Soccer….Family Style


Nike Football “Winner Stays” Ad vs the Six Year Old
May 3, 2014, 10:16 am
Filed under: Family Fun, International Soccer, US Soccer

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3XviR7esUvo Saturday morning soccer was on at the house this morning and I was watching with my six-and-a-half year old son. He wasn’t paying full attention, so when the Nike ad came on, I pointed it out to him. He’s still psycho for Tim Howard, and as predicted, he want a little nuts when the Hulk morphed into Timmy, and he was generally mesmerized by all the players. Thankfully the final moment comes when the kid player takes on Howard before my son can break anything pretending to be Hulk/Timmy Howard. The kid scores on Howard….

My son was crushed, and my husband said “well, at least it wasn’t Ronaldo (our first round World Cup opponent) scoring on him.” I looked at my son slumped on the couch and said “Hey, think about what that ad is saying. It’s saying you need to have guts and be brave, and that any up and coming player can score on a star. Rafa, someday, you could score on Timmy Howard.” He looked back at me incredulous, shaking his head “No way, Mom, never.” But there was a glimmer there… that moment where he could see himself as a soccer star with the chance of playing with his heros.

Then my daughter said “Yeah, because by then, Timmy Howard will be really old.” A cold splash of water on my beautiful parenting moment. Sigh…just another morning as a soccer parent. And off to the fields we go.

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Thoughts on Michael Bradley Coming to MLS
January 13, 2014, 5:44 pm
Filed under: International Soccer, US Soccer | Tags: , , ,

After watching Clint Dempsey and the frustrations he faced at Seattle Sounders, I can’t say I was all that thrilled to hear Michael Bradley was moving to Toronto FC. As much as I enjoy Seattle’s suffering on the club side, this year is one to focus on USMNT and making sure our boys have the best year possible, at least in my opinion.

Then my husband, affectionately known as , Mr Tanya, walked in from work with the opening line “I guess Bradley doesn’t even want to be on the same continent as dear old Dad” that I started to feel better. He has many interesting points on Bradley’s move and the state of MLS, and was kind enough to guest blog them here.

I had some initial doubts about the Bradley to TFC move but since I’ve had some more time to think I consider this a good thing for Bradley and the USMNT. Before you get all excited and pissed off thinking our best players should be playing at the best level and on the best teams possible let me have a chance to explain.

The World Cup is a special event. It is 3 games in a cloud of dust, or middle of a rain forest, as it were. It’s not a 10 month marathon like a European season. Anything can happen in a one-off game with everything on the line. Just look at what the US did in the 2009 Confederations Cup. They got killed in the first two games, did great in an elimination game against Egypt, and then took it to Spain for a shocking upset, and then Brazil for a half. I don’t believe the USMNT would finish above Spain or Brazil if they were playing club style long season but for 2 ½ games the USMNT was phenomenal.

That is what the World Cup is all about, single games where anything can happen. It is a fast paced, physical tournament. It is not a tournament for aging, slower players who need a game or two off to rest up here and there. The World Cup has become much more an athletic event over simply a pure skill tournament. I believe it changed during the 1994 WC in the US. The heat and travel requirements took an enormous toll on older teams. The speed of play has only increased since then, requiring the need to be in peak physical condition.

In order to be great in modern day World Cup games, players must be at their peak physically and mentally. That is what Klinsmann wants from his players. He wants all of the players to push themselves to be their best: play in the biggest leagues and play in the biggest games. But do not forget he wants them to PLAY in those games, not ride the bench and watch others do the playing. You can do that in front of a TV at home with a beer. Players always talk about being “game fit”. Practice on a top flight team is not a substitute for the mental and physical rigors of game speed and intensity. 

Klinsmann has always said that to get better, players need to be playing against the best, however, he also emphasizes if you are not playing regularly, you will not be selected for the USMNT. Period. There’s no buddy buddy old boys club favors of what you did for me last year, or acceptance that riding the bench for a great team is as valuable as game experience. That is not Klinsmann’s style and he has made it very clear to everyone: get playing time for your club, or you won’t be playing on the national team.

