On Saturday, Slaven Bilic brings his 2016-17 first team to the United States to prepare for his second season at the helm of West Ham United. A quick tour of both USA coasts is a great start to the year, and probably not too exhausting for the team, unlike when Big Sam took them around the world Magellan-style in 2014. It is well known by my colleagues at The West Ham Way that my contribution to this great publication isn’t my tactical football genius, but my mix of Hammers passion and American naiveté about the Beautiful Game. I have an evangelical passion to export the West Ham version of football to as many American souls as possible, and I think selecting both Seattle and North Carolina as venues for summer friendlies is a wonderful idea.
If Silicon Valley (San Francisco area) is the engine of innovation for the United States, then Seattle is certainly a close second. As the home to global giants Microsoft, Amazon, Boeing Aircraft and Starbucks Coffee, Seattle is one of the most progressive cities in the United States. Their booming economy over the past twenty years has caused great growth in a city known for its more liberal politics, environmental awareness, and laid-back attitude. Seattle is also known for its London-like grey skies and rainy coastal weather.
The Seattle Sounders have only been a part of the MLS since 2009, but they are regularly the top attended side in the league. While they have yet to win a league title in their short history, they have won the US Open Cup four times (the American version of the FA Cup). Seattle share a pitch with their NFL team, the Seahawks, and they play on a FieldTurf surface.
At forward the Sounders start the most well-known active footballer in America, Clint Dempsey. The Texas native serves as captain of the US National team, and scored 57 goals during his years with Fulham and Spurs.
Despite the supporter enthusiasm the Sounders are currently second from the bottom of their non-relegation table. They are 16 points out of first and have really struggled playing away from their vocal fans. Even with their poor start to the 2016 campaign, I suspect the chance to snatch a win from a Premier League side will motivate Seattle to give their London opponents a hard-fought 90 minutes.
For West Ham supporters visiting from England: The Seattle Hammers supporters club has published some events surrounding the weekend. They tend to congregate at a pub called The George and Dragon located at 206 N 36th St. Please look them up on Twitter or Facebook for more details. July 4th is a national holiday and Seattle will have a big fireworks display on Monday night at Gas Works Park. Admission to the park is free.
Best way to meet a Seattle girl: Seattle girls tend to be highly educated and enjoy the bike/hike/kayak lifestyle of the Pacific Northwest. If you are from Britain I suggest you act very serious and somewhat mysterious. Brag about how you live a life that is free of greenhouse gases, and how you are a vegetarian. That should be enough.
When it was announced that West Ham United were playing the Carolina Railhawks, I thought it was a social media prank. I live reasonably close to North Carolina and I have never heard of this team. The day the summer tour was announced Evan from the West Ham Way told me “we are playing Seattle and a team with something to do with a triangle” which further confused me. What he was referring to was the fact that Cary, NC is in the heart of the “Research Triangle” which is home to three respected Universities and a large research and development campus for a number of businesses. But despite the technology and education of the research triangle, the largest portion of North Carolina is very conservative. It is, in fact, the opposite of Seattle in many ways. If Seattle is urban and progressive, the Carolinas are rural and conservative. In the heart of the American south, North Carolina’s economy used to be dependent on tobacco farming. It’s a good bit more diversified now.
The Railhawks play in the second tier of US soccer. They began play in 2007 and have yet to win their league. The club currently sits 7th out of 11 in their table. The Railhawks are coached by former QPR and Southampton player, Colin Clarke. From Northern Ireland, their manager has been with Carolina since the 2011 season. The small club plays at a relatively new stadium and draws a respectable crowd in an area that is much more known for its basketball teams.
I suspect Bilic will play a lot of youth in this match. The vast majority of the Railhawks first team is made up of American players. This will probably be their only chance to play BPL competition in their entire lives, so watch them give the Hammers their best.
For West Ham Supporters visiting from England: There is a Charlotte Hammers supporters group, but I haven’t got the details on any events yet. I will publish them if they become available. Unlike Seattle, you will need to rent a car in this part of North Carolina.
Best way to meet a North Carolina girl: North Carolina girls are more likely to be avid church attenders and possibly likely to possess a gun or two. However they tend to be very, very beautiful. All Southern girls in the USA tend to be attractive. I would suggest you use a thick English accent, stammer a bit, and act a little insecure…basically like Hugh Grant in some awful romantic comedy from the 1990’s. After that, everything should be good.
Thanks to the West Ham board for bringing the team to America. My bags are packed and I can’t wait for Tuesday. I plan on attending both US matches so if you’re coming, send me a tweet. I think choosing such diverse parts of the USA to feature our team is a wise decision. There are plenty of young people in America that haven’t yet chosen a Premier League team to support. Maybe some exposure to the boys from the East End will get them singing about bubbles. Safe travels to everyone and COYI!