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Baltimore's American Outlaws draw next generation — and even a rival fan — to Women's World Cup watch party

Baltimore's American Outlaws draw next generation — and even a rival fan — to Women's World Cup watch party
U.S. fans react as the game-tying goal by England was overturned on review as the Baltimore chapter of American Outlaws hold a watch party for the Women's World Cup semifinal at Diamondback Brewing Co. on July 2, 2019. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

Although she doesn’t want to play soccer herself, 9-year-old Harper Ruppel couldn’t tear her gaze away from the FIFA Women’s World Cup semifinal Tuesday as she watched the United States play England alongside shouting, cheering, red-white-and-blue clad soccer fans at the Diamondback Brewing Company in Locust Point.

Harper came all the way from Germantown with her parents and little sister, Elora, 6, to watch the U.S. secure a 2-1 victory with the Baltimore chapter of the American Outlaws, a nonprofit support group for the United States national soccer teams that attends games and hosts tailgates and watch parties around the world.

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Although it’s sandwiched between D.C. and Philadelphia, two of the biggest American Outlaws chapters in the country, Baltimore has a rapidly growing group that gathers to watch games. Its crowd is a little different from other chapters, leaning more family-friendly than rowdy, said Josh Ganzemiller, president of the Baltimore chapter, which is one of the reasons the Ruppels chose it.

Marc Ruppel, Harper’s father, played soccer and tried to get his daughters interested. Only Elora took to it, but watching the Women’s World Cup is more than a simple game for the family.

“It means everything to have these girls watch this in terms of what they’ve done and how they’ve conducted themselves,” Marc said. “Role models are few and far in between, and it matters an awful lot for her.”

Harper might have chosen gymnastics as her sport, but she said she loves the U.S. women’s soccer team, especially Megan Rapinoe, the midfielder who has scored five goals in the tournament and has sparked a feud with President Donald Trump after vehemently declaring that she would not visit the White House if the team were invited. Rapinoe did not play in the semifinal, and U.S. Soccer did not give a reason for the lineup change.

“I just like all her confidence,” Harper said. “I just like her, I don’t really know why. And she’s really good.”

The Ruppels found a place to watch the game, an important event in their household, in a small bar in Baltimore, filled with U.S. fans of all ages — and one English football fan.

Dominic Lanaway was born in Britain and was the sole person standing when England scored its only goal. He came with his “other half” — for this game, his opposing half — Brianna Carter, who is originally from Federal Hill.

Fans, including those of the Baltimore chapter of American Outlaws react as the U.S. team scores to take the lead during a watch party for the Women's World Cup semifinal between the United States and England, at Diamondback Brewing Co.
Fans, including those of the Baltimore chapter of American Outlaws react as the U.S. team scores to take the lead during a watch party for the Women's World Cup semifinal between the United States and England, at Diamondback Brewing Co. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

The two of them have attended a few watch parties at the Diamondback together, but on Tuesday their household was split down the middle with one U.S. fan and one England fan.

“It’s a bit intense,” Carter said. “I’ve rooted for every team except for England. … It’s two days before the Fourth of July, so there’s a lot of pride.”

Lanaway, who asked with a grin what the Fourth of July is, loves the antagonism, but there are some things he and Carter are both cheering for.

“It’s a lot more inclusive over here than it is in the UK,” Lanaway. “So if you went to a bar in London now, you’d probably see about 80% men.”

Packed into the Diamondback Brewing Company, close to half of the roughly 70 people were women and girls.

The American Outlaws support both the men’s and women’s national teams, but Ganzemiler said he’s noticed there’s been more support around the women’s team lately.

Amanda McCormick, a lifelong soccer player and fan, has been a member of AO for about five years, and she said she’s not surprised.

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“Our women’s team’s always been good. It’s our men’s team that sucks,” McCormick said, laughing. But, she added, a lot of people she knows also like women’s soccer better because of the lack of flopping and diving.

McCormick cheers on both the men’s and women’s teams with AO, and for years they watched at Slainte’s Irish Pub in Fells Point. This year, the chapter moved to the Diamondback.

Ganzemiller said the chapter has grown from about 150 people to over 400 active members since he took over in 2011, and many people are coming from the suburbs and need parking, which spurred them to make the move.

Ganzemiller was not able to be at the watch party, but AO secretary Dan Baldwin was there with his kids setting up.

Lidia Labuda of Ellicott City and Thomas Graves of Baltimore gaze at a large screen as the Baltimore chapter of American Outlaws hold a watch party for the Women's World Cup semifinal between the United States and England at Diamondback Brewing Co.
Lidia Labuda of Ellicott City and Thomas Graves of Baltimore gaze at a large screen as the Baltimore chapter of American Outlaws hold a watch party for the Women's World Cup semifinal between the United States and England at Diamondback Brewing Co. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

The bar has been a great place, Baldwin said, for him to watch with his kids. The atmosphere doesn’t encourage getting rowdy, although it gets plenty loud, with the sounds of cheering bouncing off the brick walls and exposed ceilings.

The loudest cheer of the night went up as time ran out for England to come back from its 2-1 deficit, sending the U.S. to the World Cup final. And right in the middle of all the cheering was Harper with her arms up and a giant smile on her face.

And the Ruppels will be back at the Diamondback to cheer on the women when they face either Sweden or Netherlands on Sunday.

“I think she’s going to insist on it,” Marc said, laughing and ruffling Harper’s hair.

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