So back to Michael Bradley at TFC vs Any European Team. I don’t think there is any doubt that TFC has already pre-printed all of their game day programs with Bradley starting in the midfield. He is a starter and will likely play the full 90 in every game. I don’t see that kind of guarantee in any European team.

Mentally, it is very difficult for players at the top level to not be playing in every game. Doubt in their own ability and confidence can creep in, and wreak havoc on the most talented player. I want all of the US players playing with confidence and a bit of swagger. If that means being the best player on a slighter lower level team instead an occasional sub on a top flight side, I’ll take that.

Billed as a star on a team that’s trying to improve their position will put Bradley under pressure to succeed in every match. He will not have the refuge of playing a relegation team, every game in MLS will be important to TFC. MLS is a physical league, requiring hard work for the full 90 at every position on the field. He will get plenty of practice defending and will always have someone pressuring him when he has the ball. He will need to lead the team, start the attack and work back on defense at a fast pace, not unlike what he will face in Brazil.

I don’t think we will see Michael Bradley grow leaps and bounds as a soccer player in the next 5 months, nor would he whereever he was playing. With playing time every week, he should be able to avoid any backsliding in talent and fitness, which could happen if he stagnates on a European bench. USMNT doesn’t need a “better” Michael Bradley, we need Bradley at top fitness to keep doing what he’s done for the US for the last year. 

Long term, I hope Bradley has a fantastic World Cup, is courted by a bunch of European teams who show him the money, he moves again in 9 months, and becomes the greatest US player of all time and spends the rest of his playing career as a starter on a Champions League winning team. That would be great. Not very realistic, but great. The US just can’t afford to have him riding the pine this spring.

Now let’s focus on Jermaine Jones. I hope he likes barbecue, because it would be great to see him playing with a USMNT midfielder and a defender three short hours away in Kansas City.



The Storytellers World Cup – Why This is a Great Draw for US Soccer
December 7, 2013, 2:17 am
Filed under: FIFA, International Soccer, US Soccer | Tags: , ,

The moment Ghana drew into the same group as Germany, I knew it. I turned to the group of Des Moines Outlaws gathered in the middle parlor of our home and said “This is our group.” There were groans and begging not to jinx us, but moments later, when they held up “USA,” and as almost everyone hung their heads, I was jumping and shouting for joy. I love this group. I’ve dreamed about a group like this. The short answer: Because Jürgen Klinsmann. Here’s the long answer why:

Ghana: We finally get to play Ghana in the first round! I’m a believe in the third time being the charm, based on the highly scientific study of draw simulators I ran all day while my son was home sick. When Ghana was in our group, we got out of the group. This is the year. I believe that Klinsmann can make the US team believe they can do anything. He can lead the US to avenging our losses in previous World Cups. It will be a moment of spontaneous healing for soccer fans across the US. I can’t freaking wait.

FigoRonaldoPortugal: Best game of my life was watching us beat Portugal in the 2002 World Cup. I met most of my soccer family that day, walking up to the stadium, and the game itself was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.  They were #4 in the world, we were college kids with no clue. They had Figo, we had….mostly people before they were famous. That glorious moment when we scored in the third minute, my husband was shaking me and screaming “This is going to be the longest 87 minutes of my life!” You better believe I think we can do it again. No doubt. My only regret is that Ronaldo’s name won’t fit well into the “Agoos has more goals than Figo!” chant. (Side note: yo, USMNT…no own goals this time, my heart stopped after the Agoos goal and didn’t restart til the final whistle.) Relive that game? Yes please!

