Soccer….Family Style

Why the Good Clean US Soccer Fans Might NOT Want Mexico in the World Cup
September 14, 2013, 6:34 am
Filed under: FIFA, International Soccer, US Soccer

Steve Davis of NBC Sports ProSoccerTalk wrote a post about how Americans, who are wooping it up at the delicious concept that Mexico might not make the World Cup, might take care what they wish for. His premise is that Mexico losing their perennial powerhouse status might provoke FIFA to knock CONCACAF from 3.5 World Cup qualifying berths to 3. It’s not a bad point, but I’d like to propose that we are better than this.

We need to stop thinking about CONCACAF as US vs Mexico and a bunch of minnows, maybe a few guppies. Look at our table right now.  It’s not the US killing it, and the rest of the rabble slogging it out. (Hang on a sec, I am enjoying the US sitting pretty with 16 points with 2 games left. Let that wash over you, Americans. It is so sweet….OK, now back to it). Costa Rica is hot on our heels at 15 points. The Ticos are typically more likable than our usual rivals, and in case you weren’t paying attention, they didn’t squeak out a 1-0 W against the mighty, mighty US last week, it was 3-1. Yes, we had an off night, and yes, Ticos were doing their best to step up (down?) to Mexico’s level, drowning out our anthem and faking injury that resulted in our Matt Besler sitting out his next game on yellow card accumulation, but Costa Rica looks like the business, and that is good for CONCACAF. Honduras has a respectable 11 points, and Panama is tied with Mexico (yeah, let that sink in too). Hey! Remember last round of CONCACAF qualifying? Who looked promising? Jamaica beat the USMNT at the Office for the first time, and Mexico was coming off an Olympic Gold medal. CONCACAF just got real, kids.

Now is not the time to sit in the corner, gnawing our fingernails to a nub wondering what we will do in the post-Mexico world. FIFA clearly had Mexico’s interests in sight, or why would they be punishing Costa Rica for things that are weak imitations of what Mexico likes to pull at Azteca? The smart money thinks this is less about punishing Costa Rica and more about desperately trying to give Mexico an advantage when they play them in October.

Do we really think Europe started wringing their hands when Italy and France got sent home after the first round of the 2010 World Cup and England could “only” tie those blasted Americans? Were they concerned about the demise of their region, that they would lose berths? I doubt it. I’m not making the argument that CONCACAF is the new Europe, but that we have to keep our heads and get a sliver of confidence that more teams becoming competitive in our region is a good thing. Things change, I personally believe our region is strong than it has ever been, and that’s not the time FIFA starts messing with it.

And there’s this: what’s annoying to US Soccer fans about Mexico? Mexican-Americans who live here, are American citizens, but don’t support the US. So as we watch Mexico crumble, Americans, you should take care what you wish for. Be classy. I didn’t see racism at our match, but I heard about a few incidents that leave me less than proud. Did you enjoy Mexicans rubbing their Olympic win in our face after we bombed out embarrassingly early from that tournament? NO, we did not. So be better. Be an ambassador to American soccer. If Mexico doesn’t make the World Cup, use it as an opportunity to welcome Mexicans looking for a team to support to our American Soccer family. I know it’s a stretch, but try it. I delivered an American Outlaws scarf to one of my buddies who supports Mexico when I returned from Columbus….a tiny bit taunting, but followed up with an invitation to watch with us. I know….eternally optimistic, but if Mexico is out and the US does what I think it can under my hero Klinsmann, this could be a very interesting year to be an American Soccer fan. Don’t waste it worrying about FIFA and a half a berth.

AO Des Moines is Getting a Scarf, and You Gotta Have It

Des-Moines-FinalWe’ve been talking it since we founded almost three years ago, and now, thanks to the design genius duo of AODSM members Trevor Kruger (@TkCyclone) and Greg Welch (@ArtDirectorBYU), we have our final design. All we need is YOU. Order up your very own AO DSM scarf and help us meet the order minimum. We want to have them for the upcoming games in Columbus and KC, so you have ONE WEEK! We’re taking orders until 8/6/13, and then it’s off the making them! Don’t delay! (Update: We extended to 8/9 to allow our email list a few days!)

Here’s how to order: Go to our order form here. Fill out you info. Chose your payment method. Pay us.

