap and 43rd minute penalty kick goal was the lone bright spot in a wet, revenge-filled away match for the Ticos. Having Landon Donovan back in the starting 11 couldn't save the U.S.'s winnning streak either.

Next up, Mexico in "Dos a Cero-ville", Columbus, Ohio on Tuesday.

Highlights:

 

Analysis from some of American soccer's best writers:

The Shin Guardian - "Costa Rica 3 – USA 1: Quick Thoughts"

Grant Wahl (Sports Illustrated) - "Three thoughts on the U.S.'s World Cup qualifier loss to Costa Rica"

Matthew Doyle (MLSSoccer.com) - "Armchair Analyst: Three things we learned from a trip down Springfield Gorge"

Kyle Bonn (NBC Pro Soccer Talk) - "Three things we learned from USMNT 3-1 loss at Costa Rica"

Noah David (American Soccer Now) - "Lost Without Bradley, U.S. Falls to Costa Rica, 3-1"

Player Grades/ Ratings:

Jeff Carlisle (ESPN)

Greg Selzter (MLSSoccer.com)

Brian Sciaretta (New York Times)

Blake Thomson (American Soccer Now)

Tags: The After Bar, USMNT

The Big Pitcher: Uncharted Waters Edition

It's a submarine. Get it? Depth!

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

Strap on your floaties, sports fans. We’re about to pull a Michael "Squints" Palledorous and jump right into the deep end. Just ask Phil Schoen:

 

 

Now wipe the excess sarcasm from your eyes and consider the main point here: from the qualifiers to the Gold Cup right through to Sarajevo, the theme of the summer for the U.S. Men’s National Team has been depth. New players have emerged and experienced players have reclaimed their spots on top, bumping those who were doing perfectly serviceably in the interim down a peg.

On the offensive side, the combination of players who are good enough to hold onto spots past their primes, young veterans who were given time early and are coming into their roles, and a significantly broader geographic base for young talent to come from means the pool of talent has expanded. When choosing from among them, overall quality is just one of the factors to be considered. (Though of course there will be a segment of the population arguing to just pick the best four guys, which is a good way to get in a bar argument with Jonathan Wilson).

What’s interesting is the variety the coaching staff has to choose from. We aren’t just picking between the Big Guy and the Fast Guy (Wave hello, Misters Buddle and Findley.), instead we can select any from the following cast: Eddie Johnson as the Big and Fast Guy, Altidore as the mercurial “I hate you I hate you I hate you Ohh Sweet Jozy where have you been all my life”, Donovan as the playmaker who’s a threat to score, Dempsey as the scorer who can make plays, Zusi as the white-gloved shuttler and silver platter service man, Fabian Johnson as the incutting havoc-wreaker and Aron Johannsson as the Footloose Wild Thing capable of spelling any of our Few Good Men just before the End of the Line, sending Tremors right up the spines of Iceland’s Frosty Nixons.

That’s not even counting the Not Ready for Prime Time Players Boyd, Bedoya, Corona and possibly Johannsson; the still super-young Second City Regulars Agudelo, McInerney, Gatt, and possibly Johannsson; the teetering on the edge of Dr. Doolittle-dom Herculez Gomez and Chris Wondolowski and whatever the hell Brek Shea is (Best Case Scenario: Robert Downey Jr. Worst Case: Jim Belushi). Even if we assume a number of the first two groups flame out before stardom, that’s still a pretty diverse cast to work with.

This means one thing for Jurgen Klinsmann: Decisions. And for the rest of us, the Internet’s favorite pastime: anticipating and then second-guessing those decisions. Hell, we’re still not over the Great Rico Clark Debacle of 2010. Can you imagine the collective outrage if the team starts to struggle with some of those guys on the field? Even if you assume that Jozy, Dempsey and Donovan are automatic starts, who gets the fourth slot? Who gets called off the bench late when the team needs a goal? How does that particular group of four, whoever it is, adjust if the midfield is getting overrun?

