If you could put your finger on the one thing that makes the atmosphere at a soccer match different from any other sporting experience in America, it would be the songs of the supporters and the tifo — an Italian word that descibes the fans' extravagant, choreographed displays — that accompanies them. The supporters groups of MLS are no different than their South American or European counterparts and fill stadiums from Frisco, Texas, to Foxborough, Mass., with their often incredible, always passionate displays.
But not all tifo is created equally. Here are five displays that were cuts above the rest.
Section 8, Toyota Park, Aug. 2010
With MLS new-boy Seattle in town for a midweek match at Toyota Park, Chicago’s most prominent supporters took a highly creative shot at the Sounders and their Xbox 360-laden jerseys with a little help from an old-school gaming hero.
Using scale, motion and a heavy dose of 1980s nostalgia, Section 8 let it be known who the elder statesman were that night in Bridgeview … and like they say, you have to respect your elders.
[inline_node:330057]Barra Brava, RFK Stadium, June 2008
On a day when David Beckham and the LA Galaxy had come to town, it was D.C. United’s Ben Olsen who stole the spotlight with an impressive assist from La Barra Brava.
Raising a super-sized banner sporting a ferocious-looking lion backed by the No. 14 and a caption reading “Heart of a Lion,” Barra Brava paid tribute to their midfield stalwart just before kickoff and showed a national TV audience that the Galaxy’s big names weren’t the only reason to tune in.
Emerald City Supporters, Qwest Field, Oct. 2009
Days after US men’s national team forward Charlie Davies’ horrific car accident in October of 2009, fans around the country rallied behind the sidelined player. Beginning in Washington, D.C., at the USMNT’s World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica, fans held up placards featuring Davies' No. 9 in the ninth minute to honor Davies in an emotional scene that pulled at the hearts of sports fans around the country.
The scene was repeated at MLS stadiums around the country, including at Real Salt Lake’s Rio Tinto Stadium. It was at Seattle’s Qwest Field, though, that the now-iconic display was deployed on its largest scale (see above).
Timbers Army/107ist, PGE Park, July 2009
Following five months of suspended aggression during the Sounder’s inaugural MLS season, Cascadia foes Seattle and Portland resumed their unfriendly rivalry in a heated US Open Cup match at PGE Park in July 2009.
But before the guys on the field could manage a shot on goal, the Timbers Army took a shot at the opposition from the stands. Pitting large cutouts of Seattle’s iconic yet defenseless Space Needle and Portland’s chainsaw-laden Timber Jim against one another while suspended behind a smoky North End goal, this was a display for the ages.
But though the Portland fans may have won the pregame tifo war, they weren’t so fortunate when it came to the match itself. Seattle won 2-1 en route to the 2009 US Open Cup title.
Red Patch Boys and U-Sector, BMO Field, Oct. 2009
Talk about a stylish goodbye. After Toronto FC fan-favorite Danny Dichio announced his retirement toward the end of 2009 season, the Reds’ most ardent supporters set about giving the English striker a send-off worthy of a club legend.
The result was a 700-pound, forklift-transported behemoth of a banner that covered an entire end of BMO Field emblazoned with Dichio’s likeness alongside a simple “Thank You.” It was both colossal and classy and showed what’s possible when multiple supporters clubs unite behind a common goal.