Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Frailty of American Soccer

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R.I.P. 2008 - 2010


On Friday, upon returning home from work, I was reading up on soccer news from my Twitter feed when I started reading frantic "tweets" from many of my Austin soccer friends. Inside Minnesota Soccer had broken the news that my local club, the Austin Aztex, were packing up and moving to Orlando, Florida. Today, the news was confirmed in a press conference held by the Aztex's owner, Phil Rawlins.

The news, seemingly out of nowhere, was, need-less-to-say, a complete shock to me.

Near the end of September I attended, along with a few thousand of my closest friends, the home finale of the Aztex as they defeated AC St. Louis, 4-2. It's with bitter irony that, at the time, we members of the Austin supporters group, Chantico's Army, chanted "Happy trails to you, we'll never meet again" to the AC players, mocking their clubs' endless financial problems and the possibility that their club would fail in the off-season.

How tragic that the pie was actually on our faces.

This is the frailty of soccer in America.

To see a franchise in American soccer fail is not surprising. In Major League Soccer, the domestic top-flight went through a series of painful contractions shedding teams in weak markets (two in Florida interestingly enough) in order to save the rest of the ship. In the second division of U.S. soccer club failures are more common, even expected, as 75% of teams have failed. The story of the Aztex is not one of failure, though.

The Austin soccer community is vibrant. The metropolitan area is home to nearly 1.75 million people, the 35th largest metro-area in the nation and nearly 40,000 youth soccer players. The population boasts countless young professionals, college students, families, and Latinos all demographically strong soccer fans. In fact, Austin had the seventh largest television audience for the 2010 World Cup. A recent article in the Austin Business Journal said that the economic climate in the city was suitable for a "tier 1" sports franchise.

The support for the Aztex has been nothing short of stable and growing. The team played only two years in the second division and averaged 3,733 people per game (sixth out of twelve teams) during the 2010 season. But the real surprise was that attendance figures rose 25% from 2009 making it the team with the greatest growth in the league. The supporters group, Chantico's Army, was one of the better organized, rowdy, and sizeable in the league.

If soccer can't succeed in a city like Austin and an atmosphere of support like what was seen at House Park then is anywhere in America safe for soccer?

The truth of the matter is that owner Phil Rawlins (a man who I've met, talked to, had many beers with, and enjoyed as a human being and a great fan of the game) and the next set of partners in this Orlando endeavor made a cold, economic decision about the fate of soccer in Austin for 2011 and maybe forever. It just didn't work.

Speaking today at a press conference in Orlando Rawlins said:

“I know the new investors very well -- they are football people and have been interested in working with us for some time. They like what we have achieved on the field and in the community,” he continued. “However, they made it very clear that their investment was contingent upon the team relocating, citing Austin’s lack of a soccer specific stadium with any corporate facilities, the inability to sell alcohol at games and the geographical isolation of the team within the new USL-Pro League. In short, they didn’t see Central Texas as the right market for the team and their future plans.”

It didn't make enough money. Now anyone who's getting into the "soccer in America" business today should know that this isn't a profit-making enterprise. Even in MLS only two of the 16 clubs finished in the black. Mr. Rawlins knew that for sure. And he knew this: investing in soccer in America isn't a get-rich-quick-scheme, it is a down payment on the future of the sport.

At the founding of the team, back in 2008, he even stated he was in it for the long-haul, "My goal is to make the Aztex a community-based club that the Austin area can be proud of."

Their website stated: "The Austin Aztex mission is to help grow the beautiful game of soccer in the greater Austin area."


So where did everything go wrong? How did signing a renewing a three-year lease at House Park (the Austin school district football field the Aztex played at) turn into a jump to Orlando? How did a rumored search to build a modest soccer specific stadium lead to packing up the moving truck? How did one owner's commitment to soccer in Austin, for the long-term, end up as hollow words?

