Showing newest 11 of 27 posts from April 2011. Show older posts
Showing newest 11 of 27 posts from April 2011. Show older posts

Saturday, April 30, 2011

VIDEO – “How To Dive and Cheat” and a Few Words of Wisdom

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The haters and the non-coverted point to the flopping, the complaining, the asking for cards as THE indictment of soccer. “I just can’t stand all the faking!” they scream. “How can this be a real sport when its based on conning the referee?” they question to the heavens.

News flash… we hate it, too.

Ask any soccer fan, casual or hard core, will agree that diving and faking injury in the sport is one of our blackest eyes. The deliberate acts of tricking the ref into making calls embarrass us, too.

So when the darkest corners of our sport and held up as the standard for the sport we have only one response… sarcasm and humor.

Diving and cheating are a terrible part of our game, but why allow the doubters to define our sport?

Soccer is graceful, magical, and at most times a game, of positive play. Just like the NFL is not made up of chop blocks, the NBA is not comprised of flagrant fouls, or MLB a mess of hit batters.

Two soccer fans took is upon themselves to make a humorous point and took the important first step is any problem; admitting there is one.

Which is your favorite?


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Friday, April 29, 2011

Going Suds Up: The Best Soccer, The Best Beers

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By Kirsten Schlewitz / Senior West Coast Beer and Aston Villa Correspondent 

With the trophies practically passed out in three of the four big European leagues – let’s just pass the crowns Manchester United, Barcelona, and AC Milan right now,  although Borussia Dortmund might need another week – it’s more about the battle for the last Champions League position in each league. And so, the games you should pay attention to over this long soccer weekend:

Premier League

Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur (Saturday, 11:30 AM CT, FSC)

Chelsea were on the brink of crashing out of the Champions League positions, but seven wins from eight matches have pushed them into second, with delusions of titles still stuck in their heads. Spurs, meanwhile, the most laughably inconsistent team to grace the Premier League this year, are four points back from Manchester City.

Manchester United v Arsenal (Sunday, 8 AM CT, FSC)

Arsenal were a title contender. Now they’re not even safe in the Champions League. Granted, it’s unlikely that Spurs and Manchester City will both manage to catch the Gunners, but it could very well happen, considering Arsenal have won just once in their last seven matches.

Six Pack for England: Anderson Valley Boont ESB (Boonville, CA)

Might as well pick up a six-pack of an ESB, a typical English-style beer, to watch the Premier League matches this weekend. Anderson Valley is widely available and, for goodness sakes, if you see Summer Solstice pick that up instead. Otherwise try this one. It pours golden with a thin head, leaving plenty of lace on the sides. Aromas are mostly caramel, but with a slight peppery note. Yummy butterscotch taste with a bit of spice, but a warning: this one finishes fairly bitter, unlike many ESBs that seem to think the “bitter” part of their name need not be acknowledged.

Bundesliga

Bayern Munich v Schalke 04 (Saturday, 11:30 AM CT, ESPN3)

Schalke may have made it to the semi-finals of the current Champions League tournament, but they did so at the expense of their league form, currently sitting tenth in the Bundesliga. Bayern Munich have fared a bit better, insofar as “bit better” means that last year’s champions are in the running for the final Champions League position.  A win this weekend could move them into the third spot, but with Hannover facing Borussia Monchengladbach, it’s unlikely.  

Six Pack for Germany: Great Divide Hoss Rye Lager (Denver, CO)

Confession – I picked this beer because it was on my shelf. But it’s available in six packs, it’s relatively low in alcohol content, and it’s a märzen, so hey, Germany!  And it’s a pretty beer  and the Germans play pretty football, so why not? It pours golden amber with plenty of clings, and an overwhelming candy sugar aroma. Tastes of caramel, rye, and, surprisingly enough, cherry.

Serie A

Lazio v Juventus (Monday, 1:30 PM CT, FSC)

No, I don’t know why this match is on Monday, either. I’ve given up trying to figure out what the Italians are thinking. What I do know is this that Lazio has to win this match if they want to give themselves any breathing room in fourth place in Serie A. Udinese, one point behind, will have already played Fiorentina on Sunday, which will almost certainly be a draw. Juventus are out of Champions League contention after last weekend, when Catania came from behind to earn a draw, but they certainly won’t make life easy for Lazio – and the Old Lady shouldn’t, considering having to watch Lazio play in Champions League qualification would require me to drink at least an entire six pack per match.

Six Pack for Italy: New Belgium Ranger IPA (Fort Collins, CO)

What, you thought this was going to be an Italian-style beer? Oh no, if you’re going to take a late lunch to watch Lazio beat up on Alessandro Matri and his gorgeous eyelashes, you best be drinking something beyond Peroni, something along the lines of say, 6.5% ABV. This is one of the best IPAs to ever grace a six pack, although I might be biased – I’m partial to floral hops rather than citrus ones.  You can smell the Cascade hops in this one before you even raise the glass. The taste is both floral and piney, with a perfect amount of bitter citrus to finish it off.

La Liga

Seriously? I’m so sick of hearing about any Spanish club. Go grab the strongest beer you can find and drink it until there are no more news reports on Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola, fixing, or diving.

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, and listed many of them onRatebeer. 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 Managing Editor of SB Nation’s Aston Villa site, 7500 to Holte, the Italy Editor for SB Nation Soccer, and cover the Seattle Sounders on SBN Seattle (don’t judge–I’m from Seattle!) Finally, I write for Two Footed Tackle when I find words worthy enough for the site. Want more? Follow me on Twitter!


