one small step for man, one giant leap for WSOTP

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Wrong Side of the Pond... commentating a game near you.

Looking back over what has become a nearly been a five year endeavor, Wrong Side of the Pond has come a long way from its humble beginnings.

Originally, it was nothing more than a way for me to pass the time while living in a new town. And I can easily say that I would have never imagined at the time that my blog would grow to have well over a thousand Twitter followers or nearly five hundred Facebook likes. And to see it evolve to become a resource for people to find a place to watch and share beers with fellow supporters, have it gain me media credentials at MLS stadiums around the country, or co-host a weekly podcast? Well, that’s just mind-blowing.

However I’d also be lying if I said that, deep down, I didn’t have dreams of it some day becoming more.

I’ve always had a desire to somehow stay involved with the game I grew up with and that gave so much to me. Yeah, I still play regularly. But as my fitness and athleticism fade with age, sharing all of the knowledge I’ve picked up over the years of playing and studying soccer seemed like the logical next step. There have definitely been some lucky breaks here and there, too. Bundle all of that with a desire to create and share, and maybe the blog and its growth makes a bit more sense after all.

So with all of that in mind, today, I’m pleased to announce the next very exciting stage in the site’s evolution…

WSOTP - Blog - Cincy Saints Announcement 2.fw

Wrong Side of the Pond will be partnering with the Cincinnati Saints for the upcoming National Premier Soccer League season and beyond!

Specifically, my fellow WSOTP Podcast co-host Jeremy Lance and I will provide the official live match commentary for all home broadcasts for the Saints’ 2014 NPSL campaign. In addition to calling the matches at Over-the-Rhine’s Stargel Stadium, we’ll also provide pre-game, half time and post-match analysis and content alongside sideline reporter Amy Hellkamp. More information about broadcast availability will be forthcoming, but for the time being, every home match will at least be available via a free live stream on YouTube — which I’ll be adding as a link in the sidebar prior to the season.

Furthermore, we will also be working together on a number of marketing endeavors to help further exposure of both the Saints and WSOTP. Exciting things are already in the works, so keep your eyes on this space for further updates in the weeks to come.

In short, I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity and I know we’re all excited to see where things go from here. Many thanks to everyone who’s supported us along the way, and we look forward to cheering on the Saints with you in the summer!

MORE ABOUT THE CINCINNATI SAINTS
The Saints will be embarking on their inaugural season in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL), a semi-professional soccer league in the fourth tier of the American soccer pyramid. Founded in 2009, the Saints organization also features a men’s indoor side — competing tomorrow in the Professional American Soccer League (PASL) playoffs — as well as women’s indoor and outdoor sides, too. For outdoor matches, the black and blue will call Taft High School’s Stargel Stadium near downtown Cincinnati home. The first home match of the season will kick off at 7:30pm on Friday, May 23rd. Click here to see a schedule of matches.

If you want to read the full press announcement on the Cincinnati Saints’ website, feel free to click here.

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Columbus Crew Cincinnati Cleveland

while the crew would do well to make sure their new crest represents columbus, there are other cities the club can look to connect with potential fans, too.

There’s a quiet revolution happening in Columbus, Ohio. Despite years of near anonymity and near afterthought status, the city’s soccer franchise may finally be entering a renaissance of sorts. Under the guidance of new owner Anthony Precourt, the Crew are slowly starting to show signs of life after years of stagnation under the former ownership of the Hunt Sports Group.

Long-needed improvements to the stadium — including an updated jumbotron, speakers and upgraded “premier seating” on the stadium’s east side — should help to improve a match day experience that’s grown stale.

A partnership with USLPRO side Dayton Dutch Lions brings them in line with the league-wide development requirement and may pay dividends down the road.

Plus, the technical and playing staff assembled under the newly installed head coach and sporting director Gregg Berhalter are making some intriguing moves to improve the team’s on-pitch results in the near future.

But the work of Precourt’s making the most waves, at least in the press and on social media, is the Crew’s intentions to revamp their outdated branding. The now quasi-iconic crest featuring three helmeted construction workers — the only untouched original logo to survive since MLS’ inception in 1996 — will finally get an overhaul. And the following quote in a recent interview on mlssoccer.com on the subject was particularly interesting.

