As friend-of-the-blog Clay Trainum did following the Salt Lake City trip, another Nashville SC fan has submitted an experience piece – and John Mueller covered both the Club and Country aspects, with a trip to Atlanta followed by one to see the US Men’s National Team play Honduras last week.
My intention is to publish a piece like this following every NSC away match – and any other time a fan wants to share an experience. If you’re interested in contributing, drop me a line on social media or at firstname.lastname@example.org!
To The A
I suppose the best way to kick this off is with a little bit about me as a fan.
I’ve been a casual soccer fan for over a decade, and my fandom started in probably the lamest way possible: I played a lot of FIFA 09. I didn’t play it well, but I played it well enough for it to be an entry point into the beautiful game itself. Around that same time, the Seattle Sounders were entering MLS, and their main jersey sponsor was Xbox 360. Say no more, that was my team.
So between those two things, I was entering fandom of European soccer, international soccer, and MLS itself.
Fast forward to 2016 and the announcement of Nashville’s USL team (and subsequent MLS expansion), and I knew this was somewhere I wanted to be. During the USL years, however, I was just a casual? fan. I went to the home games I could, but I only went to two away games: at Louisville City once each in 2018 and 2019.
The inaugural MLS season – while abnormal in every sense – was somewhat comfortable for me. I’m a fairly introverted person who’s more comfortable in front of my computer than out at an event, so the digital tailgates from the Supporters Groups were an absolutely wonderful thing for me. I made friends, and those relationships led to my joining The Assembly. If you’re interested in joining a Nashville SC group, I’d recommend giving the Assembly a look, and there are great people in all of them for sure.
Now that I’m off my soapbox, let’s get to Atlanta. This was my first MLS road trip, and dare I say it was the same for most of us who made the trip. The guys I rode down with made it so much fun (shoutout to the NSC Meme Machine!!) and were an absolute blast. Our particular trip was the rare one-day experience: we went down Saturday morning and came right back after the game [ed: John’s too humble. He neglects to mention he did this almost immediately after a 24-hour streamathon where he raised over $600 for Kickin’ It 615]. I know a lot of people went down Friday night or stayed through Sunday (or maybe both!), but that ain’t us.
I was shocked at how easy getting to Mercedes Benz Stadium was, right off the highway. Secondly, the sight of it was almost otherworldly. It stands out by its stature, sure, but the design of the place is different than anywhere I’ve actually seen in person. It’s incredible.
Now it’s tailgate time. We were admittedly late to this particular party, but once we got there it was Party On, Wayne [ed: Party on, Garth]. Each of the individual Atlanta United SGs had tents set up with different options for drinks, food, and merch. I had heard that there was some … ahem … unease about Nashville fans being at the Atlanta tailgate, but I imagine I had the only negative experience: getting a PBR dumped on me when I ventured off the beaten path. This was unprompted, as I am one of the most passive, conflict avoiding people I know. I laughed it off, and I honestly think my friends were more upset than I was, and I appreciate them for that.
I left the tailgate a bit before the NSC Supporters March, but I did get to see it arrive at the front of the stadium, and let me tell ya: it was a sight to behold. I had seen most everybody at the tailgate, but I hadn’t seen everyone together, walking and shouting our familiar Nashville SC cheers. Luckily, Nashville SC staff was on hand to get footage. Reunited with my brothers and sisters in gold, we go through security and march our way up to the rafters, or so it felt, into our home for the next few hours.
At one point, in the section to our left, there was a family of Atlanta United fans. Using this opportunity to teach his children a lesson about sportsmanship, the patriarch gifted our section a whole pizza, unprompted but certainly not unappreciated. I hope desperately that he and his family make the trip to the return fixture on July 8.
I have to say that I’m torn on the Golden Spike tradition that Atlanta United does. One the one hand, it’s unique, but on the other hand, I think they overdo it. To each their own, I suppose.