So soccer in America hangs by a thread. Major League Soccer sports many sizable and stable teams in its league. Now in it's 16th season it looks as though MLS will survive and not go the way of the original North American Soccer League and the dodo bird. But several teams hang on through the benevolence of their owners. FC Dallas and New England Revolution, despite the successes of today and yesterday, respectively, throw up pathetic attendance numbers and are most certainly hemorrhaging cash for their owners Clark Hunt and Robert Kraft. How long will they continue to lose money?

The loss of countless numbers of soccer teams and leagues in the United States throughout the sport's history in this country continued to re-enforce the idea that American soccer continues to live on the razor's edge. 

If there's one silver lining to this whole debacle it's that it makes what we do here at the Free Beer Movement all the more important. Do I consider the failure of the Aztex and indictment of our efforts here in Austin? Certainly not, but it re-enforces the idea that if we're not careful and out there constantly fighting for this sport that we all love and want to see grow in our backyards then other fans may suffer the same fate as we have.

This frailty of American soccer makes it certain that if you truly love soccer and are living in the United States YOU HAVE AN ABSOLUTELY OBLIGATION TO SUPPORT IT IN ANY FORM, ANYWHERE. If you're in a city that sports a professional franchise, a semi-pro team, or even a college squad what's you excuse, as a soccer fan in America for not supporting the game that is LIVE and LOCAL?

Buy some tickets. Drag a few friends. Make it an event. And why not follow the "Free Beer Movement philosophy" while you're at it?

We cannot sit by idle as our local clubs either fold up or pack up for (supposed) greener pastures. We cannot allow the naysayers to be proven right; that this isn't a soccer nation or that your city isn't a soccer city.

Because it is. Because it is a nation that is captivated by European soccer and Mexican soccer and South American soccer and World Cup soccer, and, over time, increasingly, American soccer.

It may be too late for Austin, but this doesn't have to be the fate of any more soccer teams in the United States.

And as much as it pains me to say this, given what transpired yesterday, for the sake of American soccer, I hope that the newly minted Orlando City Soccer Club is successful. I want Orlando and its soccer fans to prove that the game can be supported there.

Support the Movement. Get the Free Beer Movement T-Shirt. Only from Objectivo.com

Monday, October 25, 2010

VIDEO: Top Ten Major League Soccer Goal of the 2010 Regular Season

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American soccer.......fuck yeah!



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Saturday, October 23, 2010

This Weekend's American Soccer on TV

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Major League Soccer Final Kick (all times Central)


Saturday


3:00pm - Seattle Sounders at Houston Dynamo (Telefutura and Local TV) ***
6:30pm - Toronto FC at DC United (MLS MatchDay Live, Direct Kick, Local TV) - Jaime Moreno's last match!
7:30pm - San Jose Earthquakes at Kansas City Wizards (MLS MatchDay Live, Direct Kick, Local TV)
8:00pm - Real Salt Lake at Colorado Rapids (MLS MatchDay Live, Direct Kick, Local TV)
9:00pm - Chicago Fire at Chivas USA (FSC/FSE, Local TV) *** - Brian McBrides last match!

Sunday


3:00pm - Philadelphia Union at Columbus Crew (MLS MatchDay Live, Direct Kick, Local TV)
7:00pm - FC Dallas at Los Angeles Galaxy (MLS MatchDay Live, Direct Kick, Local TV) - Eddie Lewis and Gregg Berhalter's last match!


*** Indicates National TV Broadcast

Support the Movement. Get the Free Beer Movement T-Shirt. Only from Objectivo.com

Friday, October 22, 2010

Going Suds Up: The Best Soccer, The Best Beers

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By Kirsten Schlewitz / Senior West Coast Beer and Aston Villa Correspondent

As soccer fans in America, you’re almost obligated to spend the upcoming weekend watching Major League Soccer even if it means little for many teams.

After Colorado’s win last week, all playoff spots were taken. A few teams are depending on the results of the final matches to determine who their first playoff opponents will be, and a responsible journalist could tell you what those teams are and who they’re hoping to beat.