It’s that simple. Filling out the form and not paying will not get you a scarf. Payday isn’t until Friday? It’s $20….go ask a friend. If you’re truly in crisis, let us know, and we’ll try to help, but we really need paid pre-orders. Thanks for the help making our long held AO DSM scarf dreams a reality!

There’s a New Pope, AND He Loves Soccer
March 14, 2013, 6:50 am
Filed under: FIFA, International Soccer, Supporter Culture

Disclaimer: I’m Jewish. I may live in Iowa, and know many Catholics, but at the end of the day, there’s a whole bunch I don’t understand about the significance of today’s events at the Vatican. None of this is intended to disrespect the seriousness of this day for my Catholic friends.

Because really, yesterday started out as a running joke. There’s a seagull on the Vatican roof! It has a Twitter account! Sigh…the whole thing of waiting for smoke signals. It’s tough for me to understand the whole religious significance of an event that’s pretty out there in practice. Not that Jews don’t have our own strange traditions, but usually there’s delicious food involved, which I think makes it more accessible. I digress….

So the new Pope is announced, and we, my two kids and I, were running errands and catching snippets of the story via NPR. I caught that the Pope was from Argentina, which I thought was cool because there’s some really great Rabbis and Cantors from there, so I’m absentmindedly thinking that the new Pope has something going for him culturally speaking. My daughter was saying “I thought a Pope was where you go to drink.” No honey, that’s a “pub.” It was about as satisfying as Pope announcements can be for a nice Jewish girl.

Then the soccer jokes started, mostly from my friend @WeberKing, another Jewish USMNT fan: “Move over Maradona, there’s a new guy claiming to be the “Hand of G-d.”

“Sepp Blatter just announced that the new Pope is from Qatar. Sorry US and England”

Then another friend posted a comment wondering if the Pope was a fan of Boca Juniors, River Plate, or perhaps Newell’s Old Boys? All first division teams in Argentina, and kinda cracked me up, envisioning a serious Bishop going nuts over a soccer game. That made me pretty happy, and it wasn’t too hard to imagine, a guy growing up in Argentina being a soccer fan. I mean, giving up sex is one thing, but G-d wouldn’t ask anyone to give up football, right?

So I posted this joke to break up a serious Pope discussion on another friend’s page, and in response, he linked me to this gem: “New Pope Suffers for Argentine soccer club San Lorenzo.” No. Effing. Way. This is amazing. The Pope is a football fan. With a supporters card no less! I can’t really say that this is going to make me convert to Catholicism or anything, (Now if San Lorenzo starts crushing it, you’ll have my attention) but not knowing anything else about him, I’d rather have another supporter in any job. I know he’s got a pretty crappy record on gay rights, but personally, I don’t look to the Catholic Church for leadership on much, least of all gay rights equality. Just don’t take away my birth control options, and we’re cool for now, Pope Francis.

500 Days to 2014 World Cup in Brazil!
January 28, 2013, 11:23 pm
Filed under: FIFA, International Soccer, US Soccer | Tags:


FoxSoccer’s Facebook page posted this image with the announcement that the 2014 World Cup is 500 days away. Let’s just say we were more excited about this than the kids’ 100th day of school Friday. 500 DAYS!!

Here We Go!
September 4, 2012, 7:00 am
Filed under: FIFA, International Soccer, US Soccer | Tags: , ,

The Jamaica Home/Away roadtrip is underway! Yesterday, I watched my husband referee Minnesota Soccer’s win over Western Kentucky, and today, we fly to Montego Bay for the away leg of the qualifier. We’re off to a great start.

Our airport shuttle driver was Mexican, and was as excited as we were to talk CONCACAF soccer, even though I opened the conversation with “Didya see the US vs Mexico game in August?” He liked my rendition of Mexican beer ads in Spanish, and I think was impressed that a couple Americans were so familiar with the history of the biggest rivalry in CONCACAF.

We arrived at the airport in our USMNT jerseys, Doug’s vintage 2002, and mine the current Where’s Waldo? We were through O’Hare security in record speed when a guy in business attire stopped me and said “Nice jersey, are you coming from or going to a game?” I’ve never been stopped by an average American who knew 1. What a US Soccer jersey looked like and 2. Their playing schedule. You’ve come a long way, America, and you’re making me proud. Just think, my kids could grow up in a world where soccer fans aren’t the lowest form of American sports fan….