“We want to be representative. We don’t see Columbus in the [current] crest. There are many things we can do to represent the capital city better. It’s not a blue-collar, manufacturing, industrial town. It’s a smart, young, progressive university… town. We want it to represent the Columbus we’ve come to know.”

- ANTHONY PRECOURT, COLUMBUS CREW INVESTOR-OPERATOR

And he’s right: their current logo doesn’t even feature the name of the city they call home. That seems almost traitorous. But it’s not just about where their from, but also representing their existing and potential fans.

When I think of Columbus, I think of a city rejuvenated, reborn. Think of the German Village and Short North areas, each seeing an influx of new restaurants, shops and galleries over the last five to ten years. These redevelopments have helped to attract new residents back to the city, which in itself helps to spurn further investment.

And though it shouldn’t matter as much as it does, the Crew conveying themselves as something that many of the city’s young residents are trying to separate themselves from — the proletariat blue-collar workers staring cross-armed from the Crew’s logo — might well be enough to turn off potential fans. So alongside the improvements to the stadium and playing staff mentioned above, Precourt and president Mark McCullers believe that aligning the brand with Columbus and it’s growing young professional demographic will help to put more butts in Crew Stadium seats.

the old “blue collar” logo won’t be phased out until 2015.

Personally, I can’t believe it took the Crew so long to focus on this segment of the fan base. Even under the prior regime of the Hunts, it seemed fairly obvious. All you had to do was look at those packing the house each time the national team came to town. Though the traditionally-targeted “soccer mom” and “entertaining professional” segments were still represented, most of those in attendance were 20 and 30 somethings. The same can be said of the growing crowds filling American pubs for Premier League fixtures each weekend.

And while I agree that putting emphasis on the “Columbus” in Columbus Crew is rightly needed, I think the Precourt and company would be wise to not limit their thoughts to just Ohio’s capital city when trying to reach new fans.

Mr. Precourt: please don’t forget about Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dayton, Toledo and the rest of Ohio when trying to grow the club’s support.

As much as the Hunts neglected to invest in the club and it’s infrastructure, efforts to market the team outside the city have received just as little attention. Columbus isn’t an island after all; a good chunk of Ohio’s population is within a reasonable drive.

But driving distance alone isn’t the only reason why the rest of Ohio is important to the Crew. Cincinnati and Cleveland in particular have seen similar revivals to Columbus, especially when looking at their near-downtown districts of Over-the-Rhine and Ohio City. Already existing pockets of Crew supporters at the opposite ends of the state are there to build upon. You’ll find young professionals packing their bars Saturday and Sunday mornings to watch the European football, too. The traditional youth soccer target markets in those and other large Ohio cities are bountiful as well. And that’s not even mentioning the fact that much of the state is already pre-disposed to driving to Columbus to support some other sport’s team.

And yet outside of youth clubs partnering with the academy or the occasional Frankie Hejduk sighting, there have been practically zero attempts by the Crew to reach out to the rest of Ohio.

I live directly off of and commute on the I-71 corridor here in Cincinnati — a highway that literally leads directly to Crew Stadium — every single day. And yet in all my time living in this city, I can’t recall ever seeing a Columbus Crew billboard or advert. Three years spent living in Dayton went the same way. And friends in Cleveland and Toledo confirmed a similar dearth of Crew presence in their cities.

Perhaps we’ll see them reaching out to those of us outside Columbus, but signs of that kind of that haven’t really yet appeared as the upcoming MLS season fast-approaches. The closest I’ve seen to any hints of this kind of effort was in the announcement of the partnership with the Dayton Dutch Lions, which included a few vague statements on marketing cooperation.

Talk of the Crew investigating putting their own USLPRO side in either Cincinnati or Cleveland also shows they’re at least thinking about this subject, but they needn’t go that far to recruit fans to the capital. A cheaper option might be to throw some extra marketing dollars at a few strategically placed billboards and/or commercials in the state’s bigger cities. Additional club outreach — whether the popular “Find Frankie”, player appearances or just further TV/radio spots — might help to remind fans a little further from home base that there’s a professional team just a few hours away. Or if they’re feeling particularly benevolent, maybe throw the entire state a bone in the design of the new crest. That may be a bit much to ask for, but I’d think there’s merit to at least consider it.