Me, I’m a beer-swizzling blogger whose just downed an 11% brew while watching my beloved San Francisco Giants lose to the Philadelphia Phillies, after enduring Napoli’s ugly draw with a team everyone else in the universe can beat (aka Liverpool), and quite frankly I’m just interested in keeping the buzz going, not in doing any sort of responsible research. Because when that buzz wears off, man, I’m going to be grumpy.

So here’s your beer for the weekend, girls and guys: The Lost Abbey’s Judgment Day (San Marcos, CA). Sure, it may have been more apropos for the few weeks leading up to the final day of the MLS season, when a team’s fate hinged upon just one game. But this weekend still signifies the separating of the wheat from the chaff—who gets to go on, and who gets left behind.

Celebrate by getting out your fancy glasses; any of the Belgian Trappist ones will do. The aroma is full with plenty of raisins, fruit, and brown sugar. The flavor is more of the same, with some vanilla and dark fruits thrown in. It finishes with a spicy bitterness—which might be just what some supporters will require this week. It also weighs in at a 10.5% ABV, so if you need to drown your sorrows for a bit, feel free to wallow in this one.

And hey, if you happen to be one of those unfortunate Liverpool fans, you might want to grab an extra for the match against Blackburn. But the Reds have to beat Blackburn, right? At Anfield? Yeah, you really should invest in the second bottle.

About Kirsten:

Ever since Brazil caught my eye during the 1994 World Cup I’ve considered myself a soccer fan, but it wasn’t until the summer 2008 that I decided to find a club. I focused on the Premier League and eventually chose Aston Villa. Initially drawn in by the pretty clarets and blues, I found I liked their organization, their owner and their manager. I fell hard and now it’s too late—I can’t give them up. As for MLS, that was easy, as I live in Seattle. I also support Exeter FC, SSC Napoli, FC Koln, Estudiantes Tecos and Tooting & Mitcham FC, all for a variety of reasons including cider, tattoos, scarves, owls, and a soccer player texting while on the pitch. I’m the Managing Editor of SB Nation’s Aston Villa site, 7500 to Holte. I also contribute to Two Footed Tackle.

Support the Movement. Get the Free Beer Movement T-Shirt. Only from Objectivo.com

Monday, October 18, 2010

Photo Essay: Free Beer Match Day Eight - The Movement Gets Blown (Away in the Windy City)

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Hey! Where am I? Oh, yeah....
Built to honor the Polish General who helped the colonists defeat the British during the American Revolution. Divided loyalties on the night for sure.


Surfing the free beer "bus".


Brothers in beers.
It takes all types.
American Outlaws President Korey Donahoo and Vice President Justin Brunken. Brought a U-Haul van full of the good stuff for their thirsty troops. Free Beer Movement in Action!
One for you and one for you and one for you....

Wisconsin ID, baby! Give her two beers to start right away!

Ohhhhhhhhhhhh! USA! USA! USA USA!




It takes all types (part two).

The march to the stadium.

Lone soldier behind enemy lines.


Scarves up! Show 'em who you are!





Number one? Not yet, but just you wait and see....


Hoping the Polish line holds like September 1, 1939.
Add caption


The last line of our defense. And our last photo.

Support the Movement. Get the Free Beer Movement T-Shirt. Only from Objectivo.com

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Apologies, Readers!

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Dear faithful readers...

The FBM HQ main computer is offline (basically our laptop died) and is in the shop. We apologize for any inconvenience.

We're hoping that this will be a quick fix, but until then we can't post regularly (or at all) from work (damn filter!). The hope is that by the end of the week we'll be back up and running.

Watch this space for our photos from USA-Poland in Chicago and a feature story on the Chicago Fire supporters, Section 8. We've also got several other features in the pipeline so our return will be in full-force!

Need you FBM fix? We're still posting on Twitter and Facebook.

Sorry and thanks!


