Soccer….Family Style

MLS Fans, Come Have a Drink Tonight and Let’s Talk Soccer

PSLPortlandI live in Des Moines, where local soccer means Des Moines Menace….the 2014 Regular Season National Champion Des Moines Menace that is. I have soccer friends in Iowa who are really into MLS who drive to Kansas City or Chicago to watch games. The phrase “soccer friends in Iowa” is a new thing for me. It’s only in the last five or six years I’ve had a group that inspired me to do more with MLS than catch a game when it was convenient. Last year was the first year I knew what the Supporters Shield was (this year I’m wishing it was awarded in the PDL), and with the 2013 MLS All Star Game in Kansas City, it was the first year I got to watch friends travel to the ASG. Major League Soccer is slowly sucking me in. Exhibit A: I just arrived in Portland for my first MLS All Star Game.

My morning has already been pretty cool (despite waking up at 2:15 AM Portland time). Once I made my connection in Chicago I was on a plane with a DC United fan and several Chicago Fire supporters (and the general counsel for the Fire, who looked like a business traveler until he unbuttoned his dress shirt to reveal a retro Chicago Fire navy jersey). It cracked me up, thinking about soccer fans from all over the country converging on Portland, each of us hitting our on moment when it’s OK to take the professional clothes off and reveal our true soccer loving selves. Personally, I left the house in my Portland Timbers jersey, although I don’t think it was noted by any neighbors at 4:30 AM.

I’m stoked to unlock another level of MLS Soccer this week and check out the MLS ASG festivities, but I really hope I get to meet some MLS fans from around the US so I can hear your stories about what life is like in full time MLS supporting. I’m doing a book signing tonight at the Cheerful Bullpen at 6:30 PM PT. I’ll have my book, Passionate Soccer Love, for sale and I’ll sign them and even do a reading if asked (maybe from one of the MLS chapters), but really I hope you’ll come out and help me learn more about the world of MLS: your supporter clubs, your songs, your rivalries…and help me continue to get to know the club side of US Soccer.

Pre-MLS All Star Game Passionate Soccer Love Book Tour

Cheerful Bullpen Bar

8/5/14 (Tuesday) 6:30-8 pm (beer specials start at 8, so stick around after!)

1730 SW Taylor St, Portland, Oregon 97205

Link to the Facebook Event:

Portland, Don’t Make Me Cut You
January 8, 2013, 9:16 pm
Filed under: Supporter Culture, US Soccer | Tags: , ,

I’ve been pretty clear that I’m only 100% confident when I’m chanting “US Til I Die.” I am pretty passionate about soccer in general, and I’ll stand with almost any supporters section, typically with me US Soccer buddies from around the USA. But, as previously reported, I’ve had a special place in my heart for the Portland Timbers for the past eight years, and purchased several Rose City Til I Die items without a hitch of hesitation. Timbers were the centerpiece of last Summer’s MLS Road Trip, and it makes me happy to think of Timbers Army and the friends we made there, as it made me happy to read Grant Wahl’s tweets about Portland perhaps getting to host a World Cup Qualifier next Summer.

Then I read Andrew Brawley’s Op Ed on Timber’s hosting, and I can honestly say that I’m disappointed for the first time by a Timbers Army experience. He whines about the recent USWNT games held in Portland as being over-run by pre-teen and teen girls, and complains about AO’s chants being stale, and implies that they are below the awesome that is Timbers Army. In addition, he feels that Timbers Army is only qualified to bring it to Timbers games, which was as close as he came to making sense and sounding informed.

First of all, for those of us who’ve experienced USWNT and USMNT games, I think we can say that the two don’t look at all alike. Are the USWNT games drawing better atmosphere at meteoric rates….yes, absolutely. But it’s not the same as a USMNT match, and a USMNT match isn’t the same as a USMNT qualifier. Many of us who travel and bring the noise (and the giant flag) to US Soccer have to pick and choose our games. I dream of the day I can make every men’s game and every women’s  game, but that’s just not practical, as I’m sure Andrew could understand, since he admits not even dropping the coin to see USWNT in his own back yard, a concept that’s insane to those of us for whom EVERY US Soccer and/or MLS game is a road game.

Second, nice to brag about being a “torch bearer among American Supporters groups,” but fold your hand before it’s been dealt in taking it to the next level of supporting American soccer. Does AO sing U-S-A more than I’d like? Yes. Is it a reasonable thing that happens in a new supporters group …particularly one that doesn’t play an annual regular season where we can meet up and practice an arsenal of song and chants? YES. I capo US Soccer games, and we sing a variety of songs and typically have new chants made up for that particular opponent. You might not hear them on the broadcast, but it’s there in the stadium. It makes me wonder if Andrew’s ever experienced a USMNT match in person? I certainly have, and I’ll say this about American Outlaws: we tifo stadiums, despite the fact that our members carry all that stuff in, paying airline check fees and not having the luxury of leaving it in a stadium storage locker. We sing songs and chants over multiple sections, with variety and unison that hasn’t happened before AO started. And we do it all without any local bar or HQ where we all get to meet up and organize week after week. Show some respect, son.