Or take another example: nothing we saw last week changed the bottom line on John Anthony Brooks, but if we believe him to be further ahead of the likes of Omar Gonzalez and Clarence Goodson, then we’ll have to address the fact that the two best centerbacks in the pool compliment each other stylistically except for the simple fact that they both play – and have pretty much exclusively played – on the same side of a central pairing. That’s a clear example of player quality running into tactical reality, unless we also plan to play a sign on the left-sided channel asking strikers to please redirect their attacks toward the two gentlemen to their right.

Of course, it wasn’t that long ago that the idea of having two semi-competent and fully functional centerbacks seemed a pipe dream. The presence of depth means rosters can be retooled, revamped, and recycled more rapidly. We’re beginning to rebuild the airplane in midflight at faster and faster speeds, though often enough the new parts don’t wind up filling the same holes as the old.

The notion of “We’re set at outside back for the next ten years” runs right into Timmy Chandler’s waffling and the minor detail that Fabian Johnson’s actually not that great at left back. “Can anyone other than Clint score,” gets drop-kicked by Jozy. The still-waters-run-deep pool of consistency in the center of midfield becomes Michael Bradley and Pray for Rain. What will we do without Landon → Who needs Landon → Ohh thank God, Landon’s back.

These are the kinds of problems where it’s much better to have them than the alternative. Even if we're not quite drowning in talent yet, we're not scraping the bottom of the kiddie pool either. Bring on the W-M.

About Eric

Eric Betts is a freelancer writer who lives in Austin, Texas with his wife and his dog Lando (yup). While attending Emory University he won "College Jeopardy".

Tags: Big Pitcher, Eric Betts, USMNT

The After Bar: USMNT 4 - Bosnia and Herzegovina 3

Jozy. That's all anyone needs to say. Jozy Altidore continues his amazing run of form carrying the United States men's national team to a 4-3 victory over Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo.

There were certainly other solid players on the field for the USMNT: Michael Bradley, of course, showing himself, as always to be the calm center of the universe; John Anthony Brooks looking like the future of the central defense; and Aron "Bacon" Johannsson putting in 27 minutes of creative attacking soccer. 

The first half, though mostly solid defense, put the U.S on both their back heels giving up quick strikes-off-of-silly-mistakes and down 2-0. The second half, with a few adjustments, would see Altidore own it, doing the hard work of settling Bradley's perfect over-the-top ball to nudge to Eddie Johnson. Altidore would then tally a hat-trick of goals in a diverse fashion: a left-sided blast, an amazing free kick, and hustle with a deft finish.

Heading into the home stretch of World Cup qualifying the Nats have all the momentum they need.

Next up on the road in Costa Rica on September 6 where the U.S has never won.

Highlights:

 
Reactions:
 
Analysis from some of American soccer's best writers:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Player Ratings:
 
 

Greg Selzter (MLSSoccer.com)

Brian Sciaretta (New York Times)

Tags: The After Bar, USMNT

A Brew for You… And You…. And You (USMNT vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina)

Gold Cup champeeeeeee-ooooooonnnnsssss!

OK. I got that out of the way. Since then end of the Gold Cup  (which we one and Mexico didn't, by-the-way) there hasn't been a United States match to write about and gloat in.

Photo Credit: CraftBeerSocial.com
Photo Credit: FatCatKC.blogspot.com

What's done is done and now we, as U.S. fans, turn our eyes back toward World Cup Qualifying; with just this mid-August international friendly standing in the way. Thankfully it's not some mindless cash-grab game against Mexico (see you soon!) and a real European test after snacking on all those poor CONCACAF nations over the last month.

But seriously… didn't it feel good to go out and stop around a bit? When the last time we're seen the USMNT just go out and smash some opponents? Like 8-0 against Barbados in 2008?

Bosnia, though. Well. Bosnia AND Herzegovina actually. See they had to double up for the match because the Nats are on such a roll. They'll be good. FIFA (not that you can believe anything from them) say they're ranked 13th in the world so this is a real test. We're 19th and ahead of Mexico which is kind of like beating your little brother in a race for a spot in line for a roller coaster ride then realizing you're still behind all the older kids.

