Eric Corey pulled a revolver from the leather holster hanging on the wall of his Coral Gables home. He spun it around a couple times and shoved it back in the holster before grabbing a stars-and-stripes bandana and tying it around his face.
“I do this before every game,” Corey, 28, said as he stood in his living room last Sunday, just hours before the USA played Portugal in its second 2014 World Cup match.
At the same time, Allison Noffsinger was gathering with thousands of Americans in a park in Brazil to cheer on the team. By Thursday, she had flown back to Miami and was leading the charge at Fado’s Irish Pub in Brickell, the headquarters of the Miami American Outlaws.
While Miami can’t claim a professional soccer club, it’s not without its fanatical fans. Colombians pack El Corral in Doral, Argentines amass at Manolo’s in North Beach and South Floridians sporting Brazilian kits are a dime a dozen. However, the fans clad in stars-and-stripes are a bit harder to come by. The “American Outlaws” Miami chapter, of which Corey and Noffsinger are among the founders, gathers for every game at Fado’s, often with a line out the door.
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Started in Nebraska in 2007, the club has spread to 130 chapters across the country, with Miami being the third-largest and one of the most raucous. A year old, the Miami club has grown from 10 to more than 300 members, mostly males ages 18 to 35.
“Less than a year ago this was just six, seven, eight of us,’’ said Noffsinger, standing amid 100 celebrating Outlaws after Thursday’s game, in which the U.S. team advanced to the next round. “Look at us now; it’s one of my proudest moments — we built this.’’
The Outlaws are a mish-mash of American and foreign-born fans, united by their love of soccer. Some developed their love for the sport playing soccer every Saturday morning, ferried to practice by soccer moms. Others are the children of immigrants, whose love for soccer was passed down from their parents and grandparents.
Ismael Gonzalez, 26, moved to Miami from Argentina 13 years ago. He’s been an Outlaw for one week.
“I’ve missed this atmosphere,’’ he said, standing front and center at Fado’s on Thursday as the U.S. team played Germany.
The fans see themselves as outlaws in the sports world, because soccer is not as popular as basketball, American football, or baseball to U.S. audiences.
“The difference between America and everywhere else in the world when it comes to soccer is that everywhere else, people are born into it. It’s passed down, not from their father, but their grandfather and their great-grandfather,” said Max Ramos, 22. Ramos, who was born into a Cuban-American family, loves American football but got into soccer during college. “What makes American soccer different is we are that first generation.”
While the U.S. team lost on Thursday, you would never have known that from the crowd. When they realized the team would advance to the next round, despite the loss, fans broke out in cheers, tears and chants.
“We want Belgium, we want Belgium! See you Tuesday,’’ was the roar, referring to the U.S.’s next match.
Ed Serrano leaned in, trying to yell over his fellow Outlaws.
“I think we’ve got ’em,’’ he said, already setting predictions for the next game.
Serrano, vice president of the club, was born in Los Angeles to Ecuadorean parents. He’ll cheer for Ecuador when they play, but his allegiance lies with America.
“I was born in the States, I went through the Army,” said Serrano, with a laugh. “So sorry, Mom and Dad, but I’m all U.S.”
Serrano, 40, has seen a huge change in American soccer during his lifetime. He played all through high school, but said that without Major League Soccer, there was no motivation to go to the next level.
“There was nothing to strive for,” he said. “There was no way I was going to get to play unless I played in a different country. But times have changed now. Kids can actually grow up and make a career out of it.”
Gone are the days of watching soccer in the middle of the night or asking the bartender to change the channel.
Said Serrano, looking ahead to Tuesday’s game, “I think we’re going to need a bigger place.’’