Interview With Chris Morris, President of The American Outlaws Cleveland Chapter
The American Outlaws are a group of dedicated supporters of the U.S. Men’s National Team. The group’s mission is to “unite and strengthen” a group of fans who are described as “loud, passionate, organized and dedicated.”
The organization was established in 2007 in Nebraska to bring fans together to watch matches and travel to games. They adopted the name American Outlaws because they saw themselves as outliers in a sports landscape in America that focused more on American football, baseball and other sports.
Since then, the American Outlaws organization has grown to include 135 chapters across the country.
Chris Morris is president of the Cleveland chapter and he was gracious enough to sit down for a virtual Q&A about the chapter and the prospects of the U.S. team this summer at the World Cup in Brazil.
Question: How did the Cleveland chapter come about?
Chris: The Cleveland chapter was formed in 2010 by RJ Pooch, in the run up to the World Cup in South Africa. We currently boast more than 240 paid members. We have been meeting for every USMNT match at Merry Arts Pub and Grille in Lakewood, Ohio, since 2013. I have to give a shout out to John Granzier, the bar owner, for being gracious enough to welcome us in when we needed a new place to host our watch parties. He and his staff have proved to be invaluable in creating the right atmosphere and stable relationship needed to grow our chapter and support of U.S. Soccer in the Cleveland area.
Question: What activities do you have planned for the World Cup?
Chris: We have teamed up with America SCORES Cleveland in an effort to raise money for their organization. They will be on hand during the USA v Ghana game hosting a 50/50 drawing, with half the proceeds going directly to SCORES Cleveland. We also have plans to give away some swag, as well as at least one other 50/50 draw during the Group Stage matches. America SCORES Cleveland was founded in the spring of 2004 with programming for 120 students in four inner-city west side elementary schools. Today, America SCORES serves more than 500 students, ages 8-15, in nine K-8 Cleveland metropolitan schools across the city and through summer collaborations and a newly-launched high school alumni program. To learn more, visit their website.
Question: What is the atmosphere like when the group gets together for a match?
Chris: The atmosphere is jovial, raucous, and noisy. There is singing and chanting, and although we have the volume cranked up for the commentary, we seldom are quiet enough to hear it. Oftentimes, it feels much like you’re in the stadium, part of the crowd, cheering on the Yanks.
When you watch a match with so many like-minded individuals, knowing that there are people in more than 100 different bars across the country watching and cheering just like we do, you genuinely feel like part of something much bigger than a local group of people with one common interest. You feel united, all part of the American Outlaws Family.
Question: What is the soccer fan scene like in Cleveland? Is there a large fan base and/or other support clubs that you know of?
Chris: Diverse. I’ve met so many people through American Outlaws who support so many different club teams. It underlines soccer’s global appeal and makes watching soccer in Cleveland fun and exciting. Merry Arts also hosts the Cleveland Gunners on all Arsenal match days, and will put on Columbus Crew matches. There is a Chelsea supporters group, they meet in Strongsville at Mulligan’s, and the Cleveland Spurs group meets at the Old Angle in Ohio City.
Question: “In Jurgen We Trust!” Yes or No?
Chris: Personally, yes. I feel Klinsmann has brought fresh ideas to U.S. Soccer and has been given the freedom to implement a program that has the potential to revolutionize the U.S. Soccer talent pool. The fact that (U.S. Soccer Federation President) Sunil Gulati appointed Klinsmann as technical director shows a level of ambition we’ve not seen before. The federation now has an approach that says, “We want to be a dominant soccer nation.”
Question: The U.S. team will miss Landon Donovan in Brazil. True or False?
Chris: It’s hard to separate head from heart on the case for Landon Donovan. The qualifying campaign showed a team able to win, and win convincingly, without Landon Donovan. The question remains, can they win against tougher opposition? I think having Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey fit alleviates some of the sting of missing Landon Donovan and the presence he can have on big games.
Question: Who will be the key player (or players) for the U.S. in the World Cup?
Chris: Jozy Altidore. He showed off his work rate last Sunday against Turkey. If he can replicate that over three matches, no doubt he’ll score some goals. A motivated Altidore can cause serious trouble for any defense. A note on our fullbacks, too. Neither fullback positions have been nailed down with any certainty. There have been glimpses of the really good and the really bad. Makes you feel a little uneasy about the defense with it so unsettled less than two weeks until the World Cup.
Question: How will the U.S. do in group play; can they advance?
Chris: If they can get solid defensive performances, along with an offensive line spearheaded by Bradley, Dempsey and Altidore, then I think we can advance. A win against Ghana is crucial, and something I think we are capable of. We have some history against Portugal, but it won’t be an easy task. Germany is the biggest question mark given their overall quality. The USMNT can advance. I think a win over Ghana puts a lot of nerves to bed (and vanquishes the ghosts of World Cup pasts); we’ve had some success against Portugal and Germany. Though the road may seem weary, I think the USMNT will advance to the knockout round.
Question: Who is going to lift the World Cup trophy on July 13?
Chris: Between Germany, Spain, and Brazil, I think Germany lift the World Cup in Rio on July 13.
In the days leading up to the World Cup, though, I think what if … what if we make a run, a bit of luck on our side, how great it would be to see the USMNT … well, I’m not gonna say it!
Thanks Chris, great work!
To learn more about the American Outlaws at the national level, or to join a chapter, visit their website at www.theamericanoutlaws.com.
(Photo courtesy of American Outlaws Cleveland chapter.)