Support the Movement. Get the Free Beer Movement T-Shirt. Only from Objectivo.com

Friday, October 8, 2010

Going Suds Up: The Best Beers, the Best Soccer

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By Kirsten / Senior West Coast Beer and Aston Villa Correspondent

Welcome to the international break, which at least gives me an easy match to pair with beer: the USA friendly against Poland, available for your viewing pleasure on Saturday at 7pm CT, on FSC. Of course, Major League Soccer action continues, but as I’m waiting for the day that MLS has enough quality to enforce the international break, I’m ignoring those games.

If you want to play it classy in Chicago, pick up a Sofie from local brewer Goose Island. This saison pours pale yellow with plenty of rising bubbles. Smells like bubblegum, with a bit of pepper and citrus thrown in—a perfect saison aroma. Crisp taste, with citrus, sugar, oak and vanilla flavors.

If you’d like to instead just use this match as an excuse to get drunk, but still want to give off the appearance of being classy, pick up a barley wine from a microbrew. I suggest Deschutes Mirror Mirror, which at 11% should easily do the trick. It’s one of the smoothest barley wines I’ve ever had, with a nice peppery, caramel taste. It smells of toasted malts, cherries and sweet, sweet booze. This beer will remind you of the true meaning of “friendly.”

About Kirsten:

Ever since Brazil caught my eye during the 1994 World Cup I’ve considered myself a soccer fan, but it wasn’t until the summer 2008 that I decided to find a club. I focused on the Premier League and eventually chose Aston Villa. Initially drawn in by the pretty clarets and blues, I found I liked their organization, their owner and their manager. I fell hard and now it’s too late—I can’t give them up. As for MLS, that was easy, as I live in Seattle. I also support Exeter FC, SSC Napoli, FC Koln, Estudiantes Tecos and Tooting & Mitcham FC, all for a variety of reasons including cider, tattoos, scarves, owls, and a soccer player texting while on the pitch. I’m the Managing Editor of SB Nation’s Aston Villa site, 7500 to Holte. I also contribute to Two Footed Tackle.

Support the Movement. Get the Free Beer Movement T-Shirt. Only from Objectivo.com

Thursday, October 7, 2010

VIDEO - FIFA11 "We Are 11" Soccer Fanatics - Miss Fiel and the Faithful Hawks

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Part 3 of the "We Are 11" series, produced by VBS in conjunction with the release of EA Sports' FIFA 11. This episode explores the important roll that voluptuous, scantily clad women play in the world of Brazilian soccer.



The largest soccer fan club in the world belongs to São Paulo’s Corinthians FC. Their supporters, Gaviões de Fiel are renowned for being the biggest organized rooting association in the world. They have over 80,000 supporters, and among them you will find soccer muses, a samba school, and arguably the most impressive float at Rio’s Carnaval. In short, they inspire passion like no other club. We hang out with them on match day as they get geared up at their clubhouse, fill the busses to head to the stadium and ultimately go nuts in the stands..


Support the Movement. Get the Free Beer Movement T-Shirt. Only from Objectivo.com

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Free Beer Match Day Eight: The Movement Gets Blown (Away in the Windy City)

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The Free Beer Movement is crashing Chicago and we want our USMNT fans to be a part of it all. Come find us at any of the events we're attending and get some FBM stickers for you to make all your friends jealous with!

As a proud member of the American Outlaws we're following their itinerary for most of this epic international friendly weekend: Friday night party, pre-game bars, and pre-game tailgate; plus filling that supporter's section to the brim!

Friday

Chicago Fire 13th Anniversary Party 2pm to Game Kick Off

Fire fans we're practicing our journalism skillz by covering Section 8, the Fire Independent Supporters Association in a story for the FBM site in a feature. We'll be interviewing supporters, including Section 8 chairperson Tom Dunmore.

Columbus Crew vs. Chicago Fire, 8pm

Looking for us patrolling Section 8 and the rest of the match as these two Eastern Conference rivals battle it out! Continuing our work profiling Section 8 and the Fire organization.

