I love sports. I love competing. I could turn on almost any sport and be into it. But there is something about soccer that captivates the world. It could be the pace, the plays, the drama, or even the money shoveled into it. But I believe it’s the fan atmosphere. No other sport has fans that go the lengths to support their team on the field. Whether it’s practicing their drum line, creating Tifo’s, spending hours of their free time setting up tailgates; soccer fans are bought in.
So this season, I’m going to dive into the fans of Nashville SC and discover what brought them this passion, which player hooked them in, and what they want for the future of this new Club to the MLS that has loads of history.
My first spotlight is John Mueller. I was lucky enough to meet John at my first game at Nissan and you could tell he was happy to see new fans and that he had a deep love for Nashville SC. This is part of his fan story.
Q: You’ve been following the Club since the USL days; what attracted you to the early days of the Club?
Once I got into the USL team though, I dove in as head first as I felt like I could at the time. Even with living outside of Davidson County, my wife and I went to almost every game, including celebrating our first wedding anniversary at the first ever USL game in Louisville.
Q: What was your reaction to Nashville getting the MLS bid? What about when the new stadium was approved?
A: My reaction to Nashville being awarded an MLS team was elation! I was aware of the league before Nashville's bid (up until Nashville officially entered the league I was a big fan of the Seattle Sounders, which has its own silly origin), but, like I alluded to above, I wasn't super familiar with the soccer scene in Nashville before the USL team started playing.
As for the stadium approval, I was dialed in by that point! I had committed to the team, but I wasn't as invested in the fan community as I am now. I remember being at my father in laws house on the night of the main city council meeting. There was a single thread with over a thousand comments over the course of the entire meeting in a now-deleted Facebook group, and I remember reading every. single. comment.
Q: The inaugural year was different than most other teams with Covid hitting after our first home game. First, were you at that home game and what was that like? Second, how did the rest of that season feel for you?
A: Oof, yeah. 2020. definitely not my favorite year, and definitely a rough one for the team. Obviously, it started with a lot of momentum: the most-attended soccer game in state history, if I remember correctly. Then a tornado that devastated parts of our community (shoutout Portland Timbers and Timbers Army for how amazing their reaction was), and then, of course, Covid. I try not to complain too much about its impact on my NSC experience, because it's really been the most unexpected blessing.
I had yet to really dive into the Supporters Group aspect of soccer fandom, but the Backline mentioned offering Zoom watch parties for games during 2020, and I was really craving community at that time. I got the link to the Assembly's watch parties, and I never looked back. My absolute favorite memory from that time was the weather delay at one of the games away at Dallas, the one that birthed the Alistair-as-meteorologist meme. We were all ready to watch the game at kickoff, so when it got delayed, we all filled the time by playing Jackbox until the game started. Talk about a way to get to know people really quickly [Laughs]. I got to hang out with some really cool folks, started some amazing friendships, and now, three years later, find myself on the board of that organization. I don't consider myself an optimist by any stretch of the word, but I'd be remiss if I didn't at least acknowledge that silver lining.
Q: Let’s skip ahead, we just had a good season at Nissan and we’re excited to move into Geodis Park. Tell me how it felt to walk into the stadium on that first game day against Philly.
A: I'm not gonna lie to you, the first time I even saw the stadium while I was driving down 440, I teared up. It sounds silly, but it's 100% true.
Walking into Geodis for the first time was ...... surreal. I had all of these visions of what I wanted the stadium to be, how I pictured it in my head, but none of them compared to the real thing. Cresting that hill on the way from the original tailgate spot (RIP Lot 1 tailgates), well, I still get chills thinking about it. Finding the First String plaque with mine and my wife's names on it, knowing that will be there forever, it's hard not to get emotional about that.
Q: What’s your expectations this year from the Club? Both performance wise from the team on the field but also from the front office?
A: You and your audience may know this about me by now, but I'm one of three co-hosts for the Nashville Soundcheck, and expectations are one of the things we've talked about the most these past few weeks. Part of that is because we didn't have an actual game to talk about until this past week, but most of it is because of how excited we are for this team. On the field, I think the simple expectation is hosting at least one playoff game AND making an extended run in a non-MLS competition (US Open Cup, Leagues Cup, etc). In my opinion, silverware isn't off the table, and expecting it isn't unreasonable.
In terms of issues the FO needs to address, communication is number one for me. The parking debacle leading up to the first game is a prime example of that, but, honestly, I wasn't super thrilled with how cloak and dagger everything about the Jersey Reveal Festival was. There's an entire communications department, and it just feels like they leave their social media team out to dry unnecessarily (and we love the socials team. big fan of their work!).
Q: Who is your favorite player (past and present)?
A: I joke about this a few places online, but if you spend any time around me at all, you'll know that my absolute favorite NSC player of all time is Taylor Washington. He's just such a great dude. I remember back in USL he was always involved with whatever charity thing the team was doing, and that has only magnified since the move to MLS. He did the Polar Plunge the day before the NYCFC game last week for crying out loud! He radiates positivity every time I've seen him, and he always celebrates so genuinely with his teammates with an enthusiasm that surely has to be contagious.
My other favorite player from the USL days, Bradley Bourgeois. He's so fun to watch, even now when he plays for Tulsa, and he's a down to earth, solid dude. My wife and I actually got to talk to him a little bit last year when Tulsa played in Louisville, and that just cemented how I already felt about the guy.
Jack Maher is probably second place for me. I was part of the lucky group that was on the bus trip when he got drafted, and it's one of the stories I love to tell anyone who will listen.
Q: What is your favorite Nashville SC tradition?
A: The one I miss the most is, back in the USL days, the team would invite a number of Season Ticket Holders onto the field for a pregame ceremony. I don't remember if there were more qualifications, but my wife and I were picked for it once, and being on the field is not very easily forgotten.
As far as current MLS traditions, my absolute favorite is this: after the game, whether it's a win, loss, or draw, the players all lineup shoulder to shoulder and sway with us as we sing “Never Give Up On You” (written and performed by Judah & the Lion). I know there's silly fan "controversy" about it, but it's a perfect post-game moment as far as I'm concerned. It's the perfect ending to any night at Geodis because it really creates this sense of oneness with the fans and the players.
Honorable mention to the tradition of taking bus trips to Atlanta and/or Cincy. I've forgotten some great memories on those busses if you catch my drift. [Laughs]
Q: What’s something you want to tell new fans joining the Club?
A: I wish I had jumped into the SG (supporter group) culture way earlier. There are amazing folks in every Supporters Group, and to me they all have these same two goals: support Nashville SC and make their community a better place. They're full of some of the most welcoming people I know, and those people are a big reason why going to any Nashville soccer function feels like home to me.
You can find John Mueller on Twitter @jmueller8332, on twitch.tv/jmueller8332, or on a podcast he co-hosts, Nashville Soundcheck.