by Scotty Smith
On January 8, 2018, the United Soccer League announced that USL Memphis would start play in Auto Zone Park in 2019. We compiled our favorite pictures from a variety of sources (@uslmemphis on Twitter, a few from instagram, some from my phone, some from Steven’s phone, and a few sent to us from others who attended the event). We will spend the next few days writing about what makes the pictures significant. Let’s start with a couple of our favorite lads having a laugh with Tim Howard.
The first and most obvious point here is…that’s Tim Howard. That is real-life Tim Howard. That’s the former (England) PFA Best XI keeper from Manchester United. That’s the guy who played his first professional match before he graduated high school. That’s the guy who started over 350 matches for Everton. That’s the most-capped keeper in USMNT history. That’s the guy who saved 16 against Belgium in the World Cup. That’s the guy from the #ThingsTimHowardCouldSave meme. That’s the guy who wanted to fight the entire Kansas City Cauldron by himself.
Tim Howard is a game changer. I must admit some degree of worry as to whether Memphis would be taken seriously in a sport that has not been truly relevant here since the Rogues left in 1981. That changed when the team tweeted out a pic of Tim Howard with the front office. We’re a gritty city, and Howard’s play has always matched that style. When he opened the press conference, it quickly became clear that he has a passion for this club and for making pro soccer work in Memphis.
Plus, he lives here in the off-season. His kids play for local club teams. There is no better fit to be the bearded face of the franchise, and the front office knows it. He took the time to sign autographs, take pictures, appear on our podcast, and just hang out like a regular dude. I think that’s because, at the end of the day, he really is just a regular dude. He’s a regular dude who lives in Memphis.
In this picture, Tim is having a laugh with our good friend Seamus Loftus (manager of The Brass Door Irish Pub) and Parks Russell (the driving force behind AO Memphis and the Memphis Gooners, and the host of The Roundtable of Hooligans). The men in the picture with Tim also represent important factors in the future success of USL Memphis.
Seamus represents the club to pub relationship. In World Soccer, the home pub is incredibly important to the overall camaraderie of the supporters. The idea may conjure pub scenes in American movies such as Eurotrip and Green Street Hooligans, but those scenes are based on real life. The pre-match gathering, the march to the match, and the post-match hang out are staples of soccer matches played all over the world. Seamus is all in on this idea. We may one day see USL Memphis photos lining the walls of The Brass Door in the way that Arsenal pictures line the walls of The Gunners Pub near Highbury.
But Seamus himself is the real prize. Here’s a guy who’s soccer knowledge and experience is matched by few (if any) in the city. He knows the local club scene, and he has spent the last few years providing free soccer clinics to inner-city kids who cannot afford America’s pay-to-play system. The USL front office did well by getting Seamus on board early; he’ll do more than his share in providing the game day atmosphere they crave.
Parks, in this picture and in real life, represents the Memphis soccer fan. Anyone who has watched a US Soccer match at The Brass Door has heard (and seen) Parks yelling at the top of his lungs while standing on the bar Coyote Ugly style (well, maybe not quite). He has since turned the Outlaws over to the capable hands of his buddy Chris Martin, which puts him in the perfect spot to organize a supporters’ group for USL Memphis.
Though the Outlaws name and crest cannot directly be attached to a club, a good number of them are sure to join the new supporters’ group. This bodes well, as they already know what a Brass Door party looks like. Having the home pub at the home of the Outlaws also allows Memphis to join in the ol’ “For Club and Country” marketing plan that toured the country in the last World Cup cycle. Plus, Parks knows basically every soccer fan in Memphis.
As is evidenced above, there is plenty to be excited about in this photo. Tim, Seamus, and Parks are all important pieces of the puzzle. Once the puzzle is complete and ready to be displayed, Memphis will take its place in the pantheon of great American pro soccer cities.