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28 March 4:54 de la tarde

Former Oasis guitarist Noel Gallagher considers himself quite the football fan. He's famously a Manchester City fan, "loves" Mario Balotelli (whom he interviewed recently), and shows up regularly at Etihad Stadium.

But is he also becoming an MLS fan? In this Q&A with ColumbusAlive.com, in between promoting his concert in Columbus on Thursday and pimping his brother Liam's new band, he sings the praises of a recent MLS match he attended.

"I was amazed at the size of the stadiums and the amount of people that attended these matches," he says. "It was like, it's a big [expletive] deal, man, d’you know what I mean? It’s a big deal. And I was expecting it to be little more than, you know, a kick about in an athletic stadium with a few people attending. And I went to see the Galaxy and they were playing some team from Philadelphia, and it was real, d’you know what I mean? And the fans were all great, and it was a great atmosphere."

23 March 2:59 de la tarde

Leave it to the Timbers to create new boundaries for extreme MLS fandom.

I have no doubt there are plenty of MLS fan tattoos out there*, but I can't think of another organization that would be willing to create a contest around the concept and pay for the ink themselves.

But that's the contest Portland dreamed up, and winner Nathan Kensinger recently got his custom designed "Timbers Tattoo" by Igor Mortis at Tigerlily Tattoo in northeast Portland.

Check out footage of Mortis applying his artwork to Kensinger's calf below and watch Eric Brunner and Jake Gleason narrow the field to the winning design.

*I would love to feature MLS fan tattoos here on "The Sideline." If you want to show yours off, tweet me at @AndrewWiebe_MLS with a short explanation of your ink.

19 March 5:02 de la tarde

You probably read that headline and thought... I bet he's talking about the record-breaking crowd that packed Olympic Stadium on Saturday. Or maybe what it all meant to Davy Arnaud, the Impact's captain and goalscorer.

You'd be wrong.

The moment that will stick with me the longest came on Friday evening. Not a soul was in the stands. The game itself was still almost 24 hours away. Chicago were winding down their training session, meandering to the benches as a contingent of 20 or so members of the Fire's Section 8 supporters group waited by the sideline to glad hand and shoot the breeze with the guys they were there to see play the next afternoon.

Waiting with them was a seven-year-old boy from Ottawa named Ethan Stroud. Wrapped tightly around his neck was a Fire scarf, but what really stood out was the intricate Chicago crest etched into the back of his head. While Ethan was busy talking to every Fire player who came in his general vicinity, soaking up the words and attention he recieved as he collected autographs on the back of the jersey that bore his last name and the No. 12, I spent a few minutes talking to his mother, Allison Darke.

She told me Ethan, who was born in Chicago, was adopted and that life hadn't always been this easy for the gregarious young man who rarely stopped smiling in the 10 minutes I watched him make what will surely be lifelong memories. He was born blue from lack of oxygen. He is paralyzed down part of his right arm. He hasn't let it slow him down.

He loves soccer, plays every chance he gets, five times a week much of the year. He plays on three teams. According to his mom, Ethan is the "first one in the van and the first one out of the van" when it comes time to head to practice or games.

"He doesn't have an 'I-can't-do-it button,'" she says.

His parents took him back to Chicago last July for his seventh birthday, an opportunity to visit the city where he was born. They didn't have time to catch a Fire game. That would come the next day among the 70 or so Section 8 supporters tucked in the far corner of the Big O's second deck.

At that moment, though, there was nothing more important to Ethan than what was going on around him. After Logan Pause, Dominic Oduro, Dan Gargan, Frank Klopas and the rest of the Chicago players and coaching staff made him feel welcome -- an understatement to say the least -- and signed his new prized possession, he did what any kid in their right mind would do. He ripped off his jacked and pulled the Fire's colors over his shoulders.

I walked away with the feeling that the next day's events would be special, no doubt, but nothing I did or saw that weekend could measure up to the pure, unadulterated joy Ethan got out of that experience.

Those 10 minutes reminded me what life (and soccer) should be all about. Optimism. Hope. Perseverance. Humanity. Too often, it's easy to forget that.

