I. Russia or Bust with the American Outlaws
At 196 chapters strong (including international groups in London and Mexico City) and more than 30,000 members, the American Outlaws have been the fife and drum of U.S. soccer for the last 10 years, providing the soundtrack at home and on foreign shores alike. While their ebullience shines through during matches, what we don’t see is the number of hours Outlaws organizers pour into their (unpaid) jobs. Dan Wiersma, a 35-year-old who heads up the group’s communications efforts, estimates that in addition to his Austin, Texas-based marketing job, he spends between 20 and 30 hours a week on AO activities. “It’s essentially like having a second full-time job,” he tells us. This weekend, as the USMNT’s World Cup hopes hang in the balance, we caught up with Dan to see how those who dedicate so much of their life to American soccer are living the possibility of… we’re not even saying it…
MiB: You and your AO counterparts pour so much of yourselves into growing the game we love in the country we love. Talk about your mood heading into a weekend where so much is at stake.
DW: To say there’s a lot at stake is putting it lightly. We’re really talking about a pretty crucial moment, not just in our World Cup qualifying hopes, but in the larger scheme of things. Before the last round of games, we thought the match against Panama in Orlando would be a celebration of our heading to Russia. Now we’re in a nail biting - although I think most people are beyond their nails - anxious, nervous scenario. You don’t want to go into the final day of World Cup qualifying against Trinidad and Tobago needing a win. There’s no losing here. If we don’t qualify, I think it’s a significant setback for the American program. And a step backwards for our fandom. If we don’t have anybody to cheer on during the summer, it definitely makes the job of uniting and strengthening fan groups harder, because there’s nothing to coalesce around.
MiB: Your football life - and the lives of all the AO brass - are going to drastically change in the next five days. Either, you go into overdrive, planning a trip to Russia. Or it’s a massive exhale and some downtime. How do each of those roads play out for you?
DW: The biggest piece of planning for any World Cup is how we get fans there. We’ve been having those conversations already with the travel agency we work with about Russia. We have stuff almost ready to go. But it’s really the World Cup draw in December, not just qualification, that depends where AO headquarters will be. What will happen after this weekend, is we will start gathering people who are interested in going and giving them estimated costs. I don’t even want to consider the exhale. There will be a lot of soul searching. The tough part is who we would then play in 2018 and how we get anybody excited about those matches if it’s not a lead up to the World Cup. I think we might lay low for a few minutes. That doesn’t mean we just pack it up. We’re not moving onto hockey (laughs). We’ll still be there to support the team.
MiB: Last World Cup, the AOs absolutely took over Brazil. You couldn’t get on Twitter without seeing AO-soaked scenes from around that country. Will it be the same in Russia? Or will there be more events here in the U.S.?
DW: The events in Russia might be a little smaller just because it is so far away and everything is so spread out. What we really want to do is support our chapters here. These are showpieces for them. We saw it in 2014. A lot of the watch parties are starting to outgrow their bars. Many AO chapters have already begun contacting their city governments to talk about the permitting process for allowing 10,000 people to watch on a big screen in a public space
MiB: You dedicate so much of your life to this cause. There is so much at stake here. Talk about the emotions you would feel if things don’t go well tonight.
DW: I think about the emotions I get when the U.S. is eliminated from the World Cup. Losing is never easy. Losing in a World Cup is hard because it’s the end of a journey. And that’s being at the World Cup. Losing before you get to the World Cup - the world’s tournament - after we’ve made so much progress as a nation… I feel really badly just saying that out loud. Personally, it would be crushing. I think I would need a few days to digest what a loss would mean. Ultimately, I know what it means for all of the people I’ve become friends with at American Outlaws over the years and how much they would hurt. That makes it even worse. It’s like Obi-Wan Kenobi, "I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened." American Outlaws and U.S. Soccer is the fabric of our lives. To silence this American soccer movement would be devastating.
II. EA Sports FIFA Cover Contest
Earlier this week, we celebrated the launch of EA SPORTS FIFA 18 by announcing the winners of our EA SPORTS FIFA 19 cover contest, during which we asked GFOPs to take a bite of pie, glimpse the footballing year ahead and design next year’s EA SPORTS FIFA cover. We were blown away by the number and quality of submissions. One of the six winners is below, courtesy of GFOP Britton Thomas. You can see all of them HERE. Thanks for your creativity, GFOPs. You never cease to amaze us.
III. Behind the Music with EA SPORTS FIFA 18’s Composer
With the release of EA SPORTS FIFA comes another soundtrack filled with club bangers and sporting anthems alike. Think a modern, cultured, polylingual Jock Jams. You can listen to the complete track list via Spotify HERE.
It also features an original score for “The Journey: Hunter Returns,” courtesy of one of the biggest composers in the game: Tom Holkenborg aka Junkie XL aka JXL. He’s worked on films like “Batman vs. Superman” and “Deadpool.” And back in 2002, he remixed Elvis’ “A Little Less Conversation” for one of the greatest football commercials ever made. Now, he’s adding his flourish to Alex Hunter’s travels from the Premier League to MLS. It was that trip that inspired his score.
“When he was in England, I created a tone that was electronic, but on the alternative side. Something that’s a little rougher around the edges,” said Holkenborg. “When he moves to America, the music transitions into something a little glossier. I smoothed out the rough edges. He’s living in Hollywood and the music reflects that.”
Both the modern Premier League and MLS are a far cry from the football on which Holkenborg grew up. The Netherlands native spent his childhood attending Ajax games with his dad during the club’s glory days.
“Seeing Johan Cruyff play in the '70s was mind boggling,” he recalls.
Dutch football is embedded in Holkenborg’s DNA and watching the Oranje remains an omni-emotional experience for him, something he attributes to watching them fall short in the 1974 and 2010 World Cups.
“On the plus side, we did win the ‘88 Euros,” he said.
It also brings him to lament the hypothetical: If the Netherlands finally won a World Cup, what type of soundtrack would he create for their lap of honor.
“To finally deliver on the promise the Netherlands has had since the '70s. It will have been fifty years. The score would have to be something triumphant. Heroic. That’s the word. Heroic.”
You can read the Director’s Cut of our interview with Tom HERE, which includes the deep dive into Dutch football that you didn't know you needed.
IV. The People’s History of American Soccer Hall of Fame
Your amazing artifacts continue to pour into the CPOS for The People’s History of American Soccer Hall of Fame. This week, we feature a signed Adidas Tango ball and picture from Rutgers University’s finest, Peter Vermes. It comes via Bruce Newton in Collegeville, Penn. (“Collegeville,” we love you, America.), who won it in a trivia contest during the ‘94 World Cup.
Please keep sending the American soccer flotsam and jetsam that is gathering dust in your finished basements and attics with a note telling us about its meaning to you to. We are sending patches to everyone who contributes. Please post everything to:
Embassy Row Studios
Care of Men in Blazers
325 Hudson Street 7th Floor
New York, NY 10013
This week’s edition of #PatchAtThePark features submissions from Sir Paul at the Carrier Dome in ‘Cuse, a Carabao Cup tie at Old Trafford, and the game that officially sent MLS’s Supporters Shield North of the Border. #DareToJozy
But our favorite comes from GFOP Aaron Farquhar, who was on-hand for an in-state, Top 10, NCAA tilt between Indiana and Notre Dame.
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