New England Soccer Today

A Common Bond


Former Midnight Riders president Monty Rodrigues (left) and Cauldron president Sean Dane often catch up with each other whenever the Revs and Sporting K.C. meet.

In many soccer-loving countries across the globe, supporters often adopt a hardened stance toward opposing partisans. The mindset: if you’re not with me, then you must be against me. Harsh words and hard objects are hurled with equal fervor. Dubbed “hooliganism” in England in the 1880s, there’s simply little room for friendship or pleasantries among dueling football clubs.

In Scotland, Celtic and Rangers, established and supported by Catholics and Protestants, respectively, despise each other to the tune of verbal and physical abuse. In Italy, the Derby Della Capitale between Roma and Lazio has led to countless clashes, one of which witnessed the death of a fan in 1979 who was killed by a flare. There have been numerous spats between supporters, similar to these, across Europe and South America.

But there’s virtually none of that in the U.S., where MLS fans are undoubtedly passionate about their teams, but are careful to draw a line between rivalry and violence. In fact, lasting friendships are actually formed between fans from opposing factions.

Hours before Wednesday’s conference clash between the Revolution and Sporting Kansas City at Gillette Stadium, I witnessed this sense of comraderie first-hand. I had found out on Twitter that the Revolution’s supporters groups—The Midnight Riders, The Rebellion, and the Rev Army—were linking up with fans from Kansas City’s group, The Cauldron.

“It’s one of the greatest things about where supporter culture is in this league,” said Sean Dane, President of The Cauldron, in front of a caravan of tailgaters. “We are engaged with each other. We have friendships. We have known each other for 10, 12 years. Nobody was following the game and you saw the same supporters wherever you went on the national landscape or the local landscape. The idea of camaraderie, the excitement of seeing another soccer fan, really helped shape how we’ve all approached the supporters’ culture in this country.”

Dane, 38, is a cheerful guy who seems to wear his team’s heart—and his own—on his sleeve. On Wednesday, he was wearing a black polo with his group’s insignia on it, the letter “C” made to look like a cauldron cut in a half. He attends practices regularly. He says he’s close friends with some Kansas City players and knows the details of Matt Besler’s transfer offers from abroad, which, out of respect, he won’t reveal. He has his own podcast about barbecue. In fact, he’ll talk to you about every pit and smoker his side of Sporting Park. He works for a company that sells wireless lighting equipment for live entertainment, such as Cirque du Soleil and Disney, allowing him to travel often and link up with his home team on the road.

About 60 Cauldron members made the trip from Kansas City to attend the game, many of them travelling through their work as Dane sometimes does. About 200 are expected to be at Red Bull Arena for Saturday’s tilt at New York, according to Dane, who will also attend a Yankees-Royals baseball game this weekend.


Dane says The Cauldron tailgates and socializes with most fans, with some exceptions. He and other supporters group presidents, including Fran Harrington and Monty Rodrigues, current and former presidents of the Midnight Riders, respectively, met each other through Sam’s Army and the American Outlaws, two of the U.S. National Team’s largest fan groups.

There’s a clear difference between the fan experiences of in Kansas City versus those in New England, of course. The most glaring difference is the setting. Sporting Kansas City inhabit one of the most modern homes in MLS: a recently-built 18,500 seat-venue with a natural grass field, an interview room for supporters to watch post-game press conferences, and an 8,000 square foot club for The Cauldron. The Cauldron, according to Dane, are also privy to food and beverage discounts. But perhaps most important of all is that Sporting Park is a mere six miles from downtown Kansas City.

“You could maybe put that stadium in the EPL, definitely the Championship,” said Rodrigues. “It would work. A nice 20,000 seat stadium, packed to the gills, roof over their heads, it’s phenomenal.”

“I’ve had the pleasure of going to SKC for away games,” Rodrigues continued. “I’ve known these guys forever through U.S. Soccer. They hosted us great, took us into that stadium. They’ve shown me around the stadium and I’m drooling.”

The friendship between the groups stems from mutual respect between the Revolution and Sporting franchises.

“We have a lot of parallels,” said Dane. “We both were owned by NFL franchise owners, played in NFL stadiums, we’ve struggled with attendance at times, seen our team not be popular. We’ve fought hard to just remain fans and that the game was worth engaging.”


The Revolution defeated Kansas City 3-1 on Wednesday night, the second time they’ve beaten the defending champions this year. But Kansas City got the best of New England in last year’s playoffs, edging them 4-2 on aggregate in a thrilling two-game series.

Any chance they would have rooted for the Revolution, as good sports, had Kansas City gone out instead?

“It would have been hard,” said Dane with a sigh. “It’s hard to cheer for the guy who kicks your sister. I would have been fine with them advancing.”

The complaints about the atmosphere – or lack thereof – at the 68,000-seat, NFL-sized Gillette Stadium have been raised numerous times over the year. But in bonding with Revolution supporters, Dane says that there’s no reason New England can’t create an experience similar to the one often seen at Sporting Park, though it would take considerable measures.

“You watch what happened with Sporting Kansas City, and that engagement of the fan base through the creation of a soccer specific stadium and the buy-in of the city, I think the same thing is possible wherever you go. Once the game is housed that fits the game and draws attention to it, that atmosphere can be created,” Dane added.

The banter continues between the two groups continues. Soon, they will make their way to the stadium, where they will passionately pull for opposing sides in what proves to be a physical match. Yet, there are no punches, no curses, no hostility between the partisans. There’s a mutual respect. From that respect comes friendships which, even after a spirited 90 minutes, will carry on long after the final whistle sounds.

Follow Julian Cardillo on twitter @juliancardillo or email him at

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