AO Seattle's 10 section Tifo display before the USA vs Panama Match

By Dylan Vanderhoof

"Club Over Country" 

That's the mantra of many club supporters, and the ECS is hardly an exception with a huge portion of our membership espousing a "No Sounders, No Care" attitude towards other teams.  Nothing wrong with that, it plays in perfectly to the ECS's stated goal of being an independent supporters group of Seattle Sounders FC. 


In light of this, when it came time for Seattle to host the US Men's National Team in their World Cup Qualifying match against Panama, we frequently heard the question asked, "What is the ECS going to be doing for this match?"  The answer, of course, was nothing.  ECS isn't about the US National Team, or ANY national team.  For starters, our colors clash rather horribly with Red, White and Blue.  Aesthetics aside, ECS is made up of members from all over the world.  We have people who support England, Poland, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Argentina, the list goes on.  Why should these members have to have the time, effort and resources that the ECS has available diverted to supporting a national team that they may not even like?  (Or, in the case of Mexico supporters, may actively hate.)  Between those who support other countries, and those who could care less about international football in general, ECS Leadership made a conscious decision to have nothing to do with the USMNT when they came to town. 


In Seattle, this is made a lot easier by having a strong and well organized American Outlaws chapter.  If you look at the faces, you might mistake them for the ECS; many (but certainly not all) are ECS members as well.  That's a fairly natural occurrence, most of the ECS loves football and is American.  For those of us who strongly support both, it allows separate outlets with similar supporting styles but doesn't require blending the two.  Much like the ECS has members who support other national teams, the AO Seattle chapter then has the ability to draw on USMNT supporters who have moved to Seattle that might support Portland, or San Jose, or any other MLS club without forcing them to work under the umbrella of our local club support.  This separation allows not only the ECS to be more inclusive, but AO Seattle as well, to the benefit of both groups.  While many of the people who contributed to the AO tifo display put up before the Panama match were part of the regular ECS tifo production crew, and fairly large percentage were either new and wanted to help out because it was the USMNT, or were locals but not ECS members and had never had the opportunity to be involved before.  Aside from the ECS allowing the use of some of their infrastructure, the display was all AO in design, feel, and production.  During deployment, there was even a Timbers Army capo pressed into the service to help out with some of the deployment logistics and cueing.  I have a feeling the SG separation made things like that possible by stressing the point that for that night, we were all American Outlaws (or at least supporters of the same team.)


ECS's La Barra Fuerza Verde before the Mexico vs Canada Gold Cup matchAs we've watched other matches around the country, we've come to realize that this approach is actually somewhat unusual.  In DC, The Screaming Eagles specifically state that they support, "DC United and the US Men's National Team".  They have the advantage of DC's colors and logos being very Americana in nature, which doesn't hurt that endeavor at all.  Other than the DC United text on some of their tifo and shirts, you'd hardly know they weren't specifically supporting the USMNT.  In Portland, while there is an AO chapter, the tifo display for the Gold Cup match was funded and produced by 107ist (The business arm of the Timbers Army), and had a distinct club flair to it as a result.  In Columbus, the current USMNT fortress against Mexico, the main US supporters group there is Nordecke USA, with an obvious nod to the Columbus Crew's Nordecke.  


Styles of support differ, around the country, and around the globe.  What works for some, won't work for others.  We're fortunate to have a large enough supporter culture in the city for both groups to remain distinct and still draw the amount of volunteer hours required to achieve the level of support that both groups would like to see.  While we're hardly going to tell anybody else that this is the only way to support the national team, we're proud of the ability to have ECS step back and let AO Seattle have its day in the spotlight.  The feedback on that move has been overwhelmingly positive from almost everybody who attended that match, and if the football pundits are to believed, we'll have that opportunity here in Seattle again soon.