SF fans passionate in support of U.S. soccer team 

click to enlarge Mario Cortez
  • Nathaniel Y. Downes/Special to The S.F. Examiner
  • Mario Cortez of Pinole came out to Civic Center Plaza in San Francisco to support the U.S. in its group play match against Germany on Thursday.
Soccer isn’t considered one of the most popular sports in the United States. However, you wouldn’t be able to tell based on the support that the men’s national team is getting in the World Cup.

San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza was the place to be Thursday morning as several thousand fans gathered to watch the U.S. take on Germany for a chance to move into the knockout round. Most of the crowd was rooting for the U.S., but a few German flags were on display by their faithful.

“I love America, but I have always rooted for my home country,” said German fan Phillip Bren, 24, who lives in San Francisco. “I believe the U.S. doesn’t stand a chance and I think we will go all the way.”

The American fans showed their enthusiasm in the first half even though the team didn’t create many opportunities to score a goal. Chants of “U-S-A!” went on for minutes at a time. Flags, jerseys and face paint were the most popular ways to show support for the red, white and blue.

Some members of the crowd were given the option to skip work in order to watch the game.

“My boss let me miss work for this,” said John Brooks, 39, from Millbrae. “That’s when you know this is a big deal. Maybe soccer is actually becoming relevant here.”

The crowd grew restless as Germany pulled ahead 1-0 on Thomas Mueller’s fourth goal of the World Cup in the 55th minute.

Nervous chatter started about the possible scenarios the U.S. needed in order to advance to the next round.

“Man, the U.S. better not have come this far just to blow it,” said Fred Eccles, 23, who drove from Pleasanton to catch the game. “Please finish off this game strong,” he whispered to himself.

Others were more upbeat. A group of young fans visiting from Santa Cruz, including Tanya Mercer, 19, kept repeating, “Don’t worry guys, we got this!” with an American flag draped on her shoulders.

The most relieving news of the day didn’t come from the U.S. game, but instead the Portugal vs. Ghana game. Those two teams were also fighting with Germany and the U.S. for Group G’s two qualifying spots. In the 80th minute of the Portugal-Ghana game, world player of the year Cristiano Ronaldo scored his first goal of the World Cup and put Portugal ahead for good against Ghana.

The crowd erupted with more “U-S-A!” chants when they heard news of the Portugal goal. They knew a 2-1 victory by Portugal would put the United States into the next round regardless of their 1-0 loss because of tiebreaker scenarios.

“I didn’t know soccer could get me this excited,” said Ashley Blevins, 34, from San Mateo. “I think the World Cup has more meaning than just a soccer game, this is great.”

By moving on, the U.S. survived arguably the hardest group in the World Cup nicknamed “The Group of Death.”

After the game ended, a group of fans walked to an adjacent field and started their own soccer game. It seems San Francisco has caught the World Cup fever.

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Diyari Karadaghi

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Thursday, Aug 27, 2015

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