6a00d83478053469e201116907d3b7970c-800wiGERMANY: The MOTHERLODE!! The team that brought me to US Soccer. That beat us in 1998. That sent us home in 2002. Who we BEAT THIS YEAR. Don’t give me your “Meh, it was a friendly” “It was their C team” Whatever. Klinsmann wants to beat Germany. I’d put money on it. Because he must have about 100x more German friends than I do, and is just as sick of hearing about how the German team is better than the US. Maybe some days they are, but not June 26, 2014. That is the day we will avenge this handball, and I will get to send a nice bottle of consolation wine to my German housefather, as he delivered to me after our 1998 loss.

Klinsmann was on the team that destroyed us in 1998. He understands the game, the psychology, the bench, the players. He needs to play Ghana and two European teams, instead of needing to prepare for an African team, a South American team, and a European team. Already a job made more simple. But more importantly, he’s been inside the German psychological game.

The 1998 US Soccer sports psychologist, when speaking about that game, told how Germany stood next to US Soccer in the tunnel, and in unison, turned to the US looking unimpressed and unthreatened, then in unison snapped eyes back front, leaving our boys without any hope of beating the German machine before they ever left the tunnel. Klinsmann was one of those players…oh sorry, he was the CAPTAIN. Heck yes I want him leading us into this battle! This is the year, I’ve felt it since we hired Klinsmann, this is THE YEAR.

It’s not enough for me, just getting out of the group, and I cannot for the life of me understand why we’re just talking about getting out of the group, now or in 2010. It is un-American to not want to do better, strive for more than we’ve ever done, so let me tantalize you a bit with what awaits us on the other side of the epic battle we have in front of us. My geek husband ran the numbers on group “deathness,” much like MLS did here, only he used FIFA and ELO rankings. When you look at ELO, deathness is ranked (starting with most deadly) B, G, D, A, C, F, E, H. See, we’re not in the worst group (smirk). But what about the next rounds? Let go of your fears and look into the next round!

If (when!) we escape the first round, we get to face the winners of group H. How’s that side looking? Not too shabby. You know who we face in the round after that?? E or F’s winner. Aw yeah boyeee!! I know, I know…one game at a time, but seriously America, get hungry. When we hired Klinsmann, I told my kids I thought he was the coach to take us further in the World Cup than we’d ever gone. I still believe. You should too, because it’s going to be an epic story next summer.



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.



I Remember in Gratitude

I woke up around 9:30 this morning with the sound of supporters chants echoing in my head and thought about where I was twelve years ago that moment compared to where I am today. I was filled with gratitude for the lessons I learned that day. There’s no way I would be waking up in Columbus with my two beautiful kids, basking in the afterglow of an epic night of soccer, had I not woken up on 9/11/01.

Pulling into work on 9/11, where I was supposed to spend the day selling and designing office furniture systems (that’s cubicles, to you civilians). Instead, I spent a few hours in shock in our conference room in Des Moines, watching the news, praying my family and friends back home in New York, New Jersey, and DC were OK. Slowly, details rolled in…my father wasn’t on an ill fated early flight from Logan. Friends emailed. My cousin got out of the Pentagon safely.

I gave up working around 10 AM, with the thought that not one single person cared about the miles of panel systems destroyed that day. My work was meaningless. There was no point to it ever, certainly not that day. I drove through downtown Des Moines, cowering under our tall buildings that I can’t call skyscrapers, but that fact didn’t stop them from piercing the bright blue sky so it bled out sunshine on Iowans who seemed oblivious to our world crashing down around us. I wanted to scream at them, shake them from their zombie state of Midwestern security. Instead, I went home and sobbed until my husband came home to sit with me at the Blood Bank. We waited there for hours, mainly because it was a refugee camp for Easterners in Des Moines diaspora. I couldn’t be alone, but had to be somewhere I could still take the phone call from my mom, phoning me at 7 PM Eastern to tell me she was still at the school in Montclair, NJ, where she was a teacher. She’d been with the elementary school kids waiting for their parents who couldn’t call, and may never get there, who were walking home from the City because that was the only way to get out that day. The last child had been picked up at 7 PM, and my mother could finally release all the emotion she couldn’t show to her students. Her grief poured out in a raging flood that tore through any composure I had, but my fellow refugees just nodded in understanding, put a hand on my shoulder, shared their stories from home with me.

