It’s not easy being a true Outlaw. Preparations are extensive.
If you’re Daniel Vaca, a 37-year-old manager of a Broward auto care shop, it began some three hours before kickoff with his Rocky Balboa boxing shorts.
Then the custom jersey. Then the American flag cape and the Captain America mask. Most would stop with the custom badge — bearing the insignia of the American Outlaws, Team USA’s national fan club.
But Vaca went a step further. He brought his pet bald eagle. Granted it was stuffed. But it was unique nonetheless.
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Vaca was one of hundreds of Fort Lauderdale Outlaws at Mickey Byrne’s in Hollywood on Monday, chanting, screaming and cavorting for the United State’s World Cup opener against Ghana.
Some chants, such as “U-S-A!” and “I believe that we will win,” were appropriate for a family newspaper. Most were not.
Two hours before the opening kick, the place was packed — and well-lubricated. Just an aerial shot of the men’s national team bus driving to the stadium elicited cheers.
Pretty much any way an American flag could be worn, it was. As a scarf. As a bandana. One patron even jokingly asked whether he could wear his USA Speedo.
The National Anthem? Couldn’t even hear it on TV. It was drowned out by the capacity crowd singing along.
“It’s good because you have your friendship, your common interest, and you represent your country,” said Vaca, who used a week of vacation so he didn’t miss a minute. “In the past, the U.S. didn’t have enough support. We’re trying to change that.”
If Monday was any indication, passion for the beautiful game doesn’t end at the Miami-Dade-Broward line.
Three years ago, the American Outlaws split from one South Florida group into multiple, more localized clubs.
The Fort Lauderdale chapter, led by longtime soccer fan Pabony Rivera, has more than 100 members. They’ve made Mickey Byrne’s their home the past three years.
No crowd has been as big as Monday’s.
“After [the U.S. team’s] last showing in 2010, it’s been growing by leaps and bounds,” said Rivera, a native of Colombia who is a full-fledged fan of the Americans. “It’s been incredible the response. Even the mainstream fans have been coming out to the watch parties.
“It really helps when the team is doing well.”
Thirty seconds into the game — when Clint Dempsey scored the fifth-fastest goal in World Cup history — it certainly was.
And when John Brooks headed in the winner in the 86th minute? Delirium. And beer showers.