Soccer….Family Style


Be Classy, Soccer Fans
November 10, 2016, 4:35 pm
Filed under: FIFA, Supporter Culture, US Soccer | Tags: , , , ,
I wrote this blog post back in June, and I kept finding reasons not to publish it. As you’ll read in this post, I find it exhausting to be the one-woman clearing house for everything that’s wrong with soccer supporter culture, particularly related to American Outlaws. But today I feel like it HAS to be said. It scares me to go into US vs Mexico on the heels of a political campaign that was so contenious regarding women and immigrants. The way women (and minorities and immigrants) are treated matters to me, particularly in the soccer community. I’m asking all of you to do better for our collective soccer family.

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Last night I got the worst news, but at least it came from a friend. Here’s what was posted to my Facebook Timeline:

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Vindication is nice, but at the price of even one more woman’s suffering, it’s also horrible. The flood of emotion I felt staring at this post is pretty indescribable. So sad to hear that another woman was hurt. So relieved AO was FINALLY talking about it. Vindicated that even one person remembered that I talked about this so long ago. Let’s rewind…

In 2013, I reported to AO National in writing that at an AO LA Night Before an AO member who I had photos of had touched my breasts inappropriately and other women at the party had negative experiences with men, and that as a chapter leader, I felt it was important that we deal with the rise of sexism within AO in the interest of protecting all our members. I was told that if anything had really happened, I should have called the police. Which is pretty much THE WORST way an organization could respond to such a report. AO confirmed this was their response in the article by Fusion published March 2015.

I shared the letter I wrote to AO with a Facebook group of all women, asking them to please share their stories. What was meant as fact finding was seen as an attack on AO. I never wanted to attack AO. I was a chapter leader who felt deeply connected to my #AOFamily, but I’m also a mother, and I didn’t want anyone hurting another woman at an AO party, and I thought it was an important discussion to have in 2013. AO was growing fast, and I thought thing could mushroom out of control if we didn’t confront it. My attempts to start that discussion were taken by many as treasonous, and ever since then, I have faced an almost constant barrage of harassment from AO members and sympathizers.

  • A man in chapter leadership of AO Knoxville created Twitter accounts to harass me and release personal information about me. I reported it to AO National and never heard that they did anything to even speak to him, let alone public or private discipline.
  • Supporters from KC seem to have a particular taste for harassing me, one of them even approached my son at a game to try to intimidate him. Again, no response from AO, but I was able to get support from stadium ops in KC so I could feel safe bringing my kids there.
  • I attended the AO party in Canada last Summer after ensuring it was legal to bring my kids to the venue. This was the first event with #AOWatch, and @USAGunnerWalsh tweeted an image of my child at the bar and suggested we call DHS about there being a baby in a bar (which was really a restaurant, and she was in no harm, but hey! Like that matters to a Twitter troll). At this point, I’d lost all faith in AO and their watch, but a friend reported the incident for me with my permission. Neither he nor I ever heard from AO National.

That’s far from all the harassment I faced, but it’s the high points. When I wrote my memoir of following US Soccer for two decades and published it in 2014 my anti-Tanya hate peaked with accusations that I was trying to get rich off soccer fans (writing!! The path to the millionaire life!….said no one ever). It was not that I was hoping to get rich. I wrote a book about my love of soccer and soccer supporters, and I genuinely thought it was so closely tied to AO’s mission, that chapters could use my book in their recruitment (some did and had great events). When I asked National to support the book and back me up, they responded that they get hundreds of requests per year and they can’t support everyone. Really? Hundreds of requests from long time chapter leaders who have written in support of you in crisis? Once I reported my negative experience, I was persona non grata with AO, making it painful for me to read the now hypocritical #AOFamily hashtag ever again. But never quite so much as when I clicked the link posted on my FB and read this:

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That title. I was so happy they were FINALLY standing up for someone. You see, I’ve become the clearinghouse for everything that is wrong with AO. YOU MAY HAVE NEVER EXPERIENCED ONE NEGATIVE THING WITH AO, because in reality, there are so many amazing, wonderful people in AO. But bad things happen, even at AO events. Given the publicity of my story, I’m now the person that gets sent every wrong thing AO does.

A girl gets roofied at an AO event in Portland and National does nothing. Message Tanya.

AO events fall short of family friendly. Message Tanya.

AO screws up a tifo in Chicago? Message Tanya (OK, that one was funny…but I didn’t share it because I really want us all to get along).

You may never have a negative experience at AO, but I hear about everyone’s bad days. It’s toxic on top of toxic for me. So imagine my rage as I read “Standing Up…”

“The safety of all our family, particularly our female members is paramount. This is the way it has always been. This is the way it will continue to be.

Even one incident is too many. Which is why we chose to address this immediately. Every member deserves to feel safe at our events.”

The way it has always been? Um, no. At best, it was the way you wanted it, but it’s not the way it’s been.

Address this immediately? I’ll let a comment from AO’s own page cover this one.

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When something like this happens to a woman, we should not have to wait for AO to get their messaging right. We should be informed immediately and updated as the situation develops.

This is a good start. I’ll say what I wish AO had said. To this woman, and every woman (or man) who has had a bad experience at an AO event, I am with you. I know the pain and betrayal of bad things happening within your AOFamily. I know how hard it is to keep doing the things you love when it just brings you back to a hurt place. I love you, and I am here for you. I am so deeply sorry this happened to you, and I’ll continue to do everything I can to keep it from happening to anyone ever again.

My defense of AO is to say that I’m not going to take the “told you so” bait. One experience is too much. The fact that their post should have come ANY TIME over the past three and a half years should not detract from the fact that they are doing it now. AO National are the soccer nerds who suddenly found themselves at the cool kids’ table, and they didn’t know how to deal with this stuff, but they’re learning, and we should give them the support to create the best possible environment for all soccer supporters.

Full disclosure, I left American Outlaws after my experience at the Canada World Cup. I just couldn’t stand by any longer. I am now working on building Sammers SC. At some in the past three years, Korey Donahoo said something about how AO couldn’t be everything for everyone. We are a big enough soccer family that there should be multiple groups. I want to be a part of that diversity, with no hard feelings to AO. I was Sam’s Army, I was AO, and now I’m Sammers SC…it’s all supporting US Soccer, and that’s what’s important.

It is my hope that we can meet in the bar of our choice in an environment that’s a positive experience for all, then join forces in the stands to create the best possible environment for our teams.

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Day Off in Pipa
June 18, 2014, 3:43 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

We had a day off of travel in Pipa after the US match, and decided to spend the day hanging out with friends. We slept in then walked into town for lunch, having already missed breakfast at our apartment. After sandwiches and coffee, we milled around as Doug and the kids went off in search of an ATM that worked and I wrote. We took a swim in the ocean before rejoining the gang at Tribus Cafe for Brazil vs Mexico.

The game ended in a frustrating tie, after so many scoring chances without result, but the crowd was anything but impartial. People were packed into every conceivable corner, standing or sitting on the floor to squish in. We drank Bohemia pilsners and enjoyed the atmosphere created by singing and cheering Brazilian fans combined with people jamming the streets outside, lighting off fireworks either in celebration or frustration. Brazilians are said to have the attitude that “everything will work out.” They certainly seemed calm after leaving what Americans considered important points on the table. It’s refreshing, after the incessant hand wringing of American soccer fans. Up next: Manaus!



Ghana – The Third Time’s the Charm – The End of Suffering for US Soccer vs Ghana
June 17, 2014, 3:03 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,
world cup fever

We beat Ghana, my son’s goal celebration went worldwide.

Last night was the perfect end to an eight year suffering. Leading up to this game, I was remembering getting eliminated by Ghana in Germany and South Africa. In Germany, I remember our daughter happily dancing around Kaela, Monty, and the rest of my soccer family as we bitterly drank our beers at a biergarten overlooking a river in Nuremburg. I was so disappointed in South Africa, knowing that we could have gone so much further in the tournament if not for a few errors in coaching the Ghana game. Now we have the coach I want, the team I want, and yes, the group I want.

We got to the stadium and found our place in the stands, so happy to have my family and our best travel buddies with us. When we scored in the first minute, I looked at Doug and screamed “this is going to be the longest 89 minutes of my life” making reference to what he screamed to me in the US vs Portugal game in 2002. No one can say it was a beautiful game, but last night, my children became real soccer fans. They no longer distract themselves for 90 minutes. Aviva was glued to the action, screaming at the referee, directing the players, and around the 75th minute grabbing me, screamed, “This is SO intense!” Raphael is only six, and he was exhausted from traveling, but he perked up when Ghana scored, and was engaged enough by the time the US went up again he is now “that kid in the goal celebration being broadcast non-stop and world-wide.”

It was deeply emotional for many of us who’ve suffered though getting sent home by Ghana twice in a row. The vindication was palpable and to share it immediately with so many of our lifelong soccer friends was amazing. But even better was having my children with me. I talked to Doug on the way home about comparing last night’s match to the US vs Portugal game in 2002. It may not have been a “shock the world” win, but watching my children fall more deeply in love with the World Cup will make this game rank pretty high in my list of best games ever. They’ve enjoyed going to games in the States, but last night, they got to experience the World Cup in person for the first time as players. I will never forget watching their transition to ultra fans.

UPDATE: I had no idea what was happening back in the States as we celebrated in Brazil. This YouTube video has clips of the Brooks goal celebration from around the USA. At 2:19, you can see my son celebrating on the big screen in Rio. Many lifelong USMNT fans were minted on that day.



We Are Going to Brazil (Right NOW!)
June 17, 2014, 10:14 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

I can believe I’m finally sitting on a plane on my way to Brazil. We’ve been planning this trip for so many years, but in the rush to finish “Passionate Soccer Love” and get it published and into the world, I lost track of time and suddenly, the World Cup is here with all the emotion it brings with it. This will be my sixth men’s World Cup traveling with my husband, the third with our daughter (if you count her “obstructed view” seat in Korea) and my son’s first World Cup.

                Many people have asked how we can take kids to the World Cup either because of the expense, safety concerns, or just the hassle of traveling with children multiplied by the World Cup. The thing is, having a three and a half year old with us in Germany made that trip so much more than if we’d gone by ourselves. Seeing her wonderment at a foreign country was an experience I’ll never forget, even if she’s forgotten many of the trip details.

                So here we go…with our 11 year old and 6 year old to the world’s greatest sporting event. Wish us luck. 



Beating the American Outlaws Stereotype
September 12, 2013, 12:11 pm
Filed under: Supporter Culture, US Soccer | Tags: , , , ,

girlCLAre there any real journalists left out there? I understand when MassiveFC writes a blog without getting comments, but when a “journalist” like Mark Zeigler starts tweeting things like “All those cheers you hear on TV are not spontaneous. A guy is on a mic with speakers telling people what to chant, and when. #contrived” and “@PCHartwell @AmericanOutlaws Guess it’s the sausage factory deal.” it makes me wonder if anyone knows how to actually write something above the blogosphere fray where people hear rumors and race for pitchforks and torches.

Mr. Zeigler, while it’s clear you have your bias against American Outlaws, have you done any work to see what’s actually going on out there? If you had, you might have seen this group of women at the AO Chapter Leaders meeting. That’s not all the women who are Outlaws. Those are the chapter leaders who were in Columbus. There are many righteous women in American Outlaws, and you insult us when you stereotype AO as a sausage fest.

Now back to your lackluster reporter skills. Did you do any research on the backstory of the capos, or were you inadvertently throwing fuel? Maybe catch up a little…first, Massive wrote about a supposed Seattle takeover, which was a piece with more emotion that whole truth, which prompted me to tell people to step up or go to their rooms. There’s certainly an intelligent discussion to be had about capo vs no capo, in fact, @ClevelandGooner and I already had it. When you talk about the frat boys being off key, you should know that you are insulting some of the finest men who support US Soccer, men that I have traveled around the world with, and men who deserve more credit than your playground bully sniping about being on key. Had you bothered to leave the press box and do your job, there was a story to write here. It goes like this: ***EDIT I AM SWITCHING TO THIRD PERSON BECAUSE IT IS SUPPOSED TO BE A FAKE ARTICLE….

song sheetAfter all the debate about capo vs no capo, the American Outlaws were ready to go with their first attempt at blending the noise level you can get from mic’d capos with the spontaneity of Columbus in section leadership. The plan was in place, capos stationed around the stadium. Song cards with truce plans to share the stage between AO and local supporters were distributed. A last minute security alert nixed the plans for capo stands, which was fine with AO Des Moines’ capo Tanya Keith. “I’m used to capoing from the section, so this is more comfortable for me.” But Keith would not be comfortable for long. The speaker system set up and tested pre game failed to convey the sound from the North End to the South end, leaving the South End capos to work out plan B on the fly. Keith’s children, ages six and ten, who often attend games dressed, got the crowd fired up by running up and down the South End with an American flag. When asked if this was her first cap, daughter “Wonder Woman” told the shocked fan “This is my 23rd cap, and my brother’s 14th. It’s my third #dosacero match. Dos a Cero is the nickname supporters have given the quadrennial 2-0 beat down of Mexico, and clearly, even the children understand the importance of the match.

The South End’s capos did their best, coordinating with the North End, who could often be heard clearly without speakers, when they could, allowing organic Columbus-style chants to fill the void. Once Keith finished her first half obligations, she sprinted to the North End at halftime to try to coordinate a plan for the failed speakers. She arrived just in time to see Eddie Johnson’s first goal hit the back of the net and explode the Nordedecke into a riot of sound, smoke, scarves, and red, white, and blue. Keith said “Once that happened, I was too superstitious to go back to the South End, and we were so loud, it was the best I could do to help out my family and friends back on the South side.” Anyone who has traveled to all the qualifying matches has to admit, Columbus lived up to the folklore, once again delivering an amazing fan experience, and a Dos a Cero mythology so strong, it even blocked a late game penalty kick attempt by new Seattle Sounder, Clint Dempsey. Keith summed it up, “I love traveling the US following and supporting this team. People see us capos as people who spend the game with our backs to the field, and they don’t get it. We watch the game reflected in the faces of our fellow supporters. They tell us when we need to turn around and watch the field. When I feel the energy coming out of the stands from a crowd like Columbus always brings, it’s the best natural high I know.”

Soccer fans will note, nothing is forever. Azteca was once the most fabled, unbeatable, home field advantage perhaps in all the world. We have seen the beautiful diversity of supporter clubs in America as we’ve traveled following World Cup Qualifying and Gold Cup this summer, from the consistent quality product of Seattle to the crab cakes and pit beef of Maryland. But as long as the Dos a Cero wall continues to stand at Crew Stadium, Americans know where their home field advantage is for US vs Mexico, right here in Columbus, Ohio.

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Drops capo mic.



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!



USMNT vs Germany: Public Practice, and How I Finally Met Jürgen Klinsmann
June 9, 2013, 1:24 pm
Filed under: International Soccer, Supporter Culture, US Soccer | Tags: , ,

wpid-2013-06-01_17-11-30_308.jpgI have a rule about not spending money traveling to friendlies during World Cup Qualifying. You have to prioritize somewhere along the line, and I would much rather go to qualifiers, than burn the budget on fun but meaningless games.

But when US Soccer announced that the Centennial Match would be US vs Germany at RFK Stadium in Washington DC, I knew I had to go. I had promised myself that whenever the US next played Germany after Jürgen Klinsmann was hired, I would go, even if the match was played in Germany, and I justified that this expense in the middle of qualifying was probably not as bad as flying to Germany for this game, so I called my DC friends and started searching for a place to stay. That the Centennial coincided with my 20th anniversary as a US Soccer supporter was too good to be true.

My first cap ever was USMNT vs Germany in the US Cup, on June 13, 1993, which I attended as a fan of German soccer, a habit I’d picked up living in Germany for Summer 1989. The ‘93 game was a pivotal moment in my career as an American soccer fan. My hero, Klinsmann scored in the 14th minute, the German machine performing as planned. But then, here was Tom Dooley, putting one in about 10 minutes later for the Americans. The AMERICANS? “They” scored on Germany? Impossible. Soon enough, my Germans had run it up to 4-1, and we were back on plan. But then there were those Americans again…Ernie Stewart scoring in the 72nd minute, and Dooley getting the brace several minutes later. What the hell was going on? I hadn’t even realized that Americans knew how to play legitimate soccer, let alone hold Germany to “just” a 4-3 loss. I was blown away. I walked out, took my Germany hat off, bought a shirt commemorating the game, and that day, became a supporter for US Soccer.

Flash forward 20 years, and I made it to DC. My one goal for coming to DC was to finally meet Klinsmann. My Facebook wall has been littered with friends who met him at the airport, or at practices I didn’t get to town soon enough to attend, or the Centennial Celebration in New York City, and frankly, I was more than a little jealous. After all, I’d been a fan for DECADES, and here were people who had lukewarm trust in Klinsy with photos with him plastered all over Facebook, just mocking me. I was one more Facebook photo away from a full on toddler-force tantrum….something had to be done.

First stop was the Nike Store event in Georgetown, a mob scene of kids who were too big to shove out of the way unnoticed. I tried not to think about the multiplier of the average age to my age, and I got positioned near the front…on the side that ended up the far side of Klinsmann and Tim Howard (my son’s current obsession) and near side to Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley. I know, you’re thinking “there’s really not a losing position there.” And you’re right. Every single person on stage was amazing (thanks Nike/US Soccer), but given my goals as a mama and fan girl, I should have been on the opposite side. Taylor Twellman emceed a Q&A, that I half heard over the blood rushing past my eardrums, and then the autograph frenzy began. Nothing organized, with guys signing civilized behind a table, but a mosh pit of youth soccer players and I jockeying for position. I ended up getting Bradley’s and Howard’s autograph for both my kids (go Mom!) but I’m pretty sure Klinsmann vaporized soon after the autographs started. I asked one of my US Soccer contacts if Klinsmann was still in the building, and after checking, he said no, but if I found him at the Public Practice, he would try to help me get my Klinsmann photo.

