Despite loss, soccer fans still have something to cheer about

All across the region, soccer fans show their national pride as the U.S. team loses to Germany but advances to the elimination round

As the U.S. faced off against Germany in the World Cup, seeking to find a spot in the round of 16, soccer fans from around the region flocked to bars and restaurants or wherever they could find the game on TV.

Thursday’s match started at noon, providing a special opportunity for the lunchtime crowd to find an excuse to get a bite to eat and take in some of the game.

A team of Post-Gazette reporters fanned out to find the fans and see what they had to say and whether they would have anything to cheer about.

Here’‍s what they found.

Market Square

The farmers market at Market Square bustled Thursday afternoon, but Pittsburghers on their lunch hours were glued to television screens inside bars and restaurants around the square, watching the U.S. and Germany meet in Brazil.

Inside Primanti Bros., businessmen dominated the bar, while groups of friends sat at tables inside, craning their necks to watch the match on one of the four televisions around the restaurant.

Aisles opened up when necessary amid the crowd, but for the most part, everyone’s attention was focused on the match.

Tom Tonkins, 57, of Downtown hails from England — Coventry City FC is his team — but he was supporting Team USA during his lunch hour.

“It’s great to see the USA … playing on a major stage,” said Mr. Tonkins, who rushed back from a meeting in Indiana, Pa., to catch the game at Primanti’‍s with friends.

He added, though, that he ultimately expects Germany or the Netherlands to win the Cup.

“I’m going to be here until at least the end of this half,” said Luis DeVito, 19, from Highland Park, also on his lunch break. “I think we have a really good chance at winning,” Mr. DeVito said 18 minutes into the match.

“I wasn’t sure that I was going to get to see any of it,” said Jon Ehret, 27, of Mt. Lebanon. “Bars don’t open just for soccer, but they might for the World Cup.”

As the match went on, the crowd thickened. “I got here at 11:45, and there was no one here,” Mr. DeVito said. “The bar is not usually this crowded.”

Across the way, at the Diamond Market Bar and Grill, waiter Jarrod Reagle, 28, said a group has consistently come in to watch the Cup during lunch, and sure enough customers were huddled around the restaurant’s bar a bit after noon Thursday to watch the game.

But Al Palchick, 18, of Cleveland stood outside the restaurant, craning his neck to catch a glimpse of the match through an open front door.

“I’ve seen almost every game,” said Mr. Palchick, who is in Pittsburgh this week for orientation at Point Park University, where he will soon be a freshman. “I’ll settle for a tie.”

Up the stairs at Las Velas, the bar was lined with people, eyes glued to the screens, hardly looking down as they ate their burritos, chips and salsa. Two men stood behind the line of people, watching the match, drinks in hand.

“I’ve been standing here since the game started,” said Dennie Rowlands, 37, of Bethel Park, here for a meeting in PPG Place.

“I don’t have a schedule and I don’t have anywhere to be. This was the closest place to watch from.”

Las Velas had two bar televisions set up, as well as a television over the sitting area and a projection of the match on a wall.

While the televisions were all playing the game, only those at the bar were paying attention.

“You know, everyone’s watching soccer,” a passer-by said to a companion as they passed Diamond Market and walked around the square.

— Madeline R. Conway and Golzar Meamar

South Side

The long tables of Hofbrauhaus Pittsburgh in the SouthSide Works were also packed with soccer fans, who had come out to watch the U.S. team try to secure a spot in the next round.

Among them was Tony Fields, 33, of Brighton Heights, who sat at the bar with a large mug of dunkel. He said he took half a day of work off to watch the game.

“It’‍s nice to have a good group of people here,” said Mr. Fields, 33, after the first half. “Everyone seems to be into it.”

Though there were plenty of fans wearing American flags as capes, the room was not all red, white and blue.

The black, red and gold of German jerseys also speckled the crowd in the traditional German restaurant.