Then a moment like that comes along, and all it takes is a seven-year-old boy having the time of his life to deliver a reminder that what you're doing is just a drop in the bucket.

19 March 4:25 de la tarde

There's been a lot of talk about anthems already this season. Just minutes ago, I plugged the Revs' new victory song. And, of course, Believe RSL has already made the rounds.

Thanks to a heads up from MLSsoccer.com's Chivas USA beat writer Adam Serrano, I stumbled on this D.C. United fan anthem that was submitted to the "Support Your Team" Contest at The MLS Reserves.

Granted, I don't have a complete grasp on everything that's floating around on the internet these days, but something tells me this joint is going to be hard, if not impossible, to beat. In fact, go ahead and crown "Welcome to the District" by Rene Guzman the cream of the unofficial MLS anthem crop for 2012.

Eye-pleasing production? Check. Legitimate flow from Guzman? Check. Lyrics that reflect the D.C. United story? Double check.

Check out the full lyrics and full music video below.

Think there is something better out there or just want to share something cool that should be on The Sideline? Tweet me at the handle below.

Hook:

Vamos DC, United and Free
Black and Red be the colors we bleed
Since nine-six, here with pride and tradition
United till we die baby, Welcome to the District

Verse:

My heart is two stripes, three stars above
Black and Red and the colors I was born to love
Home of the brave, where champions are made
Bubbles in the air, let the three stars wave
Original 12th man, we pioneered the way
My DMV brothers feel exactly the same
What more can I say, United till I die
96 and forever, your my heart and my pride
Let them all know, we're legends in the making
Whether home or the road, it's our for the taking
Scream Eagles Scream, carry the team forth
Let them hear our song, from Barra to the North
Vamos United, take your place on the throne
Black and Red forever time to bring the cup home
United to the end, through blood, sweat and tears
Forever your my friend, you'll always have me here

19 March 3:35 de la tarde

After Real Salt Lake got things started with the "Believe RSL" anthem that got considerable internet love, the New England Revolution have added their own offering to the genre.

The team announced on Monday that “New England Revolution Anthem,” written and performed by Josephin Shlomit Madden, a local from Abington, Mass., has been selected as the New England Revolution’s official 2012 victory song.

I dig the punk rock vibe, and Josephin did a great job putting together something authentic and catchy at the same time. She's got a big voice and presence that fit the anthem well.

The only thing left is for the Revs to win, something that hasn't come easy through two games in 2012. Fortunately, they'll have another chance to pipe this bad boy through the Gillette Stadium sound system on Saturday when Portland come to town.

Check out the video below and let us know what you think. How does it measure up to Believe RSL?

14 March 5:40 de la tarde

As I look back on the last two weeks leading up to MLS First Kick, I'm left with one word repeating in my mind: overwhelming.

I was tasked with documenting the travels of Brian Dunseth and Drea Avent as they toured the West Coast, starting in Tucson, Ariz., and moving up and down I-5 from Los Angeles to Seattle and back again. The mileage was overwhelming -- more driving in two weeks' time than I'd done in the last several years combined (over 3500 miles).  

With camera in hand, we set off in brand new VW's and I filmed as much as I could.  The amount of footage I ended up with was a bit overwhelming. Sunrises and sunsets. Hard tackles and spectacular goals all flooding in through my lens. I did my best to cut together our memories and put them on the site so that other fans could see the sights and get excited along with us.

CHECK OUT ALL THE COVERAGE FROM ROAD TO FIRST KICK 2012

I got to meet many great and interesting people. Players, coaches, analysts, fans, restauranteurs, security guards and so on. Everybody was welcoming as we travelled through their territory. Everybody wanted to let us into their experience and share their passion for the game. I was overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of each person we spent time with.

As I sit here, decompressing from our journey, I have time to reflect on some of the many memories: watching team USA beat Italy in a pub in San Jose, almost getting stuck in the snow of Southern Oregon, jumping and singing with the Timbers Army, following AIK out of the tunnel and onto Jeld-Wen Field, getting goosebumps as the fans at CenturyLink field yelled, "Seattle!! ... Sounders!!", breakfast burritos at Hermosa beach with new friends that will last my whole life and cheering as the whistle finally blew to begin the first week of games this MLS season. I am overwhelmed by these experiences and will remember them forever.