Maybe we'll meet Frankie Hejduk and Brian McBride, too!

American Outlaws Night Before Party

We'll be meeting up with our fellow AO members at Small Bar Fullerton for the rest of the night. Drinkers gotta practice for the match tomorrow as well!





- $4 Carlsbergs
- $6 BullSchlitz (Schlitz Tall Boy & Shot)

Address:
1415 W. Fullerton
Chicago, IL
773-525-2727

Saturday

The Weather Mark Tavern

The FBM will be meeting all our AO brothers and sisters at the Weather Mark then marching to the Stadium/Tailgate from there.


Address:
1503 South Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60605-2812
(312) 588-0230
www.weathermarktavern.com

American Outlaws Tailgate


Location will be on Waldron Deck.(Gates to the stadium will open at 5:30)

Drinks (beer for 21+) and Food will be provided for donations only. Please help our cause! and spread the word…


Look for AO banners and members, we have spots reserved.

Game Time: USMNT vs. Poland at Soldier Field, 7pm

Join us in supporting our boys in red, white, and blue! Sing loud and proud!

Post Game

Back to The Weather Mark????

We'll have FBM stickers all weekend! Slam a beer with the Movement that's "Building American Soccer One Beer at a Time"!!!!


Support the Movement. Get the Free Beer Movement T-Shirt. Only from Objectivo.com

Monday, October 4, 2010

VIDEO - FIFA11 "We Are 11" Soccer Fanatics - Pied La Biche: Soccer Recreationalists

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The second episode of the "We Are 11" series, produced by VBS for the release of EA Sports' FIFA 11. This installment follows four French guys that take the term "history buff" to an obsessive level.



The 1982 match between France and West Germany is a World Cup classic. Using Lyon as the pitch, French art collective Pied La Biche explores the city to recreate their own vision of this epic game, using anything from derelict industrial sites to town squares and freeways rather than a soccer field. We spend a day with the collective as they demonstrate exactly how they reenacted the famous match, using only a camera, a laptop, walkie-talkies and a lot of patience.

Other Installments:
Part 1: Vuvuzela Saddam

Support the Movement. Get the Free Beer Movement T-Shirt. Only from Objectivo.com

Saturday, October 2, 2010

VIDEO - FIFA11 "We Are 11" Soccer Fanatics - Vuvuzela Saddam

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A new eleven-part series based around soccer fanatics from around the globe. It's called "We Are 11" and is being produced by VBS in conjunction with the release of EA Sports' FIFA Soccer 11. The first installment of the series profiles the Flavor Flav of the soccer world, a man that transcends employment. Meet the man they call Vuvuzela Saddam.



Saddam Maake is South Africa's most passionate soccer supporter. He's a local Johannesburg legend, happens to like giant neon yellow sunglasses and participates in bizarre rain dances to his own soccer inspired songs. We take a tour of his house – or more aptly, his shrine to all things Bafana Bafana & Kaiser Chiefs FC – to get the real story on the man who claims to have invented the vuvuzela.

Support the Movement. Get the Free Beer Movement T-Shirt. Only from Objectivo.com

The Weekend's American Soccer on TV

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Looking to spread the word of American soccer this weekend (through the power of the Free Beer Movement, of course)? Here's a listing of all the great games taking place in and around the United States this weekend.

* Note: All times Central
*** Indicates a National Television Broadcast


SATURDAY

Major League Soccer

Seattle Sounders FC vs. Toronto FC
2:30 pm CT, MLS Direct Kick, Matchday Live, KONG (Seattle), CBC (Toronto)

Philadelphia Union vs. Houston Dynamo
3 pm CT, Telefutura***, WPVI6-ABC (Philadelphia)

New England Revolution vs. Real Salt Lake
6:30 pm CT, MLS Direct Kick, Matchday Live, CSN New England, KUSG (SLC)

New York Red Bulls vs. Kansas City Wizards
6:30 pm CT, MLS Direct Kick, Matchday Live, MSG PLUS, KCWE-29