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Thursday, April 28, 2011

FBM Black (Lager) Ops: The Royal Wedding

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Gather ’round, soldiers!
Thursday, 0600 HRS Central European Time


Good morning ladies and gentlemen. At ease, go grab a beer, and please be seated.

I apologize for the early nature of this briefing, but we have a grave situation at hand. Our man in London has provided us with a copy of last Saturday’s “Mirror”. In the tabloid, it states, and I quote, “Prince William and Kate Middleton have banned guests from drinking beer at their wedding reception.”

(Crowd grumbles and begins to speak to one another)

Soliders. Relax. I know this is a bit of terrible news, but nothing that we are not fully prepared to handle. These are the exact sort of situations that we’ve been training for. Remember our motto “Wherever there’s no beer, we’re here.”

The facts are clear. As of 0600 HRS, the time right now, there are no plans for beer to be served at the Royal Wedding for Kate Middleton and Prince William. As members of the elite Free Beer Movement Black (Lager) Ops Unit… this is unacceptable.

Let’s make another thing clear… there will be beer at this wedding reception.

(Crowd erupts in a several “hoorahs” and claps)

I will turn over this briefing to Lt. Samuel Adams who will provide the specifics of the operation that you will be embarking on. Lieutenant.

Thank you, sir.

As the captain mentioned a moment ago, this is a grave, but fixable “cask condition”.

This Black (Lager) Ops Unit will depart from Ramstein Air Base in appropriately two hours. This will allow you all enough time for a meal, a shower, and the packing of your gear. Don’t forget to have at least one more beer… this is almost zero hour.

At 0800 CET the unit will depart for France and then, disguised as (dog)fishermen, you will leave from Calais and descend on the coast of England, landing at Dover at 1000HRS. Don’t forget to make contact with our Central Intoxication Agency station chief at the Coast Guard station. There he’ll all treat you to a pint and brief you on our inside man at the wedding, code named “Prince Harry”.

Harry has your forged invitations at the ready and has also rented the tap for the kegs.

Yes, the kegs. You’ll notice from the earlier briefing that we’ve made a crucial change to our plans. The CIA had concerns about the size of the ground transportation operation so you will no longer be responsible for transporting the kegs from the coast.

Our contact in the RAF, that’s the Royal Alcohol Force, has provided a cargo plane that will air drop 32 kegs for you to move on site. Paint the drop site and be in place by 1200HRS.

We’ll meet the kegs at the “DZ” and proceed to transport them undercover to “ground zero,” the wedding reception. Each keg is cleverly labeled “fish” or “chips” as to avoid detection before entering the reception.

Once inside you’ll change into your serving attire to blend into the crowd. Don’t forget to practice your outrageous English accents en route. We’ve provide several “Monty Python” CDs for you to listen to for assistance.

“Prince Harry” will guide you to your set up location where you will tap the kegs. Remember, and this is an important component to the mission, that you are to destroy any and all wine and champagne on the premises. It’s not that we don’t approve, but to leave the FBM mark we’ve got to make beer the only game in town.

This beer is paramount to the success of the royal nuptials. There was no beer at Diana and Charles wedding and look how that turned out. Wedding beer is like the Communists in Asia. Dominoes! Everything falls apart. You don’t have beer at the wedding.. you don’t have a kick ass party… you don’t have a beautiful marriage.

That is all, soldiers. I’ll return the briefing back over to Captain Morgan and he’ll give you final instructions.

Thank you, Lt. Adams.

Ladies and gentlemen I cannot stress enough the importance of a successful mission tomorrow. With the U.S. government in tough economic times and budget cuts looming in all parts of the Defense Department every unit is under scrutiny; even one as interpretative to national security as ours. We must avoid any further accidents like what happened Munich last October. We’re just following orders, but trying to insert beer into Oktoberfest was a disaster. Damn bureaucrats don’t know their lagers from their ales!

Enough, anyways. I wish you all the best. I’ll leave you with one final thing to inspire you on your mission.

The part of the news story about beer being inappropriate in the queen’s presence? That’s complete rubbish. We’ve got a good authority that once the beer is there, she’s got first dibs on a keg stand.

Move out, soldiers!




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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

In Barcelona, the Soccer Sells the Beer

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One of several Estrella ads extolling their ties as Barcelona’s official beer sponsor.
By Eric Beard / Señor Spanish Correspondent / Editor, A Football Report (@AFootballReport)

Americans love a good beer, and a free beer more so. Catalans, amongst tapas, sangria, fine wine, Gaudi, and Shakira, love their local beer, Estrella Damm. They’re also buying it for a new reason this Spring, as it helps them see little Lionel and the rest of FC Barcelona. Not that the average guy or girl in Barcelona doesn’t already follow the Blaugrana, but by buying five Euro worth of Estrella, or about 15 beers, you earn a code to get 15 Euro off of a ticket to the Camp Nou.



(Notice the highest rank comment on the Youtube video explaining the promotion. Translated: Drink beer to help Barça!)

Another ad from Estrella’s Barca campaign.
So it’s unofficially official, the Free Beer Movement has been embraced in one of the last places on earth where it actually needs to be spread. With the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Barça fans in the region of Catalunya, the club has created a fairly intrinsic partnership with its official beer sponsor. The average culé drinks beer at a bar or whenever they have friends over for Friday night copeo, but they also try to go and see Barça at least a few times a season.

The main difference between this partnership and one between, say, Sam Adams and the New England Revolution, is that clearly the PR boosts Estrella more than it does for FCB. In short, it’s a variation of the FBM that the FBM could only dream of. Instead of buying a beer to convince your friend to go watch MLS with you, this is, at least to a degree, buying beer to help fulfill your desire to take in the beautiful game.