Lots of new faces in the U.S. camp: Icelandic Kevin Bacon Aron Jonhannnnnnsssssoon (pitman Jesse Bignami better count those letters carefully), John Anthony Brooks, Bobby Wood, Cody Cropper, and Tim Ream. Some will see time. Some we thought were dead. Most are just in for a good look in camp.

All will face the "Dragons" (Zmajevi) of Bosnia and Herzgovina. And we've got a pair of taking-down-the-dragon-knight-in-shining-armor beer recommendations, both variations on the stout style, for you this USMNT game day.

First, Middle Ages Brewing Company of Syracuse, New York and their "Dragon Slayer" Russian Imperial Stout. Described by the brewery as "strong, chocolatety and aggressively hopped with finest English hops." Yum.

Next up is New Holland Brewing Company of Holland, Michigan and their "Dragon's Milk" Bourbon Barrel Stout. Described as a "stout with roasty malt character intermingled with deep vanilla tones, all dancing in an oak bath." Taking the work of the "Slayer" and adding a bunch more boozy flavor to it.

Today's effort is going to take just that. A good performance and then kicking it up a notch. Eleven in-a-row, looking at twelve before resuming our quest for qualifying for Brazil. A win is another feather in coach Jurgen Klinsmann's cap. A loss one more lesson learned in Europe. A draw… sure why not?

The real test comes when we travel to Costa Rica and host Mexico in September. Everything else is just prep work.

Hopefully you're taking a "bisnass lunch to watch this one. What are you drinking today?

Tags: Beer, The Best of Both Worlds, USMNT

Local Soccer, Local Beer - Drinking and Divisions in Bosnia

Asim Ferhatovic Hase Stadium. Want to order a beer here? We've got you covered.

By Kirsten Schlewitz / Senior West Coast Beer Correspondent

If you’re taking the trouble to make a trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina, chances are you’re not doing it to quench your thirst for delicious, unusual, artisan craft beer. Bosnia is many things –ridiculously beautiful, insanely complicated, mysteriously captivating – but it is not an untapped outpost for those seeking the next great thing in beer. If you’re drinking beer in Bosnia, you’re almost certainly going to be presented with a choice of lager or lager. At a few bars, you’ll find dark beer on offer, but don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s a porter or a stout. It’ll be more like a dark lager, but give it a try, as it’s usually better than the pale stuff.

If you’re in Sarajevo, the majority of beer you’ll find will be Sarajevsko, from the brewery on one of the hills just above the old town. This Pivara has been in existence since 1864 but, although you may find its dark beer in a few places around town, it’s most likely you’ll be drinking the lager. It’s actually not bad, especially considering the price – usually around $1.20.

But if you travel around the country and keep your eyes reasonably open, you’ll notice something interesting. Along the way, you’ll cross an invisible line, and the green Sarajevsko umbrellas will vanish. In their place will be the white and red of Karlovačko or the golden yellow of Lav. If it’s Karlovačko, you’re in one of the Croatian areas of Bosnia. But if the beer on offer is Lav, you’ve come into the Republika Srpska, where the majority of the Serbian population lives.

The beer umbrellas are the best indicators of the ethnic divides that still permeate Bosnia today, nearly twenty years after the end of the destructive wars of the 1990s. And while it may seem strange to talk about ethnicity and politics in a post devoted to beer and soccer, they all tie together. You see, if you leave behind the land of Sarajevsko, you’re unlikely to find anyone supporting the Bosnia National Team – they’ll all be sporting Croatia kits or cheering on Serbia as they lose horribly to Colombia. When you consider the purpose of this website, bringing people together through soccer and beer, it’s sobering to realize that in BiH, these are two of most visible indicators of social divisions.