Third, I know you’re better than this Timbers Army. I blog as a soccer mama, so please picture my disapproving glare when I say “you’ve really disappointed me, I expect more from you.”  When I came in for Timbers vs Chivas, I had the good fortune to meet Phyllis Hayes, and not Andrew, who probably would have freaked out that my pre-teen daughter might ruin his night. Phyllis showed my kids how to do some Timbers traditions, and made us feel welcome by running to the office to copy off the song sheet as well as the sheet of songs that were new to the Army that night. I’ve SEEN YOU INTRODUCE NEW SONGS!! I know Timber’s are capable of hosting USMNT and maybe, just maybe, teaching American Outlaws a few things, but that won’t happen with an attitude expressed in Andrew Brawley’s Op Ed.

I hope Timber’s Army and Portland do get to host a USMNT World Cup Qualifier this year. It is a great town with a great soccer culture. And American Outlaws are better than you give them credit for, as we were fully capable of singing along with Sporting KC Fans, because you know what? We all DO love bar-be-que! I’m sure we would be just as accepting of what Portland has to offer, even if “we all don’t love locally sourced gluten free” isn’t quite as catchy…I’m sure you have something we can sing. As for the AO songs you clearly haven’t heard, don’t worry Andrew, my five year old will show you how it’s done.

No Pity in the Rose City….Yep, We Just Drove 5000 Miles for a Loss

Oh Portland….how I love you! Somehow we made it safely to Portland in under 20 hours from Salt Lake City with two young kids and one driver (Mapquest it….it’s impressive). We stopped along the way to check out the Columbia River and a fish hatchery, but mainly, it was a long day of driving. By the time I got to Portland, I really wasn’t mentally prepared to learn a new city’s parking system, particularly one as, shall we say, bike/walk encouraging, as Portland. But from the moment we arrived, Timbers Army members were nothing but amazing. We got parking help from one fan, who helped us find the line for early entry wristbands. Then other fans pointed us to the Timbers Army merch van, where we glutted ourselves on scarves, stickers, and shirts. As if this lovely lady welcoming us wasn’t enough, things were about to get even better.

My goal for taking my kids to Portland was to show them the height of supporters clubs. I wanted them to see a club that sings the whole way through with tradition and wonderful stuff the whole way through. We’ve taken them to some great games with fantastic supporters, but I’ve never had an experience like the one I had in Portland in 2005 when they were playing on a baseball field and still in the A-League. I had to see for myself how they’d developed, and wanted to share with my kids what I consider to be the best supporters group I’ve ever seen.

Phyllis and the kids, Timbers pre-game

Enter Phyllis, previously a stranger, and our initial seatmate.  Phyllis took to our little group right away. When she heard we’d traveled from Des Moines mainly for this game, she became our Timbers Army concierge. She got us song sheets and started teaching the kids the various Timbers Army traditions, such as changing the last line of the national anthem to “home of the Timbers.” She helped them tear up confetti for the end of the anthem. She taught them about all the things they should do as supporters. It was amazing. My kids have been to dozens of soccer games, but I’ve never seen them so engaged as they were after Timbers 101 with Phyllis.

The game was exciting. Portland had so many chances, 20 shots by the end of the game, and after every one, I had to turn around to and count off the near misses to Phyllis, who had moved a few rows back to be with her injured husband. We got to learn the Timbers two new songs as well as their old favorites, including Tetris. The Timbers Army sings through the entire game, including a call and response with the entire stadium. When Chivas scored the game winner in the 69th minute, the Army put their scarves up and kept right on singing. It was a beautiful show of support for their team, and I loved it almost as much as their show of discontent with their current coach, recently installed rather bluntly by management, after the game.

As I walked out after the game, I turned to my daughter and said “You know what we just did?”

“What?” she replied.

“We just drove 2500 miles to see our team lose.” She smiled at me halfheartedly. Then I said, “You know what that means? …..We’re going to have to come back.” The Timbers Army showed us such great hospitality, we barely noticed the loss. I’d gladly do this drive all over again (or maybe we’ll fly next time…) to come back for more. Thanks Timbers Army. I waited seven years to rejoin your ranks, and it was absolutely worth the wait.

We’re Coming to See YOU, Real SL, Timbers, and Sporting!

This guy wants to meet your supporters! This year, the kids and I decided to do an MLS Road Trip instead of roadtripping to Grandma and Grandpa’s (I know, I was surprised they were into it too!) So here we go! We leave this week for Real Salt Lake’s Friday game, then will have one insane night into day of driving to Portland Timber’s Saturday game. We’ll make our way back via California, where we might hit the LA Galaxy World Football Challenge game, if I can see fit to part with $110 a ticket (not looking good right now…but we’ll wave while we’re in town!) Then it’s across the desert to see Sporting KC in the Open Cup final!

Two kids, one mom, 3 (or 4) MLS games, 5000 miles. Stay tuned, soccer fans…and remember…it’s not nice to wager on our survival, but you can your support to @TanyaKeith  Dwolla ID #812-460-2944 yeah, I’m talking to you, LA front office!

%d bloggers like this: