Monday, June 27, 2011

Gold Cup Final - USA vs. Mexico A.K.A. I Can't Hear You USA

I've been going to and photographing the fans of the USA Men's National Team for 11 years, and I've never been as embarrassed by the American fans as I was on Saturday for the Gold Cup Final. My first USMNT mach was World Cup Qualifying: USA vs. Guatemala in 2000 in RFK, followed by USA vs. Honduras in 2001. At those games the American fans were just as outnumbered 9-1, just as they were at the Rose Bowl in Los Angeles, but they never stopped cheering for their team the whole 90 minutes. In all the years since the supporters section has always cheered the full 90 no matter what the result. On Saturday, the fans quit on the US Men's team. When Mexico scored their second goal they crossed their arms, and didn't cheer, and stood silent in the most important match for the team this year. Its an absolute disgrace, and every American fan at the game should be ashamed of themselves.
Although a lot of people compared the Gold Cup Final like playing in Azteca; The Azteca Norte if you will. But compared to the reception the US fans that went to support the US team in 2009 for the World Cup Qualifier, the atmosphere was not that hostile during the pre-game. In-fact a bunch of Mexican and USA fans ended up kicking a ball around playing an impromptu match between parked cars.
But the crowd outside the Rose Bowl was definitely pro-Mexican. Probably around 90 percent Mexican fans, 10 percent USA fans.
When the US Supporters walked into the stadium they received a ton of jeers from the Mexican crowd.
Some fingers thrown in their faces...
And some pushing and shoving between the USA and Mexican fans, even the female fans.
The supporters group was afraid of the heckling...

and tried to enter through a locked gate but were turned away by security and the police officers.
Finally they made their way through the gates into the stadium.

And into the supporters section which was patrolled by security to make sure only ticketed US supporters made it into the section.
Before the match it was easy to see the USA fans were vastly outnumbered by the Mexican fans.
But that's to be expected in Los Angeles.
While some fans were supporting the USA...

...plenty of Mexican-Americans have still close ties to their homeland sports team.

And the Rose Bowl was majority green.
Even though the Mexican team attacked from the start, the USA got a surprise goal to go up 1-0.
A few minutes later the USA was up 2-0 and it looked like it would be the USA's day.
But just as quickly, Mexico scored a goal and the jeers turned into cheers....
Some scuffles broke out between the Mexican and US fans in separate sections and but once Mexico tied the match up, the American supporters essentially shut up.

The USA team marched out in the second half...
But hardly a cheer was heard from the US fans, especially after Mexico scored their third goal.
USA fans had their hands in their mouths...
Looking on quiet...
Not doing anything...
When your team is down that's when they need to hear you. That's when the USA fans should have been at their loudest. But except for one American Outlaws fan and a few of his friends from Orange County the supporters section remained silent.
And Bob Bradley had the deer-in-headlights look as he watch his strategy for the match fall apart and the USA lose 4-2.

Afterwards the US fans looked stunned by their loss.
And some good natured cheering for each side ensued.
both ways...
But I was shocked at the poor support for the USA team. How can you not go to a match like that and cheer the whole 90 minutes???

As the Mexican Coach said after the game:

""The supporters get my respect," Mexico coach Jose Manuel De La Torre said. "I don't know what it was, maybe 90 or 95 percent of the fans were Mexicans and that means something. When we went down 2-0, they were still cheering, still supporting. The team gave everything they had."
In all honesty, can the USA fans at the match say the same thing? Did they give everything they had??

Friday, June 24, 2011

Emerald City Soccer

My trip though the soccer supporters led me to Seattle Washington on Thursday night for the Sounders vs. New York Red Bulls match in front of 45,000 fans.
Seattle, which has only been in the MLS for 3 seasons, has really put together a great fan experience to get the whole crowd before the game. About an hour before the start of the match a brass band get the crowd fired up...
And then the Emerald City Supporters lead a march towards the stadium....
Which is a large football stadium the Seattle has consistently filled up since the team joined the MLS three seasons ago.
The whole way into the stadium the supporters chant and cheer...
And continue in their position behind the south goal.

The group has fans of all ages who lead the cheers....And Seattle is unique as it is one of the only stadiums where the whole lower bowl of the stadium stands to watch the match. In most stadiums the security is telling people to sit down. That is never the case at a Sounders game.
Even outside the supporters young kids are enjoying themselves...
...and when the team scores all fans get into the celebrating.
And the Emerald City Supporters bring their cheers all game long. They never stop for the whol 90 and fill up the stadium in sound.

When the scored the winning goal it was a great celebration.
And the party went on after the game. Now its off to Los Angeles to check out the biggest, craziest fans match in the USA: Gold Cup final between Mexico and the USA. Can't wait!!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Soccer City U.S.A. - A Day With The Timbers Army

Although my favorite MLS team has always been the Metros (Red Bulls), the team closest to my heart was the California Victory, a USL team that played in San Francisco in the second division of soccer for one season in 2007. I was part of the 1906 Supporters, the Victory's fan group and I always remembered the Portland Timber's fans that came down that year to support their team for a league game. They were passionate, they were animated, they were loud, and they were fun to hang out with after the game at Kezar Pub. Since they made it into the MLS this season I was fortunately enough to come up to Portland and experience what a home game with the Timbers Army was like.

The MLS soccer fans in the Pacific North West are changing the long standing view of soccer in America as a game for soccer-moms and kids. Even the Associated Press wrote a story about it. However, soccer has been huge for a long time in Portland, and the Timbers Army has always brought their passion to the matches, even when they were a second division side.

The first half the Red Bulls scored early leaving a lot of fans stuck to their seats..

Even at half-time the "scarf cart" vendor was looking like it would not be a positive result for the Timbers.

But Portland threw in two quick goals a the start of the second half which shocked most everyone in the Timbers Army section.
But they quickly celebrated their fortune.

With smoke bombs and deafening cheers, the Timbers Army was rocking.
And the Timbers mascot, "Timber Joey" sawed of a slab off a log following each time the team scored and held it up high to the cheers of the fans.
Portland had a chance to extend their lead to 2 goals with about 15 minutes left in the game...but missed a penalty kick to the dismay of the fans.
...but it still seemed like it would not matter and Portland would come out with the result.
To fans of all ages...
Flags waved and fans cheered.
But as time was about to expire, the Red Bulls' Dwayne DeRosario kicked a ball into the box that was handled by a Portland defender which set up a penalty kick that literally allowed the Red Bulls to escape with a point from the game.

After the game the Timbers Army members found the Empire Supporters Club fans (the supporters group for the New York Red Bulls) that made the trip out for the match from New York and invited them for drinks after the game. A class act by all involved.

I'm traveling up to Seattle for the match against the Red Bulls on Thursday evening and looking forward to seeing how the atmosphere ends up there. But I think its fair to say that after attending a match in Portland, it does live up to its moniker of "Soccer City U.S.A."