In Sarajevo, though, the population is almost entirely Bosniak, meaning that the majority of its people will be supporting the national team when they face the USMNT on Wednesday. Anyone lucky enough to be in the city will have their fill of places to drink before, during, and after the match. When I was there for Bosnia’s last World Cup qualifying match, people wearing blue and yellow – often the flag itself—filled the streets of Sarajevo, and the match was shown in every café and pub. The Bosniaks are justifiably proud of their national team, which is on the verge of qualifying for its first-ever World Cup, and aren’t shy about showing it.

The city and country may not be known for its beer specifically, but its café culture is hard to beat. Throw in a match and it’s pretty much heaven.

In the summertime, almost everyone sits outside, shaded under the aforementioned giant umbrellas. The cafes run together, sometimes making it difficult to decipher which tables belong to which menu, but it matters little as most offer the same ambience and service. The crisp lagers are actually pretty perfect for a hot summer day, but at some point, you’re going to need a pick-me-up. And what Bosnia lacks in beer skills it more than makes up for in coffee skills. The coffee is strong and dark, often being served Turkish-style in a copper pot with a tiny cup to pour into. For an authentically Bosnian experience, sip slowly, making your tiny cup last an hour or so, and keep a cigarette in one hand as you’re doing so.

I’m not sure how many Americans made the trip to see the USMNT in Sarajevo. But whoever did made a fantastic decision. The beer is cheap, the football is great, and they’ll almost all make at least one lifelong friend. But a little tip for those actually in Bosnia: if you bypass the beer and try the rakija, sip it and go slowly. Don’t be overconfident! These people will beat you at drinking their liquor (I think it’s something in the Balkan blood). And if it’s homemade rakjia, take care that you don’t find yourself sleeping in the middle of a cobblestone street, missing a shoe and wrapped in a Bosnian flag. You’ve been warned.

Some handy Bosnian football watching phrases:

Hello/goodbye: Cao

Thank you: Hvala

Gdje je WC?: Where is the bathroom (pronounced vey-say, more or less)

Izvolite?: This is your cue to respond with your drink order…

Two beers, please: Dvije pive, molim Vas

One dark beer: Jedno tamno pivo

Go on!: Hajde!

Learn to shoot!: Nauči da šutiraš!

He was born offside: Rodjen je u ofsajdu

Look at that blind man!: Vidi ovog slijepca!

About Kirsten

I may be a law student at Lewis and Clark, but soccer is my true love, with beer coming in a distant second. That's not to say I don't love beer--I've tasted over a thousand different brews, am a bit obsessed with my "33 Beers" notebooks, and love my Untappd app. Living in Portland, Oregon, I attend quite a few festivals and tastings, and am able to argue passionately about the merits of Cascade hops vs. Chinook.

As for the soccer, I'm the cofounder of SB Nation's Aston Villa site, 7500 to Holte, as well as the editor of SB Nation Italy. Want more? Follow me on Twitter!

Tags: Beer, Local Soccer Local Beer, USMNT

The Sitter: Kasey Keller on Soccer in America and Damn Good Whiskey

FBM's Dan trying to play "journalist" with Keller.

During the 2013 Major League Soccer All-Star game in Kansas City we had a chance to sit down with Kasey Keller who's soccer resume over his 17 year career is most impressive (USMNT, Portland Timbers, Milwall, Leiscester City, Rayo Vallecano, Tottenham, Borussia Monchengladbach, Fulham, and retiring with the Seattle Sounders). Nearly as impressive is his love and knowledge of whiskey.

Much thanks to Castrol USA for the opportunity to speak with Mr. Keller.

Free Beer Movement: You've obviously been a huge part of American soccer and American soccer history; a huge pioneer here and in Europe before many others. How do you feel like the sport has changed over your career?

Kasey Keller: For me I started youth national teams in he mid-80s. I was fortunately to go to two Youth World Cups in 87 and 89. I was a young goalkeeper first and then it was my time second. We were the first American team to reach the semi-finals of a FIFA tournament and I was the first American player to be recognize with a Silver Ball (for a tournaments second best player). To see that side early on and to see that things were moving the in the right direction. From there I moved on to the full national team and started traveling.

