Pittsburgh fans get a kick out of U.S. opening World Cup win

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East Carson Street was awash with red, white and blue Monday night as soccer fans poured out of Claddagh Irish Pub and other South Side bars and restaurants, cheering and hooting for the U.S. men’s team, which had moments earlier scored a winning goal in its opening match of the World Cup, besting Ghana, 2-1.

It was a grudge match between the two squads, a rematch from World Cup encounters in 2006 and 2010, both ending in Ghana’s favor. Monday’s victory, clinched in the 86th minute by a header off a corner kick, puts the U.S. in second place in Group G, tied with Germany in points. The U.S. will face Portugal on Sunday.

“We’re elated,” Jon Callan said of himself and two friends, Brian Johnston and Matt Kaplan, all 21 and clad in U.S. jerseys. “We just beat the team that eliminated us last time.”

Mr. Callan said he has high hopes for the Americans’ chances against Portugal, which fell to Germany, 4-0, also on Monday.

Bill Herman of Monroeville said he thinks the U.S. can eke out a win against Portugal but said he would settle for a tie against Germany, among the favorites to win the quadrennial tournament. Mr. Herman, 42, said Monday’s game was critical in setting the tone for a successful run; he praised the well-executed final goal, which depended on each player knowing his assigned spot around the enemy goal, he said.

But Liz Carroll, 24, who played center-midfield on the University of Pittsburgh’s varsity women’s soccer team, said she is nervous about the next two games.

“Ghana was the easiest opponent, and we just squeaked by,” she said, offering a bit of advice to the U.S. team: Play more offensively. “They just defended the whole time.”

Across town in Robinson, cautious optimism reigned as fans gathered at Latitude 360, an entertainment venue that opened its doors for the game free of charge to the Steel City chapter of the American Outlaws, a fan group for U.S. national soccer teams. Brandon Myers, the chapter’s founder, said he started the local branch in 2009 to “enhance soccer-supporter culture” in Pittsburgh.

At the time, it was the 12th such chapter, he said; now there are more than 130 affiliates of the American Outlaws, whose name plays on the assumption that, compared to football and baseball, fans of soccer are outliers, or “outlaws.”

The group hosts viewing parties and helps secure discounts on merchandise and tickets for members, who pay a $20 annual fee. The Steel City chapter sent four of its members to Brazil to watch the games up close. The others have to settle for a TV screen.

The fans weren’t all locals. Tyler Purkey, a member of the Augusta, Ga., chapter, was in Pittsburgh for a wedding when he decided to join fans for the game at Latitude 360. A Pittsburgh native, he said it’s more fun to watch with others. Nick Hovanick, 31, of Robinson agreed.

“This is the soccer fan base right here,” he said.

Isaac Stanley-Becker: istanley-becker@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3775.

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