June 27, 2014

Soccer club survives US loss, celebrates US success in World Cup

Members of American Outlaws, the US national soccer team's official fan club, understand that a single loss is not the worst thing that can happen in a World Cup soccer game.

There are soccer fans and then there are die-hard soccer fans.

Die-hard soccer fans understand that a single loss is not the worst thing that can happen in a World Cup soccer match.

Members of the American Outlaws, the U.S. national soccer team's official fan club, are die-hards. Though the Americans' 1-0 loss to Germany on Thursday was frustrating and tense, the club's Raleigh chapter celebrated at downtown's London Bridge pub when the U.S. advanced to the first-round of elimination play in the 2014 World Cup after Portugal's 2-1 win over Ghana.

The American Outlaws have 125 official chapters, according to their official website, and 18,000 members. More than 500 members were expected to attend the World Cup games in Brazil. Club members show support by wearing everything American that they can find: flag-patterned bandanas and soccer scarves especially. The Raleigh chapter dubbed the London Bridge pub their official viewing location for games here.

"My favorite part of (American Outlaws) is the sheer dedication to the USA," said member Joe Stabile, a master's student at Campbell University. "It's not a bandwagon sport, it is straight patriotism. You don't have to love soccer to be a USA soccer fan."

Normally a haven for Anglophiles in the Triangle, the pub features framed jerseys of British players like David Beckham and Steven Gerrard on its walls. But not on Thursday, when the place was bursting at the seams with red, white and blue-clad fans.

"The London Bridge is a great place for soccer," said American Outlaw member Jonathan Duren, who works for North Carolina Central University's sports radio. "There's a certain sense of dedication to soccer here."

The festivities began early Thursday, when American Outlaw member Stephen Wiley arrived at the London Bridge at 10 a.m. with pub employees. The doors do not open to patrons until 10:30 a.m.

"I try to show up before everyone else (to set up)," said Wiley, who was dressed in a white soccer shirt with an American flag bandana tied outlaw-style around his neck. Wiley and other members of American Outlaws prepared the pub by hanging American and Gadsden ("Don't Tread on Me") flags over the English players' pictures.

Despite the heat, energy and enthusiasm were high before the start of the game. Stabile beat out rhythms on his snare drum as Wiley called out chants to pump up the rest of the club.

Some of the energy waned as the first half went on with no goal for either team, and was quickly replaced with tension and anxiety as the fate of the U.S. team began to depend more on the Ghana-Portugal game than their own.

"This crowd today was pretty muted," Wiley said. It was difficult for Wiley and others to feel completely satisfied in the ending of the game. "I still feel nervous," he said.

Despite the frustration about the outcome of the game, the American Outlaws still ended the day with the chant, "I believe that we will win!" beating drums, standing on tables and cheering the USA on to the next round at 4 p.m. Tuesday against Belgium.

Die-hards to the end.

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