As this post goes live, I am on a plane to St. Louis. That’s right, y’all. Barely a month off and I am back on the go once again for the United States Men’s National Team.
My favorite aspects of being a part of the soccer community are the friends I’ve made and having the opportunity to travel to new and wondrous places. And while it still happens, it’s rare that a trip to a new destination occurs without a soccer match attached to it. I’ve traveled a lot in the 10 years I’ve been a fan of the game, and I continue to add more places to my bucket list every day. Soccer trips create the best stories and memories, and I hope to have them for a long time.
I first started traveling for soccer for D.C. United. As you can see from the photos below, we have a sizeable group dedicated to traveling to support the team.
In 2012, we traveled to Montreal for our first away trip after the Impact joined MLS. We got hammered, Impact 3 – 0 DCU, but the story of me walking into a restaurant with 15 ppl and getting us all sat for dinner without calling ahead or a reservation is legendary, as does the tale of watching a belligerent man get tackled and arrested by the Canadian police in the lobby of our hotel.
2013 was the worst season in DC United history, and MLS history, but we still traveled to support the boys. In April, we took a bus 8 hours each way to Columbus, Ohio, watched the scoreboard at Crew Stadium catch on fire, lost 3-0, nearly got arrested after the stadium ops people kept setting off fireworks that landed on us, and then refused to pay cover to get into a bar, so we ate pizza in the hotel lobby, washed down by Forties we bought a gas station in Pickerington (don’t ever go to Pickerington if you can avoid it).
In 2014, we literally went from worst to first, and traveled to Harrison, New Jersey for a playoff game. Again we lost, 2-0 this time, but it was fun to have Gina fly up from Texas to ride the bus with us, and yell at the stupid New York Red Bull fans. Fun Fact: I knitted that scarf I’m wearing in the photos above and below. I am a woman of many talents.
I’ve made the road trip to Toronto three times in the past 2 years. In 2013, it was my friend Jess’ birthday, and we terrorized the bars of T-dot before waking up hungover the next morning to have cupcakes in bed before she had to catch a flight back to NYC. Drunk Girl White was invented that evening and is the next level above White Girl Wasted. 2014 was by far the most interesting trip, as I had broken my ankle 2½ months prior to the trip, and was just learning how to walk again. Crutching around DC was difficult, but crutching around an international city was awful. I bet you my friends wish I was still physically handicapped (I am, technically, legally handicapped through October 2020) though, because we skipped ALL of the lines that weekend, from the time I got out of my car at Dulles airport until the time I got back into it 3 days later. Our June 2015 was the trip where we nearly floated away due to a torrential downpour. The stadium had been renovated during the offseason, and the upper deck no longer drained properly. My Nikes are still soaking wet.
Despite being the crappiest team ever, we miraculously managed to win the US Open Cup in 2013. We played at Real Salt Lake on Tuesday, October 1, 2013. I had arrived home from Toronto at the asscrack of dawn on September 30th, went to work, and then ran home to pack and was back on an airplane to Salt Lake. After the shocking victory, we partied with the team at the hotel, before getting up and going back to DC. A most wonderful 24 hours, topped off by sitting next to Kyle Porter on the way home, who spent the entire flight huddle against the side of plane playing Candy Crush.
Because we had won the Open Cup, we secured a berth in the CONCACAF Champion’s League. We were playing in Panama City (Panama, not Florida) around my birthday, so I got to go on my first Girlfriends Soccer Trip. Not surprisingly, this was the least dramatic soccer trip I’ve been on, which goes to show that traveling with a small group of like-minded travelers is the way forward. In addition to taking a cruise down the Panama Canal, sipping coffee in old town while taking cover from the rain, and seeing DC United win, it led to one of my all time favorite travel photos. We are making fun of all the poses this one really obnoxious couple on the Canal Cruise kept making in pictures. What I love about this trip is that it is surprisingly one of my favorites, especially since Panama was never high on my Travel Bucket List. Now I’m wishing and hoping and praying both Panama and the USMNT make the Hexagonal round of qualifying so I can go back.
No matter how much this team breaks my heart, I will follow them to hell and back.
You’ll Never Walk Alone
I’ve seen Liverpool FC matches in person three times. I’m a lucky duck, as many supporters never get to see their European team live, whereas I’ve been fortunate enough to see them play both in the United States and in Liverpool.