Following the Free Beer Movement grow and become relatively mainstream amongst the MLS and U.S. Soccer community has been refreshing and unbelievably enticing. Whether it was earning the support of Alexi Lalas or the American Outlaws or Kyle Sheldon (D.C. United’s Marketing Director, who’s hosting a Free Beer Movement event in May), the mission to “build American soccer one beer at a time” is undoubtedly a noble one. But how exactly can we gauge when the FBM becomes a success and American soccer to here to stay?

Well, that debate is for another time and another place. However, when Sam Adams goes out of its way to create a promotion with the Revs or any other brewery knocking down MLS’s door to get in on the action that’s when we’ll know the FBM has struck a chord. Maybe the FBM ends when MLS and U.S. Soccer fans are able to enjoy a beer with the beautiful game with all their friends for non-ulterior motives, just like the Barcelona beer and footy-lovers who are hitting two birds with one stone.

But as for now, I’m going rogue and using this little Estrella Damm opportunity to convert fellow Americans studying abroad into fans of the game. Converting Spaniards into MLS fans, well that’s a job for someone far more ambitious than myself.

About Eric


Eric Beard is the editor of the highly-praised, “A Football Report“. He is a philosophy major and soccer player at Emory University in Atlanta, GA, but is currently studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain.

You can follow “A Football Report” on Twitter here or Eric’s personal account here.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Photo Essay – 2011 Dallas Cup

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Every Easter week, Dallas plays host to one of the largest and more prominent youth tournaments in the nation (and the world). This year we had the opportunity to travel north from FBM HQ in Austin to take in the thirty-second edition of the Dallas Cup. Hundred of teams, thousands of players, and tens of thousands of fans took in a week's worth of action.

The 2011 Dallas Cup featured teams from as far away as India and Japan and as close as the local Dallas Texans club and the FC Dallas youth sides. By far the most prominent members of the whole tournament were the inclusions of the youth teams of England's Arsenal and Spain's Barcelona. As fate would have it, neither would feature on Sunday, the tournament's final day, and the day we attended.

We accepted a gracious offer from the Trinity Hall Irish Pub to catch the morning's English Premier League action between Arsenal and Bolton. After three and a half hours in the car from Austin we needed a break, and, more importantly, a beer. (512) Brewing Company's Black IPA was our drink of choice and we were able to share that alongside the youth team of Arsenal, who showed up minutes before kick off.


Monday, April 25, 2011

Better Know A Supporter’s Group – Barra Brava

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We continue to expand our coverage of American soccer culture with our series “Better Know a Supporters Group,” just like Steven Colbert’s “Better Know a District” from “The Colbert Report“. 


Our goal: to feature each of the MLS teams’ supporters groups. We’ve sent e-mails to each and every SG in Major League Soccer and soon you’ll be able to check all what each is all about and what awesomeness they have to contribute to our growing American soccer world.

When we devised this idea a while back it was cool to be able to see what each supporter group is about, but in light of the terrible, one-sided, anti-American, condescending profile of Philadelphia’s Sons of Ben SG by the British GQ (not even going to link to it to give them the site hits) we think its all the more important to give supporters groups in Major League Soccer the proper exposure and voice they deserve.

Today it’s Barra Brava, supporters of the capital city’s DC United.

As told to the Free Beer Movement by BB “elder” Robert Gillespie.

Editor’s Note: We sent our questionnaire to “Screaming Eagles” as well, but it still hasn’t been returned. We’ll run it as soon as it comes back.

The Basics

SG Name: La Barra Brava

MLS Club: DC United

Stadium: RFK Memorial

Year SG Founded: 1996

Section Name (if other than SG name): Barra

Any other SGs apart of your section? Yes, Screaming Eagles (working on their profile, too!) and La Norte, District Ultras

Location of SG in Stadium (section #, side, direction): Barra is 135-138 at midfield on the East side of the stadium

The Meaty Questions


What are the origins of your groups’ name?


Our group was founded by a man from Bolivia and took the name (Brave Fans) from the Barras of South America.

Favorite chants/songs?

“Fuck you Ref!” Well our favorite songs/chant is “La Barra Brava”, but many others are very popular, including “Olsen’s Army” which the front office has co-opted for their marketing strategy.

Why is sitting in the supporters section the “best seat in the house”?

Well, first off, no one sits. In the Barra sections everyone stands for 90 minutes, singing, chanting and generally creating a winning atmosphere for our Club. Our sections are in the first level right at midfield so in addition to the great atmosphere we also have seats closest to the action with fantastic views of the field.

Brag. What makes your SG one of the best supporters groups in MLS?


Our passion and commitment to completely supporting the team for 90 minutes. Our atmosphere has long been the best in MLS, the commissioner moved the MLS Cup to RFK in 2005 because of the atmosphere calling DC, “MLS’ best market”.

Our tailgates are legendary and have been featured in Sports Illustrated, The Washington Post and numerous other publications and broadcasts.

Our members develop real relationships with our players. Many former players or injured players visit our tailgates and injured/suspended players often stand in the Barra during matches. Christian Gomez, our former #10, famously played a drum in the Barra all match during an away in Giants Stadium.

Our group and the Screaming Eagles (DC’s other supporters group) were the first to really travel in large numbers not just to close matches but throughout the league.

The people are amazing, it’s a great group who raise large amounts for local charities, donate thousands of hours of community service and create a true family atmosphere in Lot 8 and in RFK

Greatest game(s) in team history?

