US Soccer friendly in South Africa brings back memories in Seattle

The World Cup. The ultimate tournament of nations in the world’s most popular sport.

On Wednesday the United States national team will make their return to South Africa, where during the summer they made memories that will last a lifetime for a legion of American fans. On the surface, it’s a simple friendly against the Bafana Bafana. A majority of the 23 faces that created history for the United States during the World Cup won’t be there this time.

What this game really gives us an opportunity to do, however, is reminisce about the last time our national team stepped foot in South Africa.

Because here in Seattle, in our corner of the world, we created memories of our own during that summer.

For those of us not lucky enough to make it to South Africa we did the next best thing. We got up at four or five in the morning and packed bars for 6 am kickoffs. We made Seattle our South Africa. Our ‘bubble’s in standing room only bars were our stadium seats. We were still loud, we were still singing, we were still drinking. In Seattle, for the United States.

The American Outlaws: Seattle Chapter led the way in the Emerald City. Their events and viewing parties were news worthy. For the four matches combined, over a thousand came through the doors to associate themselves with the supporter group. All of them were standing room only.

The man who set up these events was the head of the Seattle chapter, Colin Lamont.

But before there was American Outlaws, the quintessential supporters group for US Soccer was Sam’s Army.

“I hooked up with Sams Army because that was the only supporters group at the time,” Colin said. “Sams Army would organize it and people would just consider themselves consider themselves supporters of the US team.”

Born in 2007 and founded in Nebraska, the American Outlaws had grown and created chapters in cities across the US. In 2009 Seattle was tabbed as a city they’d like to have a chapter in.

Colin explained that “The major difference in why it was okay to work with American Outlaws, is that they give you the resources and go ahead to do your own thing.”

Seattle did their own thing alright.

It started at Neumo’s.

Opening up the World Cup against our red headed cousins from across the ocean was kind of a big deal. So, we packed the concert venue to capacity, and when Clint Dempsey scored equalizer on Robert Green in the 39th minute we made Capitol Hill explode. When we started singing ‘Let’s go ****ing mental’, we really were. The US eventually ended up drawing with England.

As for the entire event, Colin wasn’t sure how it would go. He had actually planned the viewing party months in advance after the initial Group stage draw in December. But he got his answer when the match started.

“For me (the viewing party) was a relief. It was a relief that the U.S. didn’t lose, but in the end people came for the U.S. We had 400, 500 people that couldn’t even get in,” he said.

600 people had come to support the United States.

Six days later we were at the AO Home bar, The Atlantic Crossing on 65th and Roosevelt.

The opponent was Slovenia, and Seattle was extremely close to getting ESPN cameras to witness what our support was like. Instead, they opted for some niche bar in New York and the outdoor viewing party in Kansas City. They thought our bar was too small. They wanted a big outdoor event.

They should’ve seen us when Michael Bradley sank in the equalizer to erase a two goal deficit. I took my best friend to the ground in a dog pile, and he has something like 60 pounds on me.

Going forward, Colin was relentless to get ESPN to come to Seattle, and finally we got a break. ESPN decided to give us a trial. They’d send cameras to Seattle as a back-up. Instead, they had an extravagent outdoor viewing party in Miami they were planning to show. But, if Seattle gave them something worth while, they were going to show us.

So we did what we did best. Be loud. The singing and chanting started as early as 5:30 in the morning. Beers replaced orange juice and coffee as the morning drink of choice.

Unfortunately for myself, I don’t think the ESPN cameras quite captured me. Me and my friend were confined to the back, we came a little bit late. But I’m sure my American Outlaws scarf was visible.

But what I really remember, what I will never forget for the rest of my life, what I am proud of, is that I was part of the celebration Seattle commenced in when Landon Donovan put it into the back of the net in the 91st minute to help the United States survive.

It was a moment that clutched us from the grip of despair and gave us nirvana. Pure pandemonium. Glasses were broken, beer stained the walls and ceiling, people’s belongings scattered the floor.

The best part of it all?

The entire nation saw it.

Seattle’s reaction to Donovan’s historic goal

“After the whole game happened I got a text from (the producer),” Colin said “It said that ‘There was no effin way we were cutting to Miami’…Basically he said that they couldn’t hold a candle to you guys (in Seattle).”

Hundreds more came out for the match against Ghana at Club Nectar in Fremont. Again, songs were sang, chants were screamed, beer was consumed. But the result was heart breaking.

Still, we had left our mark.

“Without people coming to the events it couldn’t had been possible. From the perspective of ten, fifteen years ago, it’d be hard to get ten people to come to an event. To get 600 people to come it’s significant progress,” said Colin.

Four months later, the scene for US Soccer in the city has died down a little. As a club first city that tends to happen. Still, the opportunities the city has infront of it when it comes to the National team are numerous. Currently, Colin is working with the Seattle Sports Commision in conjunction with the USA World Cup bid to make sure Seattle is out there as a potential landing spot should the USA secure the 2022 World Cup.

More immediately, there is heavy speculation that the United States Soccer Federation will tab Qwest Field as it’s venue to host Lionel Messi and Argentina in a March 26th friendly.

The hope is that Seattle will take these opportunities and run with them.

“I think the US coming for Argentina I think that people are going to come from afar because they know that Seattle is a great city,” Colin said. “Success can only lead to more opportunities. You always want to be moving forward and move as fast and far as you can. But know it can’t happen overnight.”

On Wednesday the same supporters group will meet at The Atlantic Crossing to watch our boys make their return to South Africa.

The final viewing party against Ghana. Donovan scores the equalizer