Next stop: Jamaica, for cliff diving, Blue Mountain coffee, rum, a reprise of our 1995 honeymoon, and hopefully, an excellent soccer game.

Soccerific!! USMNT WCQ, Euro2012, and Old Friends
June 8, 2012, 12:36 pm
Filed under: FIFA, International Soccer, US Soccer

Since 1994, I’ve counted my life in four year increments. In some ways, everything in my life is planned around the ebb and flow of the World Cup schedule. The qualifying build up, the anticipation of ticketing phases, the glorious tournament, and then the two years of darkness, when we have nothing but Gold Cup, friendlies, and Olympics (or not) to enjoy with our National Teams. So it’s pretty difficult to contain my excitement with the soccer on tap today.

As my friend Monty posted on Facebook this morning, “There are some great days that bring excitement each and every year. Then there are days like today that only happen once every four years … the first day of qualifying for the (2014) World Cup in Brazil starts today.” For people like us, the wait for “games that count” is over. The USMNT Road to Brasil starts tonight here in Tampa with our game vs. Antigua and Barbuda. It doesn’t really matter to me that this should be an easy game for the US, and we’re probably going to get soaked in the rain tonight…just so long as the wait is over.

As if that’s not enough, today also kicks off Euro 2012, with the host Poland playing Greece in Warsaw, which means a month of excellent European soccer. It’s a tournament second only to the World Cup in excitement….as I’m writing this, it’s 10v10, missed PK, tied game….it does not suck.

And who better to spend it with than my soccer family? I am staying with Andy Gustafson, one of the guys I met in Korea 10 years ago. Also with us is Jon Strauss, another World Cup traveler, and meeting us later, Rishi Bagel, who not only hits the World Cups, but joined us at Azteca for the game in 2005. For me, this is like a family reunion all wrapped up in soccer. It’s going to be a beautiful weekend, no matter what the weather.

Korea 2012: 10 Years Later
June 8, 2012, 10:46 am
Filed under: FIFA, International Soccer, Supporter Culture, US Soccer

A ripple went through the soccer world this week, as we passed the 10th anniversary of the US vs Portugal game in the 2002 World Cup. I smiled every time I read a “10 years ago I was….” post on facebook or Twitter, and I teared up watching babyfaced Landon Donovan in his disbelief scoring on the powerhouse on Portugal. As I thought about my “10 years ago today…” I got a little nostalgic.

Ten years ago, I was five months pregnant, with my darling girl, Aviva. I had taken the long flight to Korea with my husband, trying to keep my ankles from swelling on our way to our second foreign World Cup. We knew a few people from Iowa that would be in Korea, and we had met a few people through the “Yanks in Korea” Yahoo group (remember those days?) but otherwise, we were on our own. We headed out to the bar where Americans were meeting up, and came across many of the people that we continue to travel with to this day. It was like another world from where we are today. I had no idea the potential that US Soccer would display at that World Cup, and had no idea the bonds we would forge that day would lead to lifelong friendships with so many people.

US v Portugal would be my first time taking my daughter to a USMNT match (we called her’s “obstructed view seats”) and would start a lifetime of taking my kids into the supporters section. I remember her doing what felt like a full 360 spin when we hit the “wall of sound” that was the Koreans chanting in unison at the US vs Korea game. I remember cradling my belly at the US vs Poland game when it looked like we were headed home, all our work in the previous two matches for nothing.

I realize now, ten years later that there will never be another World Cup like that for me, where the unknown wonder of what was to come for our family and the team I love was so full and bright. I have loved every time I’ve brought my kids to games, but I find it hard to imagine a World Cup so far exceeding my expectation, now that the bar has been raised so high. It was a great experience to see the Germany Weltmeister through my then 3-1/2 year old’s eyes, and to travel South Africa with so many good friends was fantastic, but ten years ago, I was that pregnant girl in Korea, and I had the time of my life.

***If you want to read more about our trip to Korea and you can’t wait until I finish the book I’m writing about our travels, pick up a copy of Andy Gustafson’s “23 Days in Korea.” He is one of the people we met at that first game, and tells a great story of his trip, albeit misspelling my name and totally misrepresenting how that cab WAS mine! It is otherwise a great read. You can buy it here.

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