Yesterday, several media outlets including Massive Report reported that American Outlaws had decided to bring in capos from Seattle to lead cheering in supporters sections. This certainly created a firestorm of controversy throughout American soccer's corner of the internet. This even prompted a statement from American Outlaws calling these reports false.
The Outlaws strongly deny charges that these leaders are being flown in by U.S. Soccer and that they will be taking over the tifo displays. These are charges that Massive Report didn't make. Rather, the issue at heart is what was left out of their initial comments. The American Outlaws desire for consistency. It's certainly true that they are bringing in capos, two of which were "boss" capos from Seattle, to provide that consistency.
Engaging American Outlaws Seattle among other chapters makes sense. The city of Seattle, the Sounders, and their fans certainly have something to be proud of. The World Cup Qualifier in June was a resounding success and they have a vibrant supporters culture. But that goes for Portland, Denver, and Kansas City. Many cities have put in tremendous efforts to back the Stars and Stripes. The pride is evident.
Columbus has that same pride for the U.S. v. Mexico match. No place has been more inhospitable to El Tri than Columbus Crew Stadium. The U.S. Soccer Federation bypassed a large payday and put the 2001 edition in wintery Ohio. After wins over Mexico in 2005 and 2009, Columbus soccer fans almost feel a stewardship to the game. Local supporters started planning once the game was scheduled and redoubled efforts when Columbus was chosen.
Adapting a one size fits all plan for support disregards that effort and feeling of stewardship. Yes, it's true that capos helped to create a sterling atmosphere in Seattle. The lack of them in Salt Lake City lead to a disappointing atmosphere in some people's opinions. Despite concerns from American Outlaws Columbus, HSH, and Crew Union, there will be capos in Crew Stadium on September 10th.
It's undoubtedly true that the American Outlaws are filled with dedicated and well intentioned people looking to support the Stars and Stripes, but the desire for a consistent level of product and the rush to copy what "works" is indifferent to local supporters. Likewise, local supporters such as AO Columbus chapter is replete with dedicated and well intentioned people looking to support the Stars and Stripes.
The American Outlaws statement does certainly refute some specific charges, but perhaps the most serious issue, the soul of supporters culture in the United States remains in limbo.