It may take some experimentation to find out what’s effective, but it’s a risk worth taking. Just like there are fans that already supporters that come from all across Ohio, the Crew would be wise to attempt to speak to those that they’ve missed in pockets outside of Columbus.

So as Precourt, McCullers and the rest of the Crew front office look to choose a new image to make themselves in, let’s just hope they don’t forget that while Columbus should remain the primary inspiration, taking into account those on the outer fringes of their market deserve and need attention too.

dressing up cincy spurs

Though the influx of new supporters over the last few seasons has been nice, it’s not always been easy an American supporter of Tottenham Hotspur.

Cincinnati Spurs Sign

i spent some time trying to find the right way to capture the spirit of cincinnati’s official tottenham supporters group.

Often times, it’s been very lonely. I’ve been following the team for a little shy of twenty years now, and it wasn’t until two or three seasons ago that I finally bumped into another Spurs fan here in my hometown of Cincinnati. I knew they had to be out there, but I just never ran into any in any of my innumerable Saturday and Sunday mornings at the pub.

So you can imagine my delight when an official, THFC-sanctioned supporters group sprung up last Spring here in the Queen City. Their presence not only confirmed my suspicions that others like me where out there, but that they would be getting together regularly to watch matches.

Having launched the shirt shop just prior to that point, I had already been itching for a reason to design a Spurs shirt. And Cincinnati Spurs’ arrival was the excuse I’d been looking for. With the guys open to the idea, I set about working out a shirt that would not only represent Spurs, but also our home of Cincinnati.

But then I got sidetracked… for a while. A long one.

Continue reading

come and watch some football with me

MLS Final 2013 Cincinnati Watch Party

If you are in Cincinnati on the afternoon of Saturday, December 7th, 2013, you now have plans. I don’t care if you already have obligations, its high time you break them. Because Wrong Side of the Pond is teaming up with Over-the-Rhine sports bar Rhinehaus for yet another football watch party — this time it’s for the 2013 MLS Cup Final — and you’re not going to want to miss it.

So why should you drop everything to make sure you’re in OTR this coming Saturday afternoon? Aside from having the privilege of getting to rub shoulders with fellow Cincinnati soccer aficionados and yours truly, you’ll also get to watch two of the best sides in MLS featuring some of the national team’s brightest stars, as well as have a chance to win a shirt from the WSOTP Shop — including one of several new designs to be released later this week. You’ll also have a chance to try any of Rhinehaus’ 16 handles of craft beer, including a handful of Cincinnati’s own local brews.

Kickoff is at 4pm, so make sure to get there a little early to secure your space. And if you want a chance to win of the WSOTP Shop shirts, be sure to let us know you’re attending on either Facebook or Google+

If you’re not in Cincinnati and are looking for a place to watch Sporting KC and Real Salt Lake battle it out, find the closest of over 260 soccer bars across the US and Canada in the WSOTP Soccer Pub Atlas.

a house divided

Cincinnati is a fickle sports town. While there are diehard fans for the local professional teams, many fans tend to be fair weather supporters. An on-field resurgence from NFL’s Bengals has improved their support in recent years, but their home games are still frequently blacked out on local television because they can’t regularly sell out Paul Brown Stadium. And despite the city often being described as a baseball town, attendance figures for MLB’s Reds often rises and falls with the team’s performances.

Cincinnati Saints vs Cincinnati Dutch Lions

cincinnati’s checkered soccer history has taken yet another twist.

Furthermore, the average Queen City sports fan also has cornucopia of sports teams competing for his attention. While the Reds and Bengals are the most popular tickets in town, UC and Xavier basketball each boast large followings, Ohio State football sees similar interest, and high school sports also attract considerable attention.

As for professional soccer in Cincinnati? Our eighth club in thirty years was just joined by a newly announced ninth, so it’s fair to say that there’s an interest in the pro game here. But in spite of the huge per capita participation in the region and a growing interest in the European game and US teams, professional soccer has just never really taken off on the banks of the Ohio River.