Well all four MLS Cup wins of course. I think most United fans would say the 2004 Eastern Conference final against NE was the best atmosphere ever at RFK if not in the entire league. Our friendly against Nottingham Forest in 2004 was an incredibly fun atmosphere including an amazing tailgate with Forest fans and founded a relationship that continues to this day.

Predictions for this season?

For DC United: Young, tough scrappy team that should be hard to beat and challenge for a playoff sport. For La Barra Brava: To continue to set the standard other MLS supporters groups aspire to

Why Major League Soccer? Why American soccer?

I started following soccer in the 1970s with the NASL and began coming to United matches in 1996. Many of our members, especially our early members, followed soccer from their home countries or were NASL fans. We also have a large number of active and former service members who fell in love with soccer while stationed abroad. Soccer is the greatest sport in the world, the only truly global sport and there is no sport in North America that has the kind of supporter that follows soccer. The large, organized groups and the fanatical relationship to the club organized among 1000s of fans in a supporters group isn’t seen in the NFL, NBA or Baseball.

To learn more about Barra Brava or if you’re in the DC area, join the group, visit their website.

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Friday, April 22, 2011

Free Beer Movement Heads to the Dallas Cup

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Free beer at a youth tournament usually sounds like a bad idea (that’s what the make flasks for, dad!), but the FBM is getting on the road to the nation’s largest and most prestigious youth tournament in the nation, the Dallas Cup.

With the likes of Barcelona, Arsenal, Corinthians, and several Major League Soccer sides sending their babies to D-Town… FBM HQ in Tejas and not being there wasn’t an option.

We’ll be up in Dallas for all the final games on Easter Sunday (Church of Soccer would approve) playing psuedo-journalist.

If you’re there give us a shout on Twitter, Facebook, or via email.

Can’t make it? Hype yourself up with this Nike Soccer vid.



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Going Suds Up: The Best Beers, The Best Soccer

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By Kirsten Schlewitz / Senior West Coast Beer and Aston Villa Correspondent

You know what? It’s Thursday, I’ve got ten days until law school finals start, and I’ve been drinking for the past three hours. I have little desire to explore the wide range of matches going on this weekend, but I can tell you, there’s a multitude. It’s like manna from heaven, or some analogy more befitting to Easter weekend. Anyway, the first game to catch this weekend is a Friday matchup from the English Championship, whereas if you’re looking to avoid the family this weekend, you should sit down in front of ESPN3 on Saturday to watch every match in Serie A.

Leeds United v Reading, 1:45PM CT


The race for admission to the Premier League is heating up – QPR may look as though they’ve sewn up a place for next year, but considering they still might get points deducted, the promotion battle is still up for grabs. Both Leeds and Reading are within the playoff positions, but should Leeds continue to slip – they’ve collected just one point from their last three matches – Nottingham Forest could take their place. Of course, though, the real reason to watch this match is Barry Bannan, who, quite frankly, should be starting every match for Leeds and why on earth did Aston Villa loan him out if he’s never going to play and (SLAP). Ok, thanks, I’m done. Anyway, anyone who’s ever read anything I write knows I love Baz to pieces, and he did help Blackpool to promotion, so there’s no reason to think he can’t do it again at Leeds.

And so, in honor of the wee Scot, on Friday we drink Kilt Lifter, a Scotch Ale by Pike Brewing (Seattle, Washington). Seeing as I drank at Pike nearly every week in my Seattle days, I consider myself somewhat of an expert on their beers, and Kilt Lifter is by far the best of their regular drafts. 6.5% ABV (incidentally, almost as heavy as Bazza himself) and silky sweet, this one has just a bit of smoke to balance out the caramel flavors. If you can’t drink Scotch before 5pm on a Friday, this is a more than suitable alternative.

Serie A Saturday, beginning at 5:30AM CT

Typically Saturday is a light day in Serie A, with the majority of the matches coming on Sunday. But with Italy still being a Catholic nation, no matches are to be played on Easter Sunday, and so there are ten matches to catch this Saturday. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: put away your preconceived notions of Italian football. The stereotypes about defensive, overly cautious matches? You might catch one or two, but it’s nothing as dreadful as watching Manchester City play away from home. Much of Serie A is all about the attack, and you’re much more likely to catch a seven-goal match in Italy than in most other leagues.

So raise a bottle of Birra Moretti La Rossa (Italy) in honor of Serie A Saturday. This double bock clocks in at 7.2% (quite frankly, I thought all Italian beers hovered at around 4%, so this was a pleasant surprise) and is the perfect beer to keep you company through the four rounds of matches. This one taste mostly of caramel and toasted malts, although the aftertaste is just a bit bitter…rather like one feels after watching Lucio deliberately palm the ball and the ref look away, allowing Inter Milan to keep winning.

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, and listed many of them onRatebeer. 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 Managing Editor of SB Nation’s Aston Villa site, 7500 to Holte, the Italy Editor for SB Nation Soccer, and cover the Seattle Sounders on SBN Seattle (don’t judge–I’m from Seattle!) Finally, I write for Two Footed Tackle when I find words worthy enough for the site. Want more? Follow me on Twitter!


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Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Beautiful Game: The Other Reason We Watch

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Editor’s Note: We continue with yet another random, new series on the Free Beer Movement. Soccer fans come in all shapes, colors, and sizes and how they became fans of the sport are as diverse as they are. While most of us are engrossed in the on-field action, the tactics, the drama…. for many it is more personal, more intimate.

Introducing “The Beautiful Game” a series that focuses on the lighter side, the more attractive side of soccer. Don’t worry we’re not trying to become “Kickette”, but, in our ever-expanding quest to cover the cultural side of the sport its hard to look past a pretty face. Our contributor Amanda will be serving up soccer’s best specimens from both sexes with a wit that only she can provide.