The game itself ebbed and flowed. Obviously conceding in the sixth minute of each half is less than ideal, but I don’t remember Nashville SC getting played off the field. If I remember correctly, each Atlanta goal was the result of a Nashville defensive mistake, and we all know those are fairly rare for this team. Since NSC was mostly chasing the game, we in the upper, upper deck made it our mission to encourage them the only way we could: we got loud. I know what you’re thinking. How loud can a comparatively small group of people get when they’re so outnumbered? My answer is this: numbers only matter if they’re used appropriately. We might have been few, but we were coordinated.
I know we all talk about draws: some feel like one point gained, some feel like two points lost. This one for sure was one point gained, and Nashville had the best chances to steal all three. We stayed in our section for 20-25 minutes, as mandated by MLS, and made our various trips back to Nashville.
I’ll leave you with this: if you get the opportunity to road trip to a Nashville SC away game, I implore you to take it. Take a friend. Make a memory. I promise none of us regret this trip. My name is John Mueller. I’m a fourth year fan of Nashville SC, a second year member of The Assembly, and I hope to see YOU at a game this summer.
Rocky Mountain magic
I bought tickets to the Nations League semifinals months ago, and my excitement had gradually been building for these games. I wrote previously about how surprisingly accessible Mercedes Benz Stadium is in Atlanta, but Broncos Stadium, despite being adjacent to a freeway itself, somehow felt incredibly more complicated.
I was meeting a friend who lives in Denver for the game, and we got to the stadium shortly before the United States vs. Honduras match kicked off. As much as I wanted to get to the tailgate, I didn’t know anyone. American Outlaws Nashville had someone milling about, but trying to find one person in a sea of red, white, and blue would hardly be a comfort.
The semifinal itself was a pretty CONCACAF affair. I have opinions about it, and you probably do too, but, again, this isn’t really for that.
The environment in the stadium itself was less than enthralling. To be honest, the US Supporters’ Section left a lot to be desired. I’ve become a very involved fan, and I know most of my MLS team’s chants, but I could barely hear any chants from the US fans, much less learn them on the fly. The most impressive chant of the first semifinal was the full bodied “¡HON-DU-RAS!” It felt like it came from every pocket of the stadium, including the row right behind me. The stadium felt pretty empty during the USMNT match. I chalked some of that up to the game being on a Thursday night, but I imagine part of it was the tickets being sold for both semifinal games as a double header, with the Mexico fans famously traveling well.
We left the stadium around halftime of the second semifinal, and that was that until the final. I didn’t follow the Mexico v. Costa Rica match all that much after I left, and I confess that the USMNT’s performance worried me regardless of who their opponent in the final would be.
Of course it ended up being Mexico. Our fiercest rival.
Now we waited until Sunday with the anticipation that only the most passionate of rivalries can build.
I had spent the weekend with my friend in Denver, seeing the sights and whatnot, and we decided to try and watch the final at a bar instead of trying to get to the game itself. Part of me will always regret that, but I had to handle some vehicular expenses when I got back from vacation, so decisions were made.
So the night of the Nations League final was quite the sports night in Denver. The Avalanche were playing the Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup playoffs and the Mayweather v. Paul “fight” (and I use that term very loosely) both conspired to have us end up at our third option, a slightly populated bar just west of town.
I mentioned in my Atlanta trip Fan Diary that I’m a largely passive person, but I tell you what, CONCACAF just brings out the confrontational side of me, y’all. My friends and I sat at a table, and there was a smattering of people at the bar: one decently sized group of Avs fans and a duo also watching the USMNT. I’ve mentioned the Avs repeatedly, and they got stomped in their game. So it is in this context that I say the drunk Avs fans at the bar weren’t the most hospitable patrons. We largely ignored them, and they eventually ignored us.
By now, I’m sure you’ve heard and seen everything about this game. It certainly had a lot to digest!
From a purely theatrical perspective, this game is probably the most entertaining game I’ve ever watched. I remarked to my friend as we left the bar that it probably took time off my life, but if that’s what it takes to beat Mexico, I’m in.
Multiple people have said that this game is the perfect introduction to the sport, and if it was yours, I’d love to see you at Nissan Stadium this season for a Nashville SC match. I obviously can’t promise everything the Nations League final delivered, but I will guarantee we’ll be rocking.
Header photo courtesy Nashville SC/Major League Soccer. John unfortunately not pictures