I remember trying to qualify for '90 (the 1990 World Cup) playing in St. Louis Soccer Park trying to get 5,000 fans to come to the game and try and get some sort of atmosphere that was going to help the team qualify. Going to '90 with a bunch of amateurs competing for a federation that hadn't been to a World Cup in 40 years...

It was a starting point where now you look at it and really can't believe where the team's progressed. It's an amazing progression over a very short period of time. Now it's the hard part. Now it's taking the next percentage steps to catch up with the countries that have predominant controlled the sport.

FBM: Talk about your experience helping out the National Team for the Gold Cup after Chris Woods departed (Woods, moved from Everton to Manchester United with manager David Moyes, and was temporarily unavailable for the Gold Cup). Does Jurgen just call up and ask if you have a spare few minutes?

KK: (Laughs). Yeah. It was a case where he called me before the Gold Cup started and asked if I could help out in the quarterfinals through the finals when Chris Woods moved to Man U. This time of year is really difficult. Even if he would've stay at Everton it would've been impossible to come and work this tournament. It's one of those tricky situations that Jurgen was happy to bring in a few new people. Sounders were fantastic in letting me miss a few games and be a part of the Gold Cup. It was fun to continue to see different things and do different things in this so-called retirement of mine.

FBM: You have a very active retirement!

KK: I do! Which is cool.

FBM: What's changed? What's different under Klinsmann?

KK: It's hard. When Jurgen came in there was this big fanfare. A much higher price tag for a U.S. manager than there had been in the past. There was some ideal that he was going to wave a magic wand and we were going to have 25 world-class players. It doesn't matter who comes into a national team you're still dependent on the players that have already been produced. What he's been implementing will take a little time and people will have to understand the field and the non-field side. He's giving the players and the team a field little things that will make a difference.

That's the tough thing. You can't make 40, 50 percent things. You're trying to improve five, three, two percent things that are the difference between a 1-0 loss to a 1-1 draw or maybe to a 1-0 win. Those are the kind of little fractions. But at the same time you still need the players to perform and do their job.

Jurgen has admitted himself there are things he's had to learn about CONCACAF compared to some of the scenarios that he's been in before.

Overall the national team is in a pretty healthy spot right now. Granted eleven wins in a row right now doesn't hurt.

FBM: You came back to Major League Soccer with the Seattle Sounders and their incredible atmosphere. Talk about what it was like to come to Seattle and be a part of that.

KK: For me it was the easiest transition possible. First of all I'm coming home after seventeen years. But also I was coming home to something that really, really mattered. It was on the radio shows it was on all the TVs. My wife and I were having a competition to see when we'd have a time when we'd go out to dinner and somebody wouldn't stop by the table and say something.

FBM: How long did that take?

KK: I think it's still running. Which... it's just cool. It shows you that things have really moved in a good direction. Coming from Europe and how the game's perceived there to come home and have complete anonymity would seem strange, but  there's a really good balance here.

It's unintrusive. It's how you'd hope pro sports should be. You have the Seahawks, the Mariners, and the Sounders are right there.

FBM: You're in the broadcast booth doing color commentary for the Sounders and also ESPN. Has that changed your perspective on the game at all?

KK: Not really. We'll see what happens four, five years down the road, but I still take it as a player. I still kind of approach it like being the captain of a team. Sometimes you have to be critical, but you try not to be over the top. I try not to "Well... when I played..."

I take it from the approach that I'm supposed to help you (the viewer) enjoy the game. You're not tuning in to listen to me. I'm supposed to help you enjoy the experience and not try and overbear on the experience. 

That's my approach and people have seemed to respond pretty well to it.

FBM: You're a whiskey guy. This is a beer and soccer website, but I'll allow it. What are your top three whiskies?

KK: My top three. Lagavulin is my number one whiskey. I'm more of a single malt guy then a blended. Then I'll go to Talisker. Then when I want to go to blend I'll go with Johnny Walker Blue Label.