Growing up in Cincinnati, there was nothing I ever wanted more than for professional soccer to take root here. And since moving to Ohio in 1990, I’ve attended at least one match for each of the sides that called the city home: the Cheetahs, Silverbacks, Riverhawks, Excite, Kings and now the Saints. In doing so, I’ve witnessed successes that have filled me with hope… but inevitably followed by missteps to train wrecks that left my dreams shattered.

It’s a vicious cycle: the optimism at each new attempt to kick start the pro game, which fades into despair, followed by another club rising from its ashes, only to follow the same story arc all over again.

So that all begs to question: why exactly has pro soccer struggled so much here when it seems to be flourishing all over the country? Continue reading

ten words or less #73

Sir Alex Ferguson

as we say goodbye to one of the legends of the game, i can’t help but hope the door hits him on the way out.

Ever since the rumors of his imminent retirement in the early portion of the week, I’ve toiled in vain to write the perfect opus for Sir Alex’s career. Yet with all that is being penned on the great Scotsman in the time since, it’s been hard to find not only a unique angle… but also an appropriate way to express my feelings towards Ol’ Red Nose. On one hand, I have mountains of respect for a man that’s won more titles than entire leagues of clubs combined, has managed to adapt his game several times over to match the prevailing playing styles of the time, and has corralled egos larger than your average Walmart Super Center. On the other hand, I hate Fergie for his influence over the FA, the fear he invokes in referees, and the times he’s pried away Tottenham’s best players.

So since I’ve been unable to tap out an appropriate homage to the greatest manager I’ll likely ever see, I’ll do the next best thing and link to the best piece I’ve read about him so far. And that’s how I’m starting off the latest edition of TWOL.

Fair well, Fergie. Here’s hoping you have a long and lovely retirement… and that Moyes drives United to hell in you absence.

Even receiving a hairdrying invokes respect for Fergie. – sportsjournalists.co.uk

Hey… this looks familiar! - theoriginalwinger.com

Kobe Bryant’s new kicks looked to on-pitch inspiration. – thebeautifulgear.com

The Vatican not only has a league, Americans boss it. – wsj.com

Despite erratic form, I still love me some Benny Assoun-Ekotto. – guardian.co.uk

American soccer re-imagined… a familiar design for Over-the-Rhine.
- pcgdstudios.com

Nike’s updated R9′s will hit you right in the 90′s. – nikeinc.com

Stellar MLS art: For Cub and Country. – behance.net

Cool… until they use it to buy Bale next year. – theoriginalwinger.com

One of the most important debates in American soccer. – mlssoccer.com

an interview with professional olympic gold medalist heather mitts

To slightly misquote Irish rock band Thin Lizzy, the girls are back in town. Yup, you heard that right. Women’s professional soccer is back.

Heather Mitts of the USWNT and Boston Breakers

heather mitts dishes with WSOTP on her olympic triumphs, the new women’s pro league, and more.

Resurrected from the ashes of the failed WPS and WUSA through a jointly subsidized venture by the USSF, the Canadian Soccer Association and the Mexican Football Federation, the new eight team National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) is looking to finally find the right formula for women’s soccer in the States.

The first order of business for the fledgling league was to allocate the fifty-five players whose salaries are covered by their respective national federations, and I was intrigued to see who ended up where. Would big name players stay with their older clubs, or would some be picked up teams closer to home? And of all the players out there, the one I always tend to keep an eye out for is fellow Cincinnati native, Heather Mitts.

A long time member of the US Women’s National Team setup with an impressive 138 caps, Heather has earned three Olympic Gold medals and a World Cup runner’s up medal in the process. Mitts is also one of the few players in NWSL who has had the privilege of playing in the other two editions of a top-tier American women’s league. And if for some reason you’ve not heard of the marking back for her on-field exploits, it’s quite possible you have heard about her off of it thanks to stunning good looks that have earned her a modeling career. All in all, not too bad a gig for a girl from Ohio.

So with the launch of the new league just around the corner, I thought this would be a great time to reach out to Heather to pick her brain about NWSL, her career with the national team and more.