Please leave your feedback in the comments section!


And we’re back for the second installment of The Beautiful Game! Since this column started off with a look at some old-school Men’s National Team players (deathmatch-style, but still, a look), this time we’re turning the tables and checking out the ladies. (Note: this column is written by a straight girl, but we’re equal-opportunity when it comes to aesthetic appreciation.) And again, we’re going back in time, to appreciate the World Cup-winning 1999 Women’s National Team. And don’t worry, I’m not virtually killing anyone this week.

First up, Kristine Lilly. This woman is amazing. She’s been a player on the WNT for four decades, starting at the very beginning of the program in 1987, when she was in high school, and only retiring last year. She was playing on the WNT before some of her most recent teammates (like Alex Morgan) were even born. She’s played in every Women’s World Cup so far and set the all-time caps record for any national team player – yeah, ANY national team player. Any country, regardless of gender. Kristine Lilly beats them all. And with 352 caps, I’d guess her record is gonna stand for a long time. Basically, I have a total girlcrush on Kristine Lilly, and I hope she comes back to the game in some capacity soon. Though maybe not on the field, because as much as I love her, she probably needs a break, and the WNT definitely needs some new blood.


Next, Mia Hamm. Even though she retired in 2004, I would still bet you money that if you asked an average American to name a soccer player, she’d be one of the first mentioned. She holds the all-time scoring record for a national team player – again, like Kristine Lilly, when I say “all-time,” I mean more than any other player in the recorded history of soccer. I’m trying to come up with analogies to other players and other sports, but I’m getting a little stuck, because so few players have so completely dominated their sport in the way Mia Hamm did. Maybe Michael Jordan? Oh, wait. Nike totally got there ahead of me.

Seven years after her retirement, Mia Hamm is still in a lot of ways the face of women’s soccer in America. Which is amazing, considering that she’s mostly been focusing on her charity and raising her family since then. But when you’re probably the all-time best player in your sport (and pretty darn cute as well), that’s what happens, I guess.

Finally: Brandi Chastain. Yes, this is basically just an excuse to run this picture. Not that Brandi Chastain doesn’t deserve inclusion in this post all on her own merits, but y’all, I love this picture. I wish this were the title image for this whole series. I love the expression on her face, and the muscles in her arms, and just the sheer joy that shows through everything here. This is a beautiful picture, to me, not because of the whole sports-bra issue, but because of everything that’s represented. The years of work from every woman on the field, the luck of winning a shootout, and the elation that comes when it’s your kick that did it. I wasn’t a soccer fan in 1999 when this game happened, but I watched it anyway. And it probably has something to do with why I’m a fan today. Moments like these are what keep you coming back.

Meet Amanda

I’m a lawyer in South Texas, a.k.a. the middle of nowhere. I drive three hours each way to attend all the Dynamo home games I can, and that’s only partially because standing with Texian Army gives me a
great view of Tally Hall from behind. Hot players are a bonus, but I’d love the game even if they all looked like Carlos Tevez (the women too). You can find me on The Girls in the Cheap Seats, talking about the American game as part of a rotating cast of smart female fans. I post my own nonsense over at Needs More Kittens,and tweet more than I should here.


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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Six-Pack Interview Series: Kyle Sheldon, D.C. United’s Director of Marketing Communications (Part 2)

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Editor’s Note: This is a shorter version of our “12-Pack Interview Series” where we talk to the people, personalities, and groups that are shaping soccer in the United States.


Kyle Sheldon (far left), in action, at the press conference
announcing D.C.’s signing of Charlie Davies.
Selling soccer in America is no easy task. Particularly in cities with many other major sports teams abound makes bursting through all that more difficult. The men and women on the front lines of this marketing war for Major League Soccer and their clubs have their work cut out for them.

We’ve remarked before that there are MLS clubs doing some amazing things to sell their teams and bring soccer to the forefront of fans minds in the U.S.

If you’re a fan of any MLS side you may or may not be aware of all the work that goes into the successful selling of soccer. Today (and tomorrow) the Free Beer Movement hopes to give you an inside look at the marketing efforts of one team, D.C. United.

We spoke with Kyle Sheldon, United’s Director of Marketing Communication and self-proclaimed “soccer nerd”. He was kind enough to sit down and provide, in excellent and extreme detail, the focus of his department in selling DCU for the 2010 season.

Given Mr. Sheldon’s (very welcome) verboseness we’ve decided to take down a whole six-pack in one sitting may not be the most responsible thing ever so we’ll give you all two days to get through it all. Think of it like respecting a very high-alcohol imperial IPA or barleywine… those need to be sipped slowly and enjoyed in their full flavor.

Much like Kyle’s words.

[You can read “Part One” of our interview with Kyle Sheldon here.]

4) All season the FBM is focusing on the supporters’ impact on the MLS game. How important is having two major supporters groups for DCU? How do they make your job easier from a marketing perspective?

Our supporters clubs are of paramount importance to our success. Clearly, Barra Brava and Screaming Eagles set the standard for in-game support in MLS. They were doing 15 years ago what you now see in Toronto, Portland and Seattle – and, quite frankly, only Portland has recently approached the same fervor and intensity that our supporters have been bringing to RFK Stadium since 1996. In more recent years, La Norte and District Ultras have also joined the fray. While they’re still smaller than the originals, they’re bringing additional energy to an already rockin’ RFK.

