Chase Spurlock, left, and Brittany Phiper wince inside Jefferson's Restaurant on Georgia Avenue after watching a replay of U.S. captain and first goal-scorer Clint Dempsey getting kicked in the face during the Americans' World Cup opener against Ghana in Brazil. The Chattanooga chapter of the American Outlaws soccer fan club gathered at Jefferson's and watched the U.S. win 2-1.
Jefferson's Restaurant was packed to the brim with red, white and blue for the United States' victory in its World Cup opener Monday evening against Ghana. The American Outlaws led the energetic gathering with chants, songs and cheers throughout the thrilling contest.
The Outlaws are a national support group for the men's and women's national socccer teams. It was formed in Lincoln, Neb., in 2007 by three United States fans who held viewing parties at a local bar. The Chattanooga chapter was formed in May of last year and carries on the tradition, meeting at Jefferson's in support of the Americans on the pitch.
"We're already at 150-200 members, so we're growing fast," chapter president Andrew Gould said. "Chattanooga is a hotbed for soccer, and we want to give people an opportunity to come together under the U.S. flag."
Gould said that with soccer teams at most area high schools and the Chattanooga Football Club, the sport has become a culture in the city with recent generations' support, which is something the Outlaws and other fans are looking to capitalize on.
"We want people to understand that it's a blue-collar sport, played by anyone poor or rich or anywhere in between," said Gould. "With people who love sports and love rooting for our country, the World Cup is a perfect combination of all that. We encourage anyone and everyone to come on out, and even if you don't like soccer, the atmosphere we have is contagious."
The 2010 World Cup in South Africa marked the first time the Outlaws provided a travel package for members, and they did so again for this year's affair in Brazil. More than 500 members, including Gould's brother, the chapter's vice president, will follow the national team in the matches in Natal, Manaus and Recife.
As for the team's chances, Gould said he "feels great" about them.
"Portugal didn't look as strong as I thought they would, so with a win today I think we can definitely get out of the group," he said.
In collaboration with the Outlaws, Jefferson's wants to be Chattanooga's World Cup central for fans to enjoy matches whether the United Stated is playing or not.
"We have a great partnership with the American Outlaws, and we're working with them to increase interest in soccer," owner Denise Crowell said. "They make it fun."
It has been a success so far, as the restaurant was at full capacity more than a half hour before the United States' opening whistle.
"It's awesome--that's the best I can put it," Crowell said. "As a restaurant owner, it's a great feeling to see your restaurant full and everyone enjoying themselves."
The Americans will have at least two more matches in their group, as they face Portugal on Sunday and Germany on June 26. Though the outcomes are unpredictable, one thing to be sure of is the American Outlaws will be behind their team every step of the way.
"We're here to have a great time and support our country and the sport," Gould said. "Jefferson's has a great space and great deals, so come give us a shot. Don't write us off until you try us."
Contact Idris Garcia at firstname.lastname@example.org