growing pains, part II

This won’t last forever. I know it hurts, but the pain will go away. Everyone has to go through this. 

Growing pains, my mother contended, were just a part of growing up. The persistent throbbing and aching, she promised, wouldn’t last and the pains would eventually fade away. And if I wanted to grow up to be a big, strong man, this was something I — like everyone else — would have to suffer. So I soldiered on, heeding her words, knowing that all was worth it and better days were to come.

USA v Jamaica 9/11/2012
last time i checked, this isn’t seattle.

So when I wrote that US soccer was experiencing growing pains back in mid-July, I did so thinking that things would get better. My complaint at the time? That the planning for and communication of ticket allocations for the US Men’s National Team World Cup qualifier against Mexico in Columbus were a collective train wreck.

It all started with a vague announcement from the American Outlaws about their ticket pre-sale that “won’t sell out”. That was followed by missing several of their own deadlines to announce who would not be receiving the tickets that supposedly wouldn’t sell out. And since the next pre-sale — for US Soccer’s separate “Supporters Club” — began before the AO winners were announced, everyone freaked out and tried to get in on that pre-order too. Which makes sense, because nobody wanted to miss out on tickets and then have to rely upon the extremely slim odds of winning a ticket in a first ever general sale ticket lottery… which, by the way, also missed it’s originally announced decision date.

Combined, these huge ticket grabs ate up far more of Columbus Crew Stadium’s already limited capacity than AO and the Supporters Club ever had before. That left current Crew season ticket holders and supporters groups with poor seating options and even less tickets than they were led to believe they would be receiving. And that meant even fewer tickets would go into the General Sale Lottery, thus decreasing everyone else’s chances.

Furthermore — despite the fact that the Crew and US Soccer have been touting this match as sold out for the last month –the Crew are still holding back even more tickets with the hope that they can bundle them with season tickets for next year.

At the time, I posited that both the American Outlaws and US Soccer were both responsible for the entire snafu. AO were to blame because they jumped the gun and opened their pre-sale before they knew their exact allocation of tickets. And US Soccer were at fault for not having ticket allocations determined months in advance for a match that even the most dimwitted of American sports fans knew would inspire enormous demand. It stunk of a lack of communication between all of the involved parties from start to finish. And ultimately, it meant hundreds to thousands of fans would probably miss out just so AO could get what they wanted.

Despite all of that, I still held out hope that there was nowhere to go from here but up. How could they possibly mess things up further? 

As it turns out, that was a foolish assumption.

Instead of things getting better after all of the ticket sales closed, AO and US Soccer have continued to screw the pooch with a number of further gaffes.

First came a further ticketing headache. Though AO was able to give a majority of those fans who applied through their pre-sale tickets, some winners were notified that they would be required to either pay more or not go at all because they were placed in more expensive corner seats. Nothing like finding out you’ve won tickets, only to find out they would be $15 more a piece than what you had originally committed to. Though admittedly, this issue wasn’t anywhere near as frustrating as the process for landing tickets in the fist place.

The second indiscretion, however, has proven far more high-profile and could potentially have far larger ramifications beyond just the US-Mexico game.

I won’t outline every detail here — as BigSoccer user Dan Loney did excellently here — but I’ll do my best to summarize:

  • A now redacted Facebook post from American Outlaws Seattle president, eexplicitly threatened that the next USAvMEX match would be in his city if Columbus didn’t do things AO Seattle’s way. (Courtesy of @shoplifter110)
  • Two separate reports spilled out to the press, one from Columbus-based Massive Report and the other from Goal.com’s Keith Hickey, outlining the below claim
    • AO Columbus/Crew Supporters were told in a conference call with AO National and the USSF that, due to what was considered a poor showing in Salt Lake City, that AO Seattle would be charged with leading the support in Columbus.
    • AO would be instituting capos — or stands at the front of the supporters with designated leaders to guide the crowd in cheering — for the USAvMEX match, despite the fact they’ve never been used in Columbus before for any of their previous USA-Mexico matches or Crew games.
    • These capos would potentially be run by fans from outside Columbus/Ohio, and allegedly be flown in on USSF’s dime.
  • Angry fist shaking commences on social media.
  • AO National, and later USSF, posted a reply stating that both articles were incorrect. Oh, and they also confirmed that there would be capos at the match.

So let me get this straight. Not only did AO screw over everyone by instigating a ticket grab, but now they have the gall to tell Columbus how to run their own qualifier? Excuse my language, but what the fuck!?!?

It’s not as if Columbus has a piss poor record of supporting during pivotal matches. In fact, the atmosphere the Ohio capital provides for the National Team is part of the reason we’ve been handed the match four straight times. La Guerra Fria — or the Cold War — match back in 2001 was named so not just because of the physicality on the pitch, but because raucous fans turned out in freezing weather to inspire the Yanks to a 2-0 win. The crowd was rocking in 2005‘s edition, and 2009’s February match was no different. When Tim Howard called Columbus Crew Stadium the “one real true home advantage we have in America”, he wasn’t talking about the playing surface. He was talking about its supporters, and that was after the far-less-prestigious match against Jamaica in Columbus last September. So I’m pretty sure Columbus is more than capable of handling things on their own.

You might be willing to forgive AO and US Soccer for forcing AO Seattle and their capos upon this match if prior results in Columbus hadn’t measured up. But as the term “Dos a Cero” so elegantly illustrates, that’s not exactly been the case either.

Twelve years of hosting has provided ample time to develop our own culture, and it’s clearly proven fruitful. And besides, if Crew Stadium had hosted anything as bad as mixed results, don’t you think USSF would have yanked it from us ages ago?

if nothing else, the one thing seattle can’t offer the us soccer that columbus can? how about a proper grass pitch.

As for AO’s claims that having “20-plus supporters sections” — a problem they created themselves, by the way — has presented “unique challenges” for providing a unified support, I think that’s probably true. I also understand that what Seattle/Cascadia has going on is pretty special within the American soccer landscape. But does that mean that Seattle’s way of supporting is the best way… or even the only way, as AO and US Soccer purportedly decided?

I don’t think so, and Columbus themselves capable of providing adequate atmosphere. That’s not to say that there’s nothing Columbus can learn from AO Seattle: a little collaboration never hurt anyone.

But giving them the keys to the car moving forward? That’s crossing the line.

Ask AO Kansas City how they would feel about letting a bunch of Seattle fans come in and run their Cauldron in October. Or better yet, how would AO Seattle feel if AO Columbus came in and ran their next World Cup Qualifier? I doubt either home fans would be happy with either.

Look, I don’t know what’s going on with US Soccer right now. Maybe they’re still reeling from the growing pains themselves. But shoving Seattle’s way of supporting down Columbus’ throats, when there was no clear reason for doing so, is clearly overstepping the previously established boundaries. While I understand AO’s desire to unify the support in Columbus next month, who are they to decide how that should happen? Seattle had their game back in June, and nobody strolled into Centrury Link and told them how to support. So where do they get off thinking this is their show to run?

But perhaps more importantly, how did AO and US Soccer not realize that forcing such a move — at a time when we should all be unified and working together to back the team on the field in just a few days time — would cause dissension within the ranks? We shouldn’t be angry with each other, exchanging virulent comments online and creating animosity between fellow supporters. We should be focusing that kind of energy into helping put the fear into the hearts of the visiting Mexican players.

And though that may still be the American Outlaws’ end goal with sudden switch in supporting protocol, once again, they’re stomping all over some their fellow fans to make it happen.

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