When I have a conversation with someone who hasn’t been to one of our games, I always tell them it can’t be described, that they have to see it in person. One can’t understand what it’s like to experience several thousand people standing, chanting, singing, banging drums, waving flags and generally losing their minds for 90 minutes straight. It is truly awesome. While our product on the field over the last 15 years has – on the whole – been very successful, it’s really our unique supporters culture that has been the factor that sets us apart from other sports teams in-market. None of the other teams have what we have and that is a significant advantage.

From a marketing perspective, our supporters clubs make our job easier by creating one of the most unique experiences you can have at a sporting event. One of the most difficult things we face is trying to communicate that experience outside the 50-year old walls of RFK. You’ll notice in any video we produce, we include several shots of the supporters in action – seats bouncing, flags waving, drums banging. It’s one of the few ways we can attempt to capture that energy.

Also of note, for our College Night program – which saw 200% growth from 2009 to 2010 – we hold seats in several sections just behind the supporters. We don’t want them in the thick of it, but is there anyone that enjoys a rocking good time more than college students? I’d argue there’s one group that enjoys it more – our supporters. We believe large numbers of college kids will enjoy the experience so much that they’ll come back of their own accord.

5) You’re welcoming three International friendlies into town: Manchester United vs. Barcelona (August) and D.C.’s matches against Ajax (May) and Everton (July). All three games are a part of season ticket holders’ package. How do these sorts of matches help DC United’s image in the local market even when the focus is less on your team and more on the high-profile “other” teams? Is any soccer played in D.C. automatically good for DCU?

Our Executive Vice President Stephen Zack did an incredible job of securing games against Ajax and Everton early in the year and negotiating the inclusion of the FC Barcelona-Manchester United game in our season ticket package. Our club has a long history of playing big international opponents over the years. The likes of Real Madrid, AC Milan, Chelsea, Celtic, Newcastle, Bayer Leverkusen, Boca Juniors, Blackburn and many others have made their way to Washington to play United. There are two major opportunities (among others) when hosting these games – 1) the possibility to make significant dollars (still very important for a League that has only a handful or profitable teams) and 2) the opportunity to gain attention from the soccer fan in-market who might not be a D.C. United fan.

I’m not sure If it’s unique to D.C. – I don’t think it is – but, our market has thousands of soccer fans who follow teams from England, Spain, Italy, etc., as well as Central and South America, but aren’t necessarily committed to their hometown club, D.C. United. The success of Toronto and Seattle, in particular, can be attributed to the fact that they were somehow able to capture the imagination, interest and (eventual) support of those very fans. Friendlies against the teams these folks support give us one opportunity to showoff our product – both that seen on the field and that seen off – i.e. our supporters.

Any big-time soccer played in our market is good for us, especially when we own the game. In the case of Barcelona-Man United, we’ve got the possible Champions League final coming to town. The Redskins actually own the game, but we did secure tickets – at significant cost to the club, as we had to pay full price – for our season ticket holders. While the cost was significant, we felt it would be a great value to our most ardent supporters to provide them with a ticket to perhaps the biggest game Washington has seen in a decade. That being said, we also know that we have fans who are only interested in seeing D.C. United play, so we offered those fans the opportunity to exchange their ticket for any other D.C. United match, whether in MLS or U.S. Open Cup play.

In summary, big games against big opponents provide big opportunities. In sum, big is big.

6) What sort of impact has the arrival of Charlie Davies had on ticket sales (season or singles)? From a marketing perspective how has his inclusion (and, so far, success) been a benefit to DCU? Is the hope to sign Davies to a long-term deal?

After scoring his fifth goal in his fourth game (the team’s fifth), Charlie Davies is on pace to score 34 goals in 2011. It’s safe to say, if he keeps up that pace, I think it will be everyone’s hope that we sign him to a 10-year deal. Clearly, though, Ben Olsen and the technical staff will evaluate his play over the entire campaign and decide whether or not to buy his contract from Sochaux at the end of 2011 (which would not come at a small cost).

It’s difficult to say exactly what impact Davies’ arrival has had on specific ticket sales. While it’s clearly had a positive impact, I think it’s safe to say we’ve seen more value from the relative awareness his presence has brought. In the several weeks Davies has been with the team, we’ve seen highlights on SportsCenter, major articles in Sports Illustrated, USA Today, the New York Times, LA Times, Washington Post (on a few occasions) and dozens of interviews for local TV and radio. Still to come in the near future are features on SportsCenter and the CBS Evening News. His story and journey is clearly an incredible one and has resonated well beyond the average soccer fan. While we can measure things like web traffic (which soared when news first hit he was on trial and when we officially signed him) and see the increased media attention, it’s tough to attribute ticket sales directly. That being said, his presence has had nothing but a positive impact in that department.

Beyond the coverage and attention, Charlie is like a lot of the young guys on our team this year – great personality, a willingness to do whatever is asked, a positive attitude and, simply, a lot of fun to be around. In seven seasons with United, I haven’t seen a better group of guys when it comes to helping the club off the field, not to mention that they’re an absolute trip on twitter. Follow our guys here if you like having fun.

To expand upon that point, while Davies has clearly been the biggest story of the year so far, it’s the new-look squad, built in the image of Ben Olsen, that has really made the difference for us in the early stages of 2011. We’ve got a long way to go, both on the field and off, but with one of the youngest rosters in MLS and some of the best young players in the League – things are looking up for D.C. United fans.
I’m excited to be a part of it.


Finally, an offer, from one beer drinker to another:

In honor of the Free Beer Movement, I will be providing a delicious keg of the brand spanking new DC Brau at D.C. United’s May 14 game versus the reigning MLS Cup champion Colorado Rapids. 