My new world started to crystallize there, seeing that there was a community for me in Des Moines, and that that community would get you through the worst moments of your life. We finally went home and sat in front of horrifying news of the day, I felt a clarity settle over me. My life needed to change, radically and swiftly. This would be my personal judgement day, and what I brought to the world was found wanting by my own accounting. That just wouldn’t be acceptable for one more day.

I turned to my husband and said “I think we should have kids.” He swiveled his head away from the carnage on the screen, and with amazing restraint at the shock of my seven year established position of kid-free happiness making an abrupt about face, he said “Okay….” not at all revealing that he, in all likelyhood, had a mental institution ready on speed dial.

I explained that while we didn’t know details, it was pretty obvious that there were some pretty awful people in the world. We wouldn’t be able to impact getting rid of those people, but certainly, we were capable of raising a few kids who may not cure cancer, but would tip the good guy/bad guy ratio in our favor. He agreed, suggested we see if I still felt that way in a couple weeks, and low and behold, 13 months later, our beloved Wonder Woman (the supporter formerly known as Betsy Ross) was born.

During those 13 months, I resigned my position and started doing community work, first with the Des Moines Marathon, then with the Stadium Foundation, then with my own company. And I decided my life would be focused on things I cared about: family, work that was meaningful, and soccer. I met someone this weekend who, when I introduced myself, said in shock, “You’re Tanya Keith? I’ve heard of you.” This is a phase I hear more often, although it is still strange to me, particularly when delivered with a tone that adds layers of ambiguity in exactly what reputation precedes me. He clarified, “I heard you’re a force of nature.” How’s that for my next business card? “Tanya Keith, Force of Nature.”

This soccer trip with my family, with all of you, who told me so many great stories, seeing that beautiful game, that ended in another dos a cero moment for us to share, it all happened for me because of the person I became twelve years ago. Maybe it takes an unspeakable tragedy to get clarity about your life, but I hope not. I try every 9/11 to evaluate (convenient that it comes in the season of atonement for my JewCrew buddies and I) if my life is authentic and meaningful. I try every year to not get lost in the sadness of what we lost, but in gratitude for the lessons I learned and the place I was delivered to by those lessons.

Last night, the energy and love for US Soccer that poured out of Columbus was even more healing for me than the game they hosted last year. I love being in any supporter section, but last night in Columbus was something special. In the mist of goal celebrations’ beer, smoke, and sheer unadulterated joy, the Nordecke elevated me to something I can only describe in Charles Boehm’s new word: it was #DosaCeroazo.

I am filled with gratitude, US Soccer loving nation. I hope you are all out there, being a force of nature in something you love, with people you love.



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!



Praise and Parenting: a Soccer Mama’s Take on Seattle’s 21st Century Debut

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What a night, huh? The show that Seattle put on Tuesday night was mind-blowingly awesome on so many levels…the pre-party, the march to the match, the songs in the supporters section, and that beautiful, glorious tifo. Seattle deserves a lot of credit for creating one of the best game experiences of my 20 years of following US Soccer. But as I was reading stories about the match from Business Insider, the blogosphere, but in particular, Jerry Brewer’s column in the Seattle Times, I felt like we need a little parenting perspective on this game, and I’m just the soccer mama to do it.

