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American Outlaws ready to bring their 'Philly touch' to the Linc

American Outlaws ready to bring their 'Philly touch' to the Linc

Wednesday night, there will be no "Fly Eagles Fly" at Lincoln Financial Field. Nor will there be any white, black or green — except maybe for a smattering of seats in the upper deck.

Instead, the home of the Eagles will be taken over by the red, white and blue as the United States Men's National Team returns to Philadelphia for its Gold Cup quarterfinal against El Salvador. It's the second year in a row that the Linc has hosted the Stars and Stripes, and it would've been the third had the United States not been upset by Jamaica in the 2015 Gold Cup semis.

And the return of the USMNT means that the American Outlaws — in particular, the organization's Philadelphia chapter — will be out in full force as they take over sections 129 and 130. The Outlaws, an unofficial fan group with 191 official chapters and more than 30,000 members, have already made their presence felt in Nashville, Tampa and Cleveland with large crowds and plenty of noise.

But local chapter president Julian Brown hinted that, in true Philly fashion, it might even get a little rowdier at the Linc than it's been thus far in the tournament's group stage.

"I think there's always a little rowdiness when you come to Philly," he said. "Every AO section, though, tends to be the same. We chant, we sing — you might hear a few more F-bombs ... Philly fans are definitely a bit more rowdy.

"But as far as whether it will really become a factor, it's an AO section. We'll stand, we'll sing, we'll cheer and it'll probably be like any game, just with a little Philly touch."

The Philadelphia chapter, which has about 700 members and is the second-largest in the nation according to Brown, became active during the 2013 Gold Cup when the USA marched all the way to the final before losing to Mexico. Although the City of Brotherly Love was not a host site that year, the Outlaws set up their home base at Fado, a pub on the 1500 block of Locust Street.

Now, the group has shifted its home bar to Field House on Filbert Street — where it hosted a night-before party Tuesday evening as per tradition with most Outlaws chapters across the country. 

And after missing out on what could have been a major opportunity to host a U.S.-Mexico final when Philadelphia was the site of the 2015 Gold Cup final, Philly's American Outlaws were thrilled to know that they would be basically getting a guaranteed chance to have the USMNT in town this time around when CONCACAF released the schedule for this edition of the biennial event.

"We were a little worried [Monday morning] that the tickets weren't sold and then both AO National and our chapter put out a social media push, and by the evening, all of those tickets were sold," Brown said. "We're expecting a full section, which is exciting. We'll have capos and a drum and we have a really exciting tifo planned, so we hope we have a really full American Outlaws section, whether it's members or prospective members."

So what are capos and a tifo, you ask?

Well, capos are definitely the simpler of the two. They are the guys and/or gals you'll see standing at the front of the section leading the cheers. Usually, they'll be atop ladders or stools and it's typically pretty hard to miss their voices.

Tifos are also pretty damn cool. Soccer fans all over the world love to get creative, and MLS supporters are no exception. Just take a look at some of these sick tifos and you'll probably get the gist.

Nice #USMNT tifo of Christian Pulisic holding up #DosACero

A post shared by Ives Galarcep (@ivesgalarcep) on

Wednesday night will be my first-ever chance to see the USMNT in person — I had tickets to that Gold Cup final two years ago, sadly — and I'll be just a section over from the Outlaws. And with FIFA on a fast track to potentially award the 2026 World Cup to the United States, Canada and Mexico in a joint bid, it should be interesting to see if the Philly fans can do enough to prove to the U.S. Soccer Federation that they are deserving of being one of the host sites for the world's premier soccer event.

"We're hoping because Lincoln Financial Field is a great stadium for the World Cup and Philly would be a great host city," Brown said. "I would love in 2026 if we had a game. I don't think I'll be around anymore to do any of the planning, but Philly will still be around and I'd love for this chapter to be able to host people from all over the world, theoretically. How amazing would that be?"

After the Stars and Stripes played with an MLS-heavy roster during its first three games, the Americans' big guns will be in town Wednesday as knockout play begins. Head coach Bruce Arena will likely have Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley all in the starting XI with regular goalie Tim Howard back in net.

So with increased pressure, the team is expected to take its play to a higher level. Fortunately, the Americans are heavy favorites against El Salvador with Vegas making the U.S. -500 favorites in the matchup.

But higher stakes also mean higher expectations for the supporters' section — and Philadelphia's American Outlaws are ready to step up as well.

Eagles could struggle to afford Brandon Graham beyond 2018

Eagles could struggle to afford Brandon Graham beyond 2018

If there’s one Eagles player who deserves a contract extension and a pay raise right now, it’s Brandon Graham, whose strip-sack in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LII helped cement a world championship.