Columbus Crew vs. San Jose Earthquakes
6:30 pm CT, MLS Direct Kick, Matchday Live, ONN (Columbus)

FC Dallas vs. Chicago Fire
7:30 pm CT, Fox Soccer Channel***

Colorado Rapids vs. D.C. United
8 pm CT, MLS Direct Kick, Matchday Live, CW-2 (Colorado)

USSF Division 2 


** Video available for all matches via the teams' homepages

Vancouver Whitecaps FC v Portland Timbers
AC St Louis v Rochester Rhinos
Miami FC Blues v Puerto Rico Islanders


SUNDAY


Major League Soccer


Chivas USA vs. Los Angeles Galaxy
7 pm CT, ESPN2/Deportes/ESPN3.com***

USSF Division 2

** Video available for all matches via the teams' homepages

Montreal Impact v Austin Aztex
1pm CT, Watch Party at Mister Tramps Sports Bar (Austin, TX)


Support the Movement. Get the Free Beer Movement T-Shirt. Only from Objectivo.com

Friday, October 1, 2010

Going Suds Up: The Best Beers, The Best Soccer

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By Kirsten Schlewitz / Senior West Coast Beer and Aston Villa Correspondent

Good news, beer fans! I’ve just found the world’s greatest bottle shop, and that combined with the ever-increasing amount of matches available on TV or via clear internet connections means that I can serve you even better—at least, I can until my money runs out and I can’t afford the good stuff anymore.

Your match of the week this week is Chelsea v Arsenal, which will be shown on Fox Soccer Channel (and Fox Sports Net) on Sunday at 10am CT (if you get SoccerAmerica’s emails, be warned, they have it listed under Saturday. It’s a Sunday match). While I considered covering what amounts to a derby between L.A. Galaxy and Chivas USA, but with the Goats effectively out of the playoffs, it’s clear that the match between the two London clubs holding down the top of the Premier League has to win out.

For this match, pick up Bridgeport Hop Harvest. It pours golden, like the pretty pretty leaves. The smell is fairly faint, but a good IPA usually is. This one has a bit of floral and brown sugar. It’s a really balanced brew, tasting fresh, of roses and grapefruit. Certainly not an overwhelming, typical west coast IPA. So why do I choose this to represent the top two teams in the league? It’s to remind everyone that this is still October. Chelsea’s one loss is not as big a deal as the stories make it out to be, and Arsenal’s stumbles against lower-tier opposition will likely mean little come May.

And for our second recommended match of the weekend, tune in on Saturday for GolTv for Hamburg v Kaiserslautern at 8:30am PT. Yes, it might be a bit early for drinking (Editor's Note: It is NEVER too early for drinking), but realize, this is the last weekend of Oktoberfest. Join in with the Bavarians by celebrating one of their lesser-known football clubs (mostly because they’re not Bayern) and raising a glass of Ayinger Oktober Fest- Märzen. This one has a unique aroma, of roses and caramel, with a sweet taste and nutty finish. A perfect beer to celebrate the oddness that is the Bundesliga right now.

About Kirsten:

Ever since Brazil caught my eye during the 1994 World Cup I’ve considered myself a soccer fan, but it wasn’t until the summer 2008 that I decided to find a club. I focused on the Premier League and eventually chose Aston Villa. Initially drawn in by the pretty clarets and blues, I found I liked their organization, their owner and their manager. I fell hard and now it’s too late—I can’t give them up. As for MLS, that was easy, as I live in Seattle. I also support Exeter FC, SSC Napoli, FC Koln, Estudiantes Tecos and Tooting & Mitcham FC, all for a variety of reasons including cider, tattoos, scarves, owls, and a soccer player texting while on the pitch. I’m the Managing Editor of SB Nation’s Aston Villa site, 7500 to Holte. I also contribute to Two Footed Tackle.

Support the Movement. Get the Free Beer Movement T-Shirt. Only from Objectivo.com