                Seattle, what you did was amazing, but to say this was all Seattle culture, or just a normal night, makes us here in the rest of the US Soccer world a little uncomfortable. Last night wasn’t about Seattle soccer. It was about Seattle hosting US Soccer. Of the 41,000 tickets sold for this match, 15,000 of us came from out of state, a full 37% of the people, according to US Soccer’s presentation at their Official Supporters pep rally. The people that are willing to travel like that to games, to not only pay $50 without complaint, but spring for a $300+ flight and take vacation time….we don’t sit in the upper bowl. That impressive performance in the supporters section came from a diverse group of supporters. Within my arm’s reach were supporters from England (who was noticeably stunned by how far American soccer has come, saying “I didn’t think I’d see anything like this for another five years), Des Moines (Iowa, not Washington), Denver, Portland, and yes, Emerald City Supporters. I had friends in the crowd from DC, Detroit, Kansas City, and more, 49 states represented in attendance, according to US Soccer. We bring the diversity of supporter clubs from all over the USA, and there’s an opportunity to learn from us. I would be so disappointed if I heard my child present their group project at school, but try to make it sound like the project was a success because they were so awesome at making projects, that everyone else’s projects pale by comparison, even as the other members of the group that had done work were standing there. Seattle was amazing last night, in large part due to the tireless hundreds of hours put in by American Outlaws, Seattle chapter, but also thanks to members from chapters around the US, who shouted ideas to Seattle capos and helped keep fresh chants flowing.

                If Seattle does get another game, and I hope they do, I hope they’re a little more open to asking for help. Yes, you do Sounders supporting, week in and week out, and you do it with skill that puts you among the best atmospheres in the US. But there are those of us that do US Soccer, year in and year out, and we love supporting our team as much as you love supporting yours. Just ask nicely, and we’ll help you hang banners and distribute song cards. I really enjoyed last night, working with capos with microphones, and I loved learning new songs that are unique to the Pacific Northwest. You know what would have been awesome? Allowing us out of town capos to teach you some of our songs from around the United States. Because I got “Everywhere we go” started (mic free!) in my section, but if the capo with the mic doesn’t know that that song ends with “clap clap clapclapclap clapclapclapclap USAaaay!” then we all sound silly as it grinds to a halt, as we are all clapping, but the mic guy is launching into the 2nd round of singing. It’s OK for you to learn from us, as we learn from you, it will only make you stronger.

                I have two kids. Would any of you ever seriously ask me which one is my favorite? Of course not. I’ve watched US Soccer in eight countries and 12 states, and I’m not going to pick a favorite, nor should you ask me. I’ll tell you that I love the Member’s Bar and stand at Sporting KC, and I cried last September in Columbus the first time I heard a US Soccer crowd chant throughout the stadium and stand for an entire match, I loved Denver and Tampa, where the crowds faced some of the worst weather I’ve ever dealt with in a match with a wonderful sense of humor and adventure. And I love, that for my 40th match supporting US Soccer, I got to be with you, Seattle, under the most impressive tifo I’ve ever seen. But I wouldn’t say it was my favorite, because I love all those experiences for different reasons. I don’t have to love you “the best,” and by now, you should be confident enough that you don’t need that to feel good about yourself. You are a great soccer city, but you won’t become a greater soccer city until you open your doors and let us share our passion with you. Because the USA chant that everyone is writing about at the end of the match was cool…but what’s cooler? A loud, slow, haunting rendition of “You’ll neeeever beeeat the US (clap!) “You’ll neeeever beeeat the US (clap!) Just throw me the megaphone in the 88th minute next time…I’ll start it up for you.

                I was really proud, even pleasantly surprised, that for the most part, you let your club thing go for a night. I saw very few green shirts in that sea of red, white and blue, and the one capo who dared show up eternal green and forever blue getup (or is it the other way around?) was a good sport about switching to red. You not only did some Portland cheers, you gave them credit where credit was due, probably one of the coolest supporter club moves I’ve seen. It gives me hope that now that you’ve proved yourselves worthy, next time you’ll expand your scope and look at what US Supporters are doing around the US, and welcome our ideas with open arms. Hopefully next time, I won’t hear quite so much about how it’s not worth $50 to see a World Cup Qualifier, and more about how it sold out weeks ahead of the match. I hope next time, it’s like last night, only bigger and better…..although seriously, I don’t know how you’d ever out-do yourselves on that tifo. (Watch the tifo at this link.)


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The crowd in Seattle knows how to pitch in and help fold the Midwest Mama. Thanks to everyone who helped!




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