Finally, I am overwhelmed by how far this great game has come in the US. Remember when beating Italy would have made you pass out with joy? Now, we just say, "Cool. Good game by the boys." Remember when we were so excited just to have a soccer game on TV? Now we need multiple screens all Saturday long. Now we complain when Seattle "only" has 23,433 fans show up mid-week for a non-league game, because we are spoiled by their regular league attendance. Now we complain about teams selling out their tickets too fast. Fans are beginning to hold coaches and players accountable. Team jerseys aren't just worn by players on gameday, but by fans on every day of the week. Remember when you had to convince your buddies to go to a game with you? Nobody needs to be convinced anymore.

Friendships and memories, games and goals. Now, as I put the camera away and look through my own eyes, it's overwhelming to see how much the game has changed me.

14 March 5:07 de la tarde

If you were one of the 47,568 fans at the Rogers Centre for the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal between LA Galaxy and Toronto FC, you better hope you weren't picking your nose or making an awkward face at the wrong moment. If you were one of those unlucky few, don't be surprised if your technologically savvy friends give you some grief in the next few days.

That's because there was literally nowhere for fans to hide last Wednesday as their side jumped out to an quick 2-0 lead against LA before coming back down to earth and settling for a 2-2 draw. You can thank Toronto FC for that. The club set up a camera that captured a high-resolution, 360-degree photo of the scene inside the Rogers Centre.

Not only can you zoom in on just about any section of the stadium, making out faces and everything else as clear as day, but fans can also tag themselves, commerating what was a historic night for the club and its supporters. Needless to say, this is pretty awesome technology, and it really gives you an idea of what the stadium looked like on gameday.

Spend five minutes playing with it, and I guarentee you won't be disappointed. You may want to be on your best behavior at matches from now on, however. You never know who's watching.

14 March 3:33 de la tarde

Aimer le soccer ne se limite pas à aller au stade une fois toutes les deux semaines et à suivre passivement les nouvelles de son équipe préférée. La Major League Soccer est particulièrement active, ou plutôt interactive avec les supporters. Alors voilà quelques manières simples d’en être, vous aussi, des acteurs :

De quoi vous occuper entre deux rencontres, n’est-ce pas ? Et même au match, soyez actifs. Comme le disent les UM02, supporters de Montréal, l’ambiance est faite par tous les supporters présents au stade. Et ce qui vaut à Montréal vaut évidemment partout ailleurs. On en a d'ailleurs eu un magnifique exemple à Portland ce lundi.

12 March 4:48 de la tarde

There were some rumblings on Twitter during NBC Sports Network's first MLS broadcast on Sunday and Keel Cam Part 5 confirmed it: Ryan Meara is essentially Larry Bird in a goalkeeper's kit and gloves.

Don't believe me? Check out the side-by-side photo below of Larry Legend at Indiana State and Meara following his side's 2-1 defeat to FC Dallas.

The best part about it? He joins Mehdi Ballouchy as New York Red Bulls with celebrity doppelgangers. As the Shawn "MLS Insider" Francis pointed out to me a few months ago, Ballouchy bears a striking resemblance to John Oates of Hall & Oates fame.

 

12 March 4:32 de la tarde

My love for all things Keel Cam is well documented. New York's mop-topped defender is simply magnificent at providing behind-the-scene moments with his own brand of humor and some spot-on one-liners mixed in for good measure.

He's done it again with "Keel Cam Part 5," an examination of what tagging along for team bonding at the golf course with the Red Bulls might be like.

My favorite lines:

"That has house written all over it."

"Dax, grab your balls."

"Maybe stand up on your toes, just to get the full flex."

"Does Bruno Mars have any golf game? The club looks as big as he does."

"Can I introduce my caddy, Mehdi Ballouchy?"

As Ryan Meara says, anything for Keel Cam. Let the ridiculousness begin...