The US men’s soccer team may have shocked many with its 2-1 victory over Ghana in the World Cup on Monday, but at a soccer-friendly bar in Dorchester, a group of their most prominent and vocal fans was not surprised.
From the kickoff, they believed.
“I believe,” is the mantra of the American Outlaws fan group, which has gained prominence in the runup to the World Cup through exposure on ESPN and other media for its devotion to the US men’s national team. The Boston chapter of American Outlaws carried the torch at The Banshee on Monday, and did the organization proud.
What’s it like joining them for a US soccer watch party? Well, I walked out with wing sauce, ranch dressing and general bar gunk all over my pants.
“I feel like I’ve been in a bar fight,” one patron said as she walked out of the pub following the United States’ 2-1 victory over Ghana in its World Cup opener.
When you watch a game with the American Outlaws, you become close with strangers. You high-five with them, scream with them, hug them, and jump up and down with them.
“I’m a good fit for this group,” said Brian Ledet, a New Orleans native who has been watching US matches with the American Outlaws for three years. “This [crowd] isn’t just for the World Cup. We’re here all year long. Whenever the U.S. is playing, you’re going to get anything from 20 to 300 here.”
If you’re locked into plans later in the day, don’t go to The Banshee with the American Outlaws. You’ll find yourself whipping out your phone midway through the match bailing on those plans so you can stay for more beer.
“I’m curious to see who the last US fan is out the door today. I’m supposed to be playing soccer at 9 o’clock tonight, and I already told my team that’s not happening,” said Fran Harrington, who helps organize the American Outlaws’ Boston watch parties and other events. “I imagine there’s going to be people here, if not until last call, until pretty damn close.”
It is an easy marriage between the American Outlaws and The Banshee, which boasts multiple decals of the group’s famed logo: crossbones behind a soccer ball half-covered by a kerchief.
“They respect us and they put on the games years ago when nobody else would,” said Tim Westfield, who first found his home among the American Outlaws five years ago. “People don’t care about a random baseball game between the Twins and the Indians as much as they would care about a US soccer game.”
The watch parties are open to all comers. But you should know a few things about choosing to spend four or more hours with these US soccer fans:
Get there early
I skirted in at about 4:30 p.m. and five minutes later there was a long line outside the pub. I asked the lanky door guy, who had a carnival counter in one of his hands, how many delirious soccer fans could be crammed into the bar.
“I can’t tell you that,” he responded, in what sounded like an Irish or Scottish accent. “But we’re full.”
Though that was 90 minutes before kickoff, Harrington said some of his friends got there at 3 p.m. and he even knew a handful of people who arrived at noon for the early games. It turned into standing-room-only by about 4:50 with little to no wiggle room.
Go all out. No red-and-blue plaid shirts. Don’t wear baseball hats just because they are the correct team colors. Find yourself a USA soccer jersey — any USA soccer jersey — couple it with some American flag pants, a kit and a scarf and you’re good to go. The fans at the bar looked like they were dressed for the Fourth of July three weeks early — flags draped as capes, trucker hats with Abraham Lincoln, the Statue of Liberty and a bald eagle on it, bandanas tied as headbands and neck scarves. If you don’t go all out, you’ll be confused with the opposition.
There’s stomping. There’s jumping. There’s broken glass on the floor. There’s bar tar, which is as gross as it sounds. There are klutzes (me) who knock over ceramic plates full of hot wings. There are sticky, well-worn hardwood floors with a light layer of stains from past festivities, as with any good bar. Closed-toed shoes that are well-broken in with a good grip is the way to go. Your feet will take a pounding.
Know your cheers
If you haven’t belted out your own rendition of the national anthem recently, look up the lyrics and warm up your pipes. A well-rested set of vocal cords is a must with this group. The pregame playlist included Coldplay, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Oasis, all of which had the entire bar’s collective voice raised to a fever pitch.
But those tunes had nothing on the patriotic cheers and chants, including the American Outlaws’ “I believe that we will win,” the group’s staple catchphrase that is set to a beat of clapping and foot-stomping.
Watch for yourself:
Bring your emotions
Clint Dempsey gift-wrapped a goal one minute into the game against Ghana.
Jurgen Klinsmann’s reaction:
But the American Outlaws reaction was so loud, it echoed in my head my entire commute home:
Impressive collective lung capacity. But as high as the highs were for the American Outlaws, the lows — Jozy Altidore’s hamstring pull in the 21st minute, Andre Ayew’s game-tying goal in the 82nd minute — crashed hard, too.
The energy in the bar was zapped after Ayew’s goal, but an optimistic group in the back of the bar downstairs began to shout: “I believe that we will win!”
It spread throughout the bar, up until John Brooks’ go-ahead goal off a cross from Graham Zusi in the 86th minute. Madness broke out before fans started to clock-watch, which stirred up some stress as the Americans held onto the lead. As the 94th minute began, so did the chanting and game-winning celebration:
As I stepped outside at 8 p.m., my ears ringing, I overheard a fan sum up his first American Outlaws experience to his friends.
“That was quite the experience — it was horrifying, it was invigorating, it was fun.”