Continue reading

the WSOTP soccer pub atlas project

Thanks to its rise in popularity over the last decade, it’s never been easier to watch football in the United States than it is today. Most Americans with a digital cable subscription have at least one full-time soccer channel at their disposal, meaning watching a load of live European matches per week from the comforts of one’s own living room sofa is a reality for a huge percentage of the country.

soccer pub

if you want to watch football, and you want to have a beer, but you don’t know where to go… you came to the right place.

But if you’re anything like me — aside from taking in a match in person — there really isn’t a better place to watch football than at a pub with your friends.

Now, I can understand why some might think that’s just me attempting adopt the customs of our European contemporaries on the other side of the pond. And while that’s true to a degree, taking in a basketball, baseball or the other football game at a bar is pretty much ubiquitous stateside too. The only thing that’s odd about my game day bar habit is the time in which my game kicks off.

Finding a bar that will open up for those early morning kickoff times, though, can be a bit of a task. Luckily, over the years nearly every major city in the country has answered the call for a pub that will open its doors early enough for us to come in, have a beer and support our football with others like us. I love soccer bars, the atmosphere they provide and the community they can create. I even interviewed one once. But while we all know the best local spot to watch our teams play, if you ever leave the safe confines of your home city… you might need a little guidance.

Now, there are loads of websites out there that are attempting to list every “soccer bar” in the country. Some of them are advertising based, others are free. But not one of them offers quite what I’m looking for in a football pub directory. My requirements aren’t that crazy, but they are rather specific:

  1. Does the bar open early enough for me to watch Premier League matches as early as 7:00am? If they do, you can pretty much guarantee it’s a solid place to catch a match.
  2. there are certain elements characteristics an establishment must have to be a great football pub.

    Are there any supporters groups that call the bar home? It’s always nice to know who shows up to watch the games there. You know, because as a Spurs fan, I’m at least slightly wary of getting my ass kicked if I accidentally stroll into a hardcore Arsenal supporter’s bar.

  3. Do they have a decent beer selection? Because while I can settle for a Bud Light if need be, I’d really prefer to get my hands on something a bit more tasty. The more taps, the better.
  4. Will the game I want to watch be showing on one of their TV’s? Do they carry any soccer specific channels such as the Fox Soccer suite, GolTV or the newcomer BeIN sports? And are those channels available in HD? Bonus points for having the ability to carry live streams!
  5. And lastly, I want a directory that’s map-based. Even better, the map should be easily accessed by phone so that I can easily locate and navigate to the closest establishment offering soccer enjoyment.

I don’t feel like that’s a lot to ask to know about when trying to find a bar to watch a game. But if you have a look around the tubes, none offer quite that combination.

Until now, that is.

Today, I’m launching a brand new soccer bar endeavor, a Google Maps based project called the WSOTP Soccer Pub Atlas. So far, I’ve kicked off this project by doing a short write-up including all of my requirements above for each of the soccer pubs that I’ve attended over the years. Each has its own placement on a map that can be accessed from any smart phone, tablet or computer. And I’ve added it to the site’s main navigation bar, making it even easier for you to find. Pretty slick, right?

Well, I’ve got just one problem with this task I’m undertaking. I can’t possibly visit every soccer bar in this country, even if I wanted to. And while I’ve got about 10 pubs on the list already, they’re mostly concentrated in the Midwest/Ohio. So — my dear readers — I’m inviting you to help get this project off the ground… the WSOTP Soccer Pub Atlas project will be a crowd-sourced one. All I ask is that you provide a short write-up including the information I mentioned above, and I’ll add it to the list. And hey bar owners, this is a chance for some free advertising if you hadn’t yet noticed!

So, about that map… do you want to have a look at what I’ve started so far?

So if you’re trying to find a spot to watch, take a gander at what we’ve got in store so far. But, even better, if you want to get more fans in to take a match at your local pub, why not share it with us? You might just make another soccer fans day, or at least mine if I’m ever out your way. Which would be awesome.

To submit a bar or pub to the directory, either fill out this form or send me an email. Please be sure to include the following information: Name, Address, If they Open Early, Beer Selection Comment, TV availability (channels/quality), and any other relevant information. See the map for examples.