Unfortunately, there are a bunch of factors working against Graham entering the final year of his current deal. He’s 30, the Eagles don’t have a ton of salary cap space and the going rate for a top NFL edge defender is somewhere around $17 million per season.

The question is whether the Eagles can even afford to keep Graham long term.

It’s a valid concern, seeing as the club was incapable of rewarding its longest-tenured defensive player earlier this offseason. In fact, the Eagles had to jump through hoops to get under the cap in March. They released a handful of key contributors, restructured some deals, then watched as most of their free-agent class walked. The money that did become available was put toward adding new talent or navigating more immediate contract crises than Graham’s.

Today, the Eagles sit at $6.094 million under the 2018 cap, according to figures provided by the NFLPA. That’s not a lot, and a sizable chunk of that cash only became available with the release of Mychal Kendricks a few weeks ago.

Estimates currently project the Eagles to be over the cap in 2019 as well.

There seems to be little doubt the Eagles would like to keep Graham beyond this season. The nine-year veteran is a leader in the locker room, a positive force in the community, an extremely hard worker, an all-around decent human being and, now, a hero to the city of Philadelphia. He happens to be pretty good at football, too.

Yet, so far, the club’s perceived willingness to re-sign Graham has not been matched by reports of progress on a new contract. And when pressed for an update in March, Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman sounded noncommittal about the future. 

“He’s been one of the most productive players at his position,” Roseman said. “He deserves whatever he can get. At the same time, we have a cap and we’re trying to fit everyone in. We’re trying to fit in as many good players. We went through this yesterday a little bit. We have a lot of players who are under contract, not just for 2018, but 2019, but when we get into the 2020s. And they’re good players and we want to keep as many of them around as possible and add players on top of it. That’s the puzzle we’re trying to figure out.”

Graham registered a career-high 9½ sacks during the 2017 regular season and finished tied for ninth in the NFL with 15 tackles for loss. He also got to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for the pivotal strip-sack in the Super Bowl while playing through a high ankle sprain that later required surgery and a pulled hamstring.

Despite being “one of the most productive players at his position,” 25 edge defenders carry a higher cap figure for 2018 than Graham at $8 million — five of whom are set to earn more than double, according to OverTheCap.com.

The Eagles are facing a significant pay increase here, but where’s the money coming from?

Graham realizes he’ll be 31 next season, which could impact his earning power, and he wants to remain in Philadelphia, a combination that suggests the so-called hometown discount is a possibility.

He’s also content to play out the season and test free agency. If it comes down to a bidding war, the Eagles will be at a disadvantage.

In the meantime, the Eagles appear to be preparing for the worst-case scenario. First-round draft pick in 2017 Derek Barnett is gearing up for a larger role in his second season, veteran Chris Long’s contract was extended and three-time Pro Bowl selection Michael Bennett was acquired in a trade. The team is built for life without Graham should things come to that.

The harsh reality is Graham’s run with the Eagles is in danger of coming to an end. The two sides have over eight months to hammer something out, which is plenty of time, though what they could really use is more cap space.

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At 44 years old, Terrell Owens is still an athletic freak

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At 44 years old, Terrell Owens is still an athletic freak

Even though Terrell Owens is 44 now, not much has changed. 

He’s still as divisive as ever; he’s also still as athletic. 

The soon-to-be Pro Football Hall of Famer, who recently gained headlines for turning down the HOF’s invitation to the induction ceremony this summer (see story), apparently still has it. As in, freakish athletic ability. 

That’s nuts. If that’s true, that means a guy who hasn’t played in the NFL since 2010 just ran a sub-4.5 40. 

*Eyeballs emoji*

Of course, the T.O. comeback ship sailed long ago, even though it seems like as he ages well into his 40s, Owens clearly still thinks he can play. 

Back in 2012, this ESPN story calls Owens a “physical marvel” for running a sub-4.5-second 40-yard dash at age 38. That was six years ago, and he apparently hasn’t slowed down. I think we used the term “physical marvel” a little too soon. 

To put T.O.’s alleged 4.43 time into perspective, just five receivers at this year’s combine ran faster. 

That would be a faster time than Shelton Gibson’s time (4.50) and Mack Hollins’ time (4.53) at last year’s combine. 

And if T.O. really ran a 4.43 or 4.44, he’s faster now than Alshon Jeffery at his pro day (4.47) when he came out of South Carolina in 2012. 

That’s insane. 

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