The next day, I went down to RFK to watch the German practice at 11 AM. I didn’t get super involved, since I can only recognize a few of their players, but had a nice morning chatting with the German ex-pats who were there. I managed to score Louis Podolski’s autograph, but the highlight came as the practice was breaking up, and I noticed Alexi Lalas, walking around with a hard-to-miss purple umbrella to guard against the noon-time sun. I was wearing my 20 year old t-shirt from US vs Germany, having a moment by myself, thinking about my life following US Soccer for the past 20 years, there’s Lalas, one of the players that played for the US in the 1993 game. I called hello to him, and he said hi back, and then said “That’s a shirt from way back.” Thrilled that he’d recognized it (it does show the ’93 USMNT kit), I said, “Yeah, I had to dig way back in the closet for it, this was my first cap.”

Then, Lalas blew my mind. He said, “Tom Dooley had a heck of a game that day, right?”

Are you kidding me? How many games has he played for the US (it’s 96, I looked it up) and how many has he announced, let alone watched, and he had the details from a particular game from 20 years ago? The man knows his soccer, and he signed the US side of my shirt. Take that, Lalas haters.

The day continued to get more and more awesome. Between practices, we were hanging out at the Supporters Club sign in, which was next to the press area. While we waited for gates to open, we were greeted by former Nats goalkeeper Kasey Keller, and ESPN broadcaster Ian Darke. Keller was quiet, but stopped for photos and autographs, and Mr. Darke stayed and chatted with us for a while, talking about just hanging out like a regular guy chatting up soccer. He’s very thoughtful and insightful, and a pleasure to talk soccer with, so I was almost sad when they said it was time to head into the stadium.

We had a relaxed hour, joking with a few of my soccer buddies about various travel (mis)adventure, and about the players putting on a practice show for us. Once the field work was over,  the players were extraordinary, taking lots of time to sign autographs and pose for photos. I met more players than I can fathom, but no Klinsmann. After the session, security started to clear us out, and I began to panic. I had had such a perfect day, only to fail in my ultimate mission? Intolerable. Desperately, I searched the crowd for my US Soccer contact, and shouted to him across the security area. He mouthed “Did you meet him?” I shook my head no. He held up one finger to wait, and took off. I drug my feet as much as possible, and when we were cleared to the stadium seats and asked to leave, I said “I was told to wait here…” and was just about to justify my staying in a last ditch attempt to avoid getting bodily thrown from the stadium, when my contact popped up from the player tunnel and asked security if he could take me with him. They agreed, and I went through, vindicated and beyond excited. I half ran, chasing my contact into the locker room level of RFK. We turned into a hallway, where I recognized several members of the soccer media on one side of a fence. I was told to stand on the other side, just past them. I stood and waited, watching a guy from MLS.com wrapping up an interview. Soon, more players began to funnel down the hallway, some stopping to answer questions, a few pausing to give me a nod. I asked Beasley for a photo, since he is my husband’s favorite, but otherwise, I tried to be cool and just wait. When Dempsey walked by, I must have had a particularly obvious “she’s not press” look on my face, in awe that he was right there in front of me, all by myself. He got a look of recognition on his face, and then, silently walked up, shook my hand, and kept walking, as I stood dumbfounded, managing to squeak out “Wow, thanks.”

By the time I regained my senses, Klinsmann was right in from of me, startling me back to reality. I called out in German, asking “Can I have your…” Dammit. What’s the word for autograph? I came up with “writing” but he was already walking over, thank goodness, able to translate through the IQ lowering effects of fangirl overload. I told him how I’d been a German soccer fan, and came to see him play 20 years ago, how I remembered the goal, and that when the US came back to almost equalize, I became a US Soccer fan, culminating with “I’m a US Soccer fan because of you, and I just wanted to say thanks, and can I get a photo with you?” And that’s how I ended up with my coveted Klinsmann photo, complete with him smiling almost as wide as I am.

My sincerest thanks to my friends at US Soccer who made this photo possible. Following this team has been some of my greatest adventures of the last 20 years.

 




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