But then I have a bottle in my house of 18-year-old Macallan that was distilled in 1969; the year that I was born, that I haven't opened yet. I'm still waiting for the right moment 

FBM: Is it when the U.S. men's national team wins the World Cup next year?

KK: (Laughs) That could possible be.... we're waiting to see what that moment will be.

The other hard part is I also want to open it up when I have people around that are truly scotch people that will appreciate what's going on there and not try and mix it with Coke. 

FBM: Well then don't invite me over. I've got a lot of learning to do on the whiskey side of things.

Kasey Keller thanks for your time.

KK: Thank you.

Keller and Alexi Lalas in the ESPN booth during the 2012 MLS Cup.

Tags: Six-Pack Interview Series, USMNT

A Brew for You…  And You… And You…. (USMNT vs. Panama - Gold Cup Final)

The Gold Cup Final. The Grand Finale. The Big Enchilada. OK... maybe not that last one... Mexico is out after all. (sad face)

The United States men's national team finds itself at the cusp of its fifth CONCACAF Gold Cup Final with only high-flying Panama standing in the way. Today's game will decide whether the consistent U.S. attack (partnered with a sometimes shaky backline) can breakdown the stiff defense of Los Canaleros and successfully hold off their offense led by FC Dallas' Blas Perez.

It comes down to this... as well as the U.S. is playing right now its success will be defined by whether or not they take this trophy home this afternoon. Win and the praise and accolades will continue to roll in and our World Cup qualifying confidence is buoyed heading back into the qualifiers. Lose and we tumble back into the darkness of the post-Honduras loss navel gazing.

Even though the USMNT is without Jurgen Klinsmann on the sidelines (and he SHOULD be with the American Outlaws on the endline!) this U.S. side knows the game plan and exactly what's expected of them.

We've got a little Gold Cup Final special for beer recommendations today. A trio of brews for you to hunt down if you're in Chicago or ever visiting... each with a soccer twist.

(Side Note: The brewery/restaurant chain Rock Bottom used to make a "Chicago" Golden Ale... how perfect of a beer rec would be!??!)

* Meet Finch's Beer Company's "Facist Pig" Red Ale - So maybe calling the CONCACAF disciplinary committee "facist" is a bit over the top, but it shouldn't take away from the fact that their decision to suspend Klinsmann for the final wasn't deeply flawed.

Celebrate the USMNT win over stupidity and Panama (note... two separate things) with this canned craft beer. If you can't find the "pig" try their IPA and/or stout; both highly rated.

* Meet Revolution Brewing Co. "Anti-Hero" IPA - Klinsmann's revolution is finally playing out to great success. Ten wins in a row and the U.S. game play is flowing like...err... wine. The engine for this revolution is not only Das Coach's tactics, but American soccer's anti-hero Landon Donovan. The role of "savior" he never wanted, but none-the-less had thrust upon him. Donovan will, of course, be the difference maker today.

* Meet Half Acre Beer Company "Daisy Cutter" Pale Ale - Jurgen's tactics have traded out the set-piece bombing squad (along with with the quick counter-attack) of the Bob Bradley era for the on-the-floor possession-based defend-and-distribute. If the pitch was full of daisies JK would have this Nats side mow them all down with their passes to get the ball in the back of the net. Will Klinsmann's daisy cutter tactics have the USMNT's Gold Cup hopes coming up roses?

What are you drinking for today's game?

 

Tags: A Brew For You, Beer, USMNT

The After Bar: USMNT 3 - Honduras 1 (Gold Cup)

Easy as one, two, three. Three goals from the United States men's national team and they're on their way to the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup Final. A thoroughly dominating performance by the Nats, 3-1 over Honduras, means a date with surprise finalists Panama.

Eddie Johnson, freed by a great ball from Landon Donovan, broke away from the Panamanian defense to open the scoring in the 11th minute. Donovan would tally two goals of his own, a goalmouth tap-in at the 27th minute mark, and then a speedy response to Honduras' lone goal in the 53rd minute.

The USMNT is seeking it's fifth Gold Cup title and has reached the finals in nine of the 12 editions of the tournament. The win extended the Nats record-setting win streak to ten games as they improved to 11-2-2 in 2013.

The Final, televised nationally on main FOX, is at 3pm CT on Sunday from Soldier Field in Chicago.

Highlights:

 

Analysis from some of American soccer's best writers:

Grant Wahl (Sports Illustrated) - "American stars back in fine form boost U.S. at Gold Cup"

Matthew Doyle (MLSSoccer.com) - "Armchair Analyst: Three things we learned from Landon Donovan's domination at JerryWorld"

Richard Farley (NBC Pro Soccer Talk) - "Circling back on Klinsmann’s changes: What worked, what didn’t for the U.S. vs. Honduras"

Steve Davis (NBC Pro Soccer Talk) - "United States is streaking as a team – but not so spectacularly as Landon Donovan is individually"

Steve Davis (NBC Pro Soccer Talk) - "United States is rolling like never before in Gold Cup play"

Player Ratings: 

Brian Sciaretta (New York Times)

Greg Selzter (MLSSoccer.com)

Tags: The After Bar, USMNT

A Brew for You… And You… And You…. (USMNT vs. Honduras - Gold Cup)

Win or go home. Thems the breaks in the elimination rounds of the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Gone are the comforts of the group stage where a slip up could be made up. As the United States men's national team saw (at least until Eddie Johnson walked on the field) on Sunday against El Salvador that success is perilous and advancement not always guaranteed.

Despite the early and dominating advantage the game was only at 2-1 and El Salvador gaining confidence. Of course we know that the match ended extremely lopsided and we're sitting her today staring down Honduras for a place in the Finals against either Panama or Mexico.

In a flick of a switch the USMNT went from on the back heel to the front foot and slammed the Salvadoreans. This tournament has shown that this Nats side has the ability to just "drop the hammer".

Belize got the hammer. Cuba, despite a little early resistance, got the hammer. Costa Rica held firm until Landon Donovan dropped the hammer and a brilliant pass to Brek Shea. And, just last Sunday, El Salvador felt the hammer blow as well.

Twenty-two goals in their last five matches. In their record-setting nine match win streak the national team has scored 31 total goals.

Hammer time.

As the U.S. faces Honduras tonight, an opponent that was stingy in Salt Lake City during World Cup qualifying (and also beat us on their home turf) the question is whether the hammer will continue to fall against on opponents. Will it be a series of blows or one perfect strike? Will we finally see Gold Cup revenge against Mexico where we've been the victim of crush losses in the last two finals?

Tonight we recommend a local beer that, you guessed it, drops the hammer. Meet Peticolas Brewing Company's "Velvet Hammer" Imperial Red Ale. Malty, sweet, yet balanced with good hop character. Soft and heavy at the same time. This multidimensional beer is a great representation of the many ways the U.S. has come to dominate this Gold Cup tournament.

There is no one route to success for the U.S. today and that's is the key to their success so far this summer as well. Stu's soft creativity and Wondo(w)lowski's (or more recently EJ's) heavy headers have led the way as the U.S. hammers away at another chance for Gold Cup glory.

What are you drinking for tonight's match?

Tags: A Brew For You, Beer, USMNT

The After Bar: USMNT 1 - Costa Rica 0 (Gold Cup)

Photo by Howard C. Smith/ISIPhotos.com

The weather, the setting, and the cast was different, but the result was the same as the United States men's national team beat Costa Rica 1-0 in Hartford, Conn on a late Brek Shea goal. 

A fantastic save from Sean Johnson led to a counter-attack break away by Landon Donovan on the right. He lofted the ball to Shea in stride down the center of the field and the Stoke City man collected the ball and fired the U.S. into the lead. It was Shea first international goal. 

The USMNT will face El Salvador in the quarterfinals of the Gold Cup on Sunday at 5pm ET. 

Highlights:

 
Analysis from some of American soccer's best writers:
 
Brian Straus (Sports Illustrated) - "Three thoughts on the U.S.' late win over Costa Rica"

Steve Davis (NBC ProSoccerTalk) - "What we learned from the United States Gold Cup win over Costa Rica"

 
Player Ratings:

Jeff Carlisle (ESPNFC)

Jon Arnold (Americsn Soccer Now)

Brian Sciaretta (New York Times)

Tags: The After Bar, USMNT

A Beer for You… And You… And You… (USMNT vs. Costa Rica)

The United States men's national team is looking awfully golden right now in the 2013 edition of the Gold Cup. They've easily dispatched Belize and Cuba, but tonight will face a much sterner test in Costa Rica. With a place in the quarterfinals in Baltimore already assured this game is about topping the group and bragging rights.

Costa Rica... THAT Costa Rica. Those Ticos that couldn't handle juuuuuust a tinsy-winsey bit of snow in Denver a few moths ago during World Cup qualifying.

Unless U.S. Soccer rented a snow machine the forecast is going to be much different than that frozen night at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in March. Side note.... why DIDN'T U.S. Soccer rent a snow machine?!!?!?

Hartford is going to be hot! And that's going to be more familiar for the Costa Ricans, but unfortunately for our Central American counterparts... the Nats are hotter than ever.

What should you drink for tonight's match against the weather whiners? We're going to play another round of "six degrees of beer separation".

Hartford is in Connecticut. Connecticut is nicknamed the "Nutmeg State". In nearby Boston Harpoon Brewing Company brews a "Winter Warmer" with heavy hints of nutmeg. But it's most certainly not winter and to be honest the beer itself it pretty terrible.

Buuuut.... since it IS a hot summer day in New England we're recommended a great beer for tailgatin', porch sittin', and soccer watchin'.

Meet Harpoon's UFO White. Refreshing, summer-y, and sessionable. Have one again and again. Just like the USMNT is going to beat Costa Rica again and again. Sun or snow... it doesn't matter. In this wheat beer fruit or no fruit... it doesn't matter.

So grab yourself a nice, light, yet full-bodied, wit beer (Harpoon or otherwise) and watch the U.S. whip the Costa Ricans.

What are drinking for tonight's match?

Tags: A Brew For You, Beer, USMNT

The Best of Both Worlds - Meeting Nick Rimando and Rimando’s Wit

So far the "FBM World Tour" has taken us on stops to Denver, Seattle, Salt Lake City, Portland, and back to Salt Lake City. Beyond the great games (all USMNT wins!) we've also experienced the unique and delicious beer cultures of each of these cities.

A few months back we reported on the making of a tribute beer for U.S. national team and Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando by a local brewery, Unsacred Brewing. We reached out to them and spoke with one of their co-owners, David Cole, about the collaboation between their brewery and Rimando, a noted craft beer enthusiast. 

When we first passed through SLC we weren't able to get our hands on the brew, but a second take in the city by the salt lake would do the trick. First off, we'd like to thank Real Salt Lake's Vice President of Broadcasting & Communications Trey Fitz-Gerald. It was going to relatively easy to snag a bottle in a store or grab some on tap at Rio Tinto Stadium, but Trey not only saved us a bottle in his office he arranged a brief meet-and-greet with Rimando. We waited patiently for Nick to do post-game interviews after leading the Nats to a 4-1 win over Cuba in their Gold Cup match.

Rimando chatted with us for a bit. We got to explain the Free Beer Movement idea and he talked about his love of craft beer (he's fond of Epic Brewing Company here in SLC) and graciously autographed our bottle. We were able to "scarf" him as well. There are, obviously, several team and supporter-specific beers, but Rimando has the honor of being the first, and still only, player with his own commercial beer... something we told him he should brag to his teammates about more.

Thanks against to Trey at RSL and, of course, Nick for taking the time for FBM. A real cool moment in our organization's history.

 

Tags: Beer, FBM In Action, Major League Soccer, The Best of Both Worlds, USMNT

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