I’ll host the “Free Beer Movement Party” in our Lot 8 Tailgate beginning at 5pm. In order to qualify for free beer, you must simply bring a D.C. United/MLS newbie to the game, prove you’re over 21 and agree to soccer-nerd talk with me. Send me an email for more details: [email protected].

[You can read “Part One” of our interview with Kyle Sheldon here.]


All Photos Courtesy (and with permission) of D.C. United’s Flickr account unless otherwise noted. 

Support the Movement. Get the Free Beer Movement T-Shirt. Only from Objectivo.com

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Six-Pack Interview Series: Kyle Sheldon, D.C. United’s Director of Marketing Communications (Part One)

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Editor’s Note: This is a shorter version of our “12-Pack Interview Series” where we talk to the people, personalities, and groups that are shaping soccer in the United States.


Selling soccer in America is no easy task. Particularly in cities with many other major sports teams abound makes bursting through all that more difficult. The men and women on the front lines of this marketing war for Major League Soccer and their clubs have their work cut out for them.

We’ve remarked before that there are MLS clubs doing some amazing things to sell their teams and bring soccer to the forefront of fans minds in the U.S.

If you’re a fan of any MLS side you may or may not be aware of all the work that goes into the successful selling of soccer. Today (and tomorrow) the Free Beer Movement hopes to give you an inside look at the marketing efforts of one team, D.C. United.

From l to r: Corinne Thomas (future Mrs. Sheldon), Kyle Sheldon,
Ben Olsen, and Olson’s wife Megan Schoen
We spoke with Kyle Sheldon, United’s Director of Marketing Communication and self-proclaimed “soccer nerd”. He was kind enough to sit down and provide, in excellent and extreme detail, the focus of his department in selling DCU for the 2010 season.

Given Mr. Sheldon’s (very welcome) verboseness we’ve decided to take down a whole six-pack in one sitting may not be the most responsible so we’ll give you all two days to get through it all. Think of it like respecting a very high-alcohol imperial IPA or barleywine… those need to be sipped slowly and enjoyed in their full flavor.

Much like Kyle’s words.

[You can read “Part Two” of our interview with Kyle Sheldon here.]


1) D.C. United had a very difficult and tumultuous previous season in Major League Soccer. What’s was the marketing/media strategy going into this season?

2010 was a record-breaking year for D.C. United – unfortunately, as our supporters well know, we were breaking all of the wrong kinds of records. Our struggles on the pitch were widespread and well documented. The only benefit of being out of the playoff race by August was that we were able to turn our attention to 2011 very early on. We began season ticket renewals earlier than almost any year prior and conducted full analysis and evaluation for almost all of our major programs and ticket packages before the season was even over.

We also knew midway through 2010 that we were in the midst of Jaime Moreno’s last season in United black. He truly was the last link to the incredible early years of our club. Heading into 2011, we knew that we’d have a ton of new players that would be relatively unknown, especially to the general market fan. As we discussed our marketing communications strategy during the offseason, we were keenly aware we’d have to introduce a lot of new faces.

We had a number of things fall into place during the offseason the made our jobs a little bit easier. Ben Olsen being named Head Coach gave us a guy who was not only one of the best known players in club history, but someone who is quite possibly one of the best interviews in U.S. soccer. The acquisition of players like Dax McCarty, Josh Wolff and, of course, Charlie Davies, gave us a group of new guys who were not only going to be significant contributors on the field, but who were personable, engaging and great with fans and media alike. We were excited to introduce these guys to D.C. and our broad strategy centered on that idea – we needed to generate general market awareness, enliven and excite our hard-core supporters, and introduce the casual fan to the new faces of D.C. United. Our plan was to do that as best we could via paid advertisements (print, radio, digital, outdoor); local, regional and national media (radio, TV, online); internal content production and distribution (dcunited.com, Facebook, Twitter); and by hosting a series of local events that would draw fan attention and media coverage.

2) Your pre-season marketing efforts, and correct me if I’m wrong, seemed to focus on getting the United brand out into the larger D.C. market and was directed at potential casual fans. I’m going to list a few of the more recognizable ones and hope you can comment on what each one was, why you chose these opportunities, and what was the goal for each.

You’re not wrong. You’re spot on. In fact, I wrote the above answer before reading this question and you’ll notice we used almost the exact same language. To reiterate, gone were the likes of Jaime Moreno, Luciano Emilio, Christian Gomez, Ben Olsen and others that were well known in D.C. over the previous several years. We were coming off a terrible season and had a lot of new players and needed to reenergize a fan base and market.

* Ads at Metro stops and on Metro buses:

Our marketing team identified very early on the need to garner general market awareness via outdoor advertising. In short, people weren’t encountering our brand often enough to make an impact. Coupled with the fact that we had the previously mentioned new faces, our approach was two-fold – we wanted to smack people in the face with the D.C. United badge and introduce our new players. In other words, we needed to recapture some of the relevancy that was lost after missing playoffs for three straight seasons.

Our idea was not a novel one – we created a series of identifiers for some of our key players (Dax McCarty was The Engine, Andy Najar was The Phenom, Chris Pontius was The Workhorse, Santino Quaranta was The Veteran, etc.) and centered everything on the new man in charge – The General, Ben Olsen.
The call-to-action was simple (and centered around one of our most valuable assets): Join Olsen’s Army. The creative – designed by our Creative Director Ben Mahler – was also clean and simple. Big badge. Big player image. Very little copy. We wanted something that stood out amongst the clutter and didn’t try to do more than it needed to.

We did a mix of outdoor ads – within metro stations, on buses and at bus stops. We also did one large wallscape featuring Davies and Andy Najar, in a young, trendy neighborhood that hit just a few weeks before the home opener. To achieve the wide mix of (costly) ads, we worked with our partners, adidas, who supported a large portion of the total outdoor ad buy.