Hofbrauhaus brewmaster Robert Makein, 28, of Homestead — originally from Dusseldorf — wore his Germany jersey to work. He stood under the television with his arms crossed, still wearing his knee-high boots from brewing that morning.

Mr. Makein said he didn't expect to see so many Germany fans, or soccer fans for that matter.

“I’‍m surprised there is so much interest here in the U.S.,” he said. “Everyone is really passionate.”

Mr. Makein and Mr. Fields both said they were glad to see the camaraderie and spirit inside the restaurant.

“It’s been a good day,” Mr. Fields said.

“There’‍s a really positive atmosphere in here.”

A couple were watching the game together — the man rooting for the U.S. and the woman for Germany — and even though they bickered throughout the game, taunting and laughing when the other person’‍s team made a mistake, they hugged at the end.

Despite the 1-0 loss for the U.S. team, fans knew that Portugal had beaten Ghana 2-1, so the U.S. would be moving. Everyone cheered and applauded at the end of the game, and chanted “U-S-A!”

— Maxwell Radwin

Cultural District

Under the seven large-screen TV monitors, soccer fans packed into Redbeard’‍s Bar and Grill on Sixth Street to cheer for the U.S. team.

However, if you closed your eyes, you might have guessed the bar was empty. Many fans watched silently and intently, only breaking the silence with loud cheers or moans after a tense play.

Everyone substituted their red, white and blue fan gear with business suits today, stretching lunch breaks from work to watch as much of the match as possible.

Tim Ballas could only stay for the first half, but was glued to the TV the whole time.“I try to watch soccer as much as possible, and the World Cup has definitely ignited my interest even more,” Mr. Ballas explained. “I’m hoping the United States’ success will not just ignite interest here, but across the country.”

Even fans with less of an interest in soccer, such as Mark Beon, couldn’t take their eyes off of the game.

“The number of people here proves that even if you’re not a soccer fan, you still want to watch the U.S. in the World Cup,” Mr. Beon said.

When not glued to the TV, fans intensely checked their smartphones or the two monitors showing the Ghana-Portugal game to calculate each scenario that would allow the U.S. to advance in the tournament.

Despite the 1-0 loss, the bar erupted in cheers after the game as the United States advanced to the knockout round.

Hoping their bosses wouldn’t notice their absence, fans quickly filed out and back to work right after the final whistle blew.

— Emily Kaplan

North Shore

For Maria Abraham, nothing in Pittsburgh could match the soccer hype of her childhood in Syria.

“Everybody has a flag on the roof of their car, they’‍re sticking their head out of the window, screaming, honking,” said the 25-year-old Oakland resident.

She remembers drummers and dancers all over the city, and streets so crowded that people could barely walk.

Ms. Abraham was among the 40 people who were watching the USA-Germany match in the Wheelhouse Restaurant at the Rivers Casino, on what is billed as Pittsburgh’s largest TV. Ms. Abraham was the only one rooting for Germany.

But even if they lacked the passion of soccer fans in Damascus, these Pittsburghers were taking the match seriously.

Some had sneaked out of work in their suits and ties to watch the game; others had taken the day off.

“I’‍m using a couple of my vacation hours for this,” said Andrew Zavage, 27, of the South Side, who works for Duquesne Light.

His colleague Brendan Shapiro had come for his lunch hour, and was waiting to see what happened before deciding whether he would stay for the extra 30 minutes.

When one player tripped another, Mr. Shapiro remembered his own childhood pickup games.

“I would just play dirty,” the 28-year-old Coraopolis resident said. “I would go for people’s legs.”

Over beers and bloody marys, the crowd cheered and applauded every time American players came close to touching the ball.

Their voices became hoarse when Graham Zusi took a corner kick.

And when Germany scored the only goal of the game, the watchers groaned and swore. Nobody noticed Maria Abraham sitting near the window, clapping and dancing in her chair.

— Eric Boodman

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