An American in Brazil: Thousands of MLS supporters come together for USMNT
RECIFE, Brazil -- They’ve come from all over the country clad in red, white, and blue. But they have other colors with them.
The burgundy of the Colorado Rapids. The rave green of the Seattle Sounders. The red of Toronto FC. And so on. All the colors of Major League Soccer teams are here in full force.
For them, this trip to Brazil is about club and country.
Finding an MLS jersey inside the stadiums of Natal, Manaus, and Recife isn't easy. After all, they're there to support the US team.
But on non-game days, they are everywhere. Fans are eager to rep their local side: Sporting KC t-shirts in the hotel lobby, New York Red Bulls jerseys at a Brazil watch party, a LA Galaxy cap for protection from the Brazilian sun, or a pair of Portland Timbers shorts for lounging poolside.
A few years after the Dynamo arrived in Texas and Houston native Rick Worley returned to his hometown from Washington D.C., he picked up season tickets as both a matter of civic pride and the natural evolution for his passion for soccer
“I definitely grew up loving the U.S. national team. I can’t imagine anything better than the U.S. winning a World Cup,” said Worley. “But BBVA Stadium is amazing and such a great atmosphere. The city has really embraced this team.”
Jake Beard, a director of the Iron Lion Firm, an Orlando City Soccer Club supporters group, echoed a similar sentiment.
“I think it’s different for everybody. Some take club over country. For me I was a fan of the national team before I ever had a club to root for,” he said. “So for me I’ll always be here to support the U.S. It’s been a two year journey to be here now and all the obstacles along the way. It’s been a dream come true to go to the matches.”
With the World Cup in full swing the club rivalries take a back seat to supporting the national team.
“No matter what we’re here for the team,” said Peg Manning, a Seattle Sounders season ticket holder since their MLS debut. “The players become our own even if they play for other teams.”
“Our joke all this year has been 'It's not June yet',” Manning’s husband, Tim Blanchard, interjected with a laugh.
“Now it’s June: Go Kyle (Beckerman)!” Manning added.
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For the teams that sent MLS players to represent their country, there’s an extra special amount of pride for their fans.
“What’s not to like about that (having club players on the national team)?” Blanchard asked rhetorically.
Worley was excited to see Dynamo players past and present on the USMNT squad.
“I was really lucky for the first game against Ghana I was in the front row right behind the U.S. bench and to see when the guys stood up and started clapping the first one I was congratulating was Brad Davis. To see (former Dynamo) Geoff Cameron out there too was cool. To see those two guys out there representing the orange was pretty great.”
During the Portugal match, Manning and Blanchard were represented by not one, but two Sounders’ players on the field.
“I was screaming for DeAndre (Yedlin) so hard,” said Manning.
“It was tremendously exciting to see Dempsey and DeAndre on the field together,” added Blanchard.
MLS’ connection to Brazil gets stronger when Beard’s OCSC joins the league in 2015. The team’s majority owner Flavio Augusto da Silva is a native of Rio de Janeiro. Beard said his purple jersey has caught a few eyes down here in Brazil because of his club’s owner. And his future fellow MLS fans are quite welcoming as well.
“I’ve met so many cool people here on the trip and everyone has been so receptive of Orlando.”
Even in faraway places like Manaus MLS fans are discovering each other.
“We’re walking from the stadium back to the buses for the airport," Blanchard recounts. "About halfway back we stopped in this crammed spot. There were just two seats in this tiny place. We asked the folks if we could sit down and started talking to them. Turns out they sit in section 109 (of CenturyLink Field) and we sit in section 209. She’s Brazilian and lives in the Seattle now.”
They exchanged information and plan on meeting up back in Seattle before a game.
“It really is such a small world,” Manning added.
But also, a growing one.