My first Liverpool match was a friendly in Baltimore, Maryland, a place I try to avoid at all costs. It was miserable, from the scoreline to the weather. Two years later, a group of friends and I went to see them when they came to Charlotte, North Carolina for a match in the Guinness International Cup of Dreams or whatever it’s called. I witnessed Joe Allen score a goal in the flesh, so I’m still not entirely sure that weekend ever happened, or if it was all a very realistic dream. But in November 2014, I made the pilgrimage to Anfield with two of my best friends/Liverpool supporters. I’ve written at length about the experience being a dream come true, but it’s still probably my favorite soccer experience overall. Not only did my first Anfield match day come with the person who got me into Liverpool, but I got to show two dear friends around my second home. Yesterday, I received the following email, so I’m so excited to go back to Anfield for matches #4 and #5.
And Where You Go, We’ll Follow
The bulk of my soccer travel occurs for the United States Men’s National Team. I have a very tight-knit group of friends amongst The American Outlaws, and although we are located around the country, we see each other several times throughout the year at matches. As for the AODC Crew, they are also part of my DCU crew, and we hang out all the time. Like, if we go more than a week without a get together, Happy Hours are being scheduled and shenanigans ensue. My first international trip for the USMNT was to Antigua in October 2012. Thirteen of us crammed into a house for 9 days, went ziplining, island cruising, tanned on some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, adopted a blind donkey at a donkey sanctuary (shout out to Stevie!), all before watching Grown Ass Man Eddie Johnson send us to the Hexagonal round of qualifying by scoring a goal in a monsoon. We did this all without murdering each other, although there were a few close calls.
A few months later, in March 2013, we were in Mexico City to cheer on the Yanks at the Azteca. We earned a point, our first positive result in a competitive match, and had to be escorted in and out of the stadium by riot police while Mexico fans were trying to leap the barriers to attack us and dodging the projectiles being launched across 2 sections. On a less dangerous note, we went to watch Lucha Libre, toured Teotihuacan, watched a drunk dude make a fool of himself in our hotel bar because he thought our friend was Barack Obama, and ate all the tacos (minus lettuce, natch).
Having qualified in September 2013, with two matches to spare in qualifying, the October 2013 matches in Kansas City and Panama were a celebration of soccer. It’s always nice to be able to enjoy barbecue and a tailgate with friends, and not have to worry about the results of the match.
June 2014 was the ultimate soccer experience – the World Cup in Brazil. While my group close-knit group of friends ran around 20 people, I made many more friends while traveling through Natal, Manaus, Fernando de Noronha, and Recife.
These are my people and we are Ride or Die. We will never not reminisce about racing dune buggies across white sand beaches, or Chris hopping out of his buggy to buy beers while stuck in bumper to bumper traffic on the ride home. I went snorkeling at the most beautiful beach on the planet, saw Luis Suarez bite someone in person, and drank coconut water straight from the coconut while laying on the beaches of Natal.
I flew to Manaus, saw the Amazon rain forest and river, played in a ball pit with children of USMNT players (in a totally non-creeper way, there were security guards there), and saw the USMNT almost beat Portugal. USMNT travel is not without it’s trials. I was also left in the Manaus airport with 500+ of my closest friends for 8 hours (at 9pm no less) without food or water or air conditioning, but we turned that joint into the FUN ZONE!!
I’ll never forget drinking caipirinhas poolside with friends new and old, running around the hotel at 2 am making sure everyone made the plane/bus departures, everyone in our hotel catching Brazilian Black Lung (we made this name up), or dancing to Bon Jovi and Springsteen at the pregame party in Recife while waiting to hear if the USMNT v. Germany match was going to be called off.
The stories above are just small selection of the shenanigans I have experienced. Traveling for soccer has given me the opportunity to not only experience new cities and cultures, some of which I may never have experienced without a soccer game attached to the trip, but has given me tons of memories and lifelong friends. I had a wonderful time looking back on all my adventure while writing this post. I look forward to continuing my adventures for many years to come.
Photo Credits: Many of these photos are my own, taken from Facebook, hence the crappy quality. However, there are several photos in this post that have been borrowed from friends with their permission.