We received incredible feedback from our supporters. One of the benefits we hoped to see occurred very early on – our hard-core supporters were so jazzed to see their team represented around the city that they were tweeting, commenting on facebook and posting photos frequently. It empowered them to be excited about their team again.

I personally knew the campaign was a success when Ben Olsen – who was featured across all ads – pulled me aside and said, “what have you guys done? I can’t eat breakfast in this city anymore without someone coming up to me and saying ‘hey, you’re the general!’” I told Ben I was sorry… but that that’s exactly what we wanted.

* Third jersey launch at the Washington Auto Show:

Where United is, there also is Volkswagen. VW is obviously our biggest partner and is closely tied to everything we do. When conceiving of a launch for our third kit, we wanted something that was both different and high profile. We had several people internally working directly with Volkswagen – who invested a hefty amount of money in the event – to help us pull off the reveal during the busiest day of the Washington Auto Show, which sees tens of thousands of people come through the Washington Convention Center over a long weekend in February. 


We had a huge 15×15 foot replica 3rd jersey made and hung behind the stage and stationed a couple of good lookin’ VWs stage left and right. Of interest, we were somehow able to keep the kit under wraps until the actual reveal – something that is very rare these days. That led to significant web traffic for those wanting to see the new kit. Following the reveal our large jersey was hung at the Convention Center entry way for the remainder of the show. It ended up being a great crossover event that put us in front of a ton of people who might not have otherwise encountered our brand.

* United truck cruising the streets (and at D.C.’s Shamrock Fest):

Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tbridge/
Our Marketing Manager, Amanda Farina, discovered the AdVan – why it’s called an AdVan and not an AdTruck is beyond me – while doing some research last year. The Portland Timbers used the truck for some of their promotions in 2010 and we immediately dug the uniqueness and high visibility the truck provided. In working with the Portland-based crew at All Points Media, we were able to secure the services of a truck the three weeks leading into our home opener. It aligned perfectly with our pre-season Olsen’s Army campaign and we jumped at the chance to do it. We were also lucky to work with a video production company based out of Minneapolis, Elite Edge, to create a really sick 90-second spot that played on a loop while the truck was out. The truck was in-market for 21 days and spent eight hours a day driving around downtown D.C., Northern Virginia and Bethesda, Maryland. We targeted high traffic areas around rush hour, lunch and big events (Capitals and Wizards games, concerts, Shamrock Fest, etc.). The driver also periodically parked the truck during the day and handed out home opener information and various premium items (key chains, sack packs, hats, tees).

* Ben’s Olsen’s Chili Bowl:

This little promotion was a bit of a miracle. As we entered the last two weeks before the home opener, we were looking for one more promotion that would generate general market interest and local media coverage. 


We worked with a topnotch local agency – AKQA – who conceived of the idea and helped us execute the entire thing in six days. For those that don’t know, Ben’s Chili Bowl is a D.C. landmark on U Street. It’s the most well known eatery in all of D.C. and happens to be about two blocks from Ben Olsen’s house. The Thursday before our Saturday home opener we took over Ben’s Chili Bowl and turned it into “Ben Olsen’s Chili Bowl.” The takeover included new signage on the front of the store and our giant 3rd kit hung up on the side of the building. From 6-7pm Thursday evening, we had Benny, Charlie Davies and Dax McCarty behind the counter giving out free half-smokes – their signature meal – to all in attendance. AKQA designed an exclusive “Ben Olsen’s Chili Bowl” t-shirt and anyone who purchased tickets to the home opener or checked-in to the Ben Olsen’s Chili Bowl location on foursquare received one for free. The full-time staff wore either a 3rd kit or D.C. United branded aprons the entire day.

We generated coverage from local TV affiliates, Comcast SportsNet and several local blogs. And, it was a whole ton of fun.


Video of the event:





3) Thus far most MLS teams haven’t tied much marketing to the coach, but you guys have made a pretty big deal about having people declare they’re apart of “Olsen’s Army”. Was this because Olsen has just as much name recognition as players on the team (being a former member of DCU)? Are you wary of tying your efforts too closely with a coach if things don’t go well?

Ben Olsen is the absolute man. Our fans adored him for the way he played – with heart, passion, grit, and determination – and loved his honesty and commitment to the team off the field. Because of his work in the community, he was and is very well connected outside of the soccer-loving public. In other words, he’s one of the best-known sports figures in Washington.

When he was named as the team’s Head Coach at the end of November last fall, we knew we had a guy that our supporters would get behind immediately.  As we discussed how to best integrate Benny into our pre-season campaign, we borrowed from a song our fans had sung for years in support of the head coach. The simple first lyrics of the song are “we’re all part of Benny’s army, we’re all out to win the League.” We made a slight adjustment using his last name in the formal campaign, but felt the message was just as strong. The call to action simple – join us.

Additionally, the Olsen’s Army campaign was conceived primarily as a pre-season initiative, so we instituted it knowing it would phase out as we got into the season and began to focus more on specific games. The team continues to do well – and the campaign has been successful enough – that we still use the tagline periodically. Clearly, if things don’t go well it becomes more difficult to use, but we also believe Ben has built up a lot of 
“political capital” with our supporters and that they’d support him through any potential early struggles.




[You can read “Part Two” of our interview with Kyle Sheldon here.]


All Photos Courtesy (and with permission) of D.C. United’s Flickr account unless otherwise noted. 


Support the Movement. Get the Free Beer Movement T-Shirt. Only from Objectivo.com