Fans crowd downtown L.A. viewing party for U.S.-Portugal match

The soccer fans came carrying United States flags, some wore U.S. and L.A. Galaxy soccer jerseys.

They packed hope and team spirit into a small warehouse venue in downtown Los Angeles as they watched their team take on Portugal in a pivotal World Cup match.


"The victory would be strong," said James Umgelter, 47, of Culver City. "I hope we play better than we did against Ghana."

Umgelter said he came to the viewing party at Lot 613 organized by the Galaxy soccer club to be with other energetic fans.

Draped in a "Betsy Ross" U.S. flag, Umgelter said he came with several other friends.

As the game started at 3 p.m., the fans sang the National Anthem. They cheered "USA" and "I believe that we will win." They waved small flags and scarves, and booed at the Portuguese soccer players.

Organizers said about 700 soccer fans bought tickets to the event held at a large multipurpose venue in the Arts District area. The viewing party is one of several hosted by Major League Soccer clubs in the U.S. for the second time since the World Cup started a week ago.

Brendan Hannan, a spokesman for L.A. Galaxy, said he has seen a difference in the size of crowds from previous viewing parties.

"I think they're growing more and more," he said. "It's a meaningful game and people want to come out and watch soccer with their friends."

On June 16, more than 1,000 fans flooded the Pier Plaza in Hermosa Beach for the first viewing event when the men's national team played Ghana in their first group stage match.

Ranked 13th in the world, the U.S. was also pooled with top ranking contenders Germany and Portugal. It is one of the toughest groups of the tournament and is often referred to as "the group of death."

Many fans were anticipating the match between Ghana and U.S. because they saw it as a rematch to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa when Ghana knocked the U.S. out of the tournament in the round of 16 stage.

Ghana lost the game against the U.S., allowing the men's national team to place itself in a favorable position for their match against Portugal.

FIFA said the televised game was seen by 11 million people on ESPN in the U.S, setting a new record for the network's coverage of the men's FIFA World Cup match. Other countries set similar records.

FIFA officials said the TV ratings point to the growing interest in the sport.


"These record-breaking figures show just how popular football and the FIFA World Cup is across the world, from Japan to Argentina, " said Niclas Ericson, director of FIFA TV. "We are seeing highly encouraging growth in interest in markets, such as the United States and Australia."

The sport has also received some support from celebrities, such as Snoop Dogg, also known as Snoop Lion, and Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, who recently told FIFA that his favorite sport is soccer.

With its win over Ghana, the men's U.S. national team is now looking to advance in the next stage of the World Cup.

U.S. soccer fans were optimistic their team would walk away with a win against Portugal, who appeared to have injured players.

"We'll take advantage of that," Umgelter said.

But four minutes into the game on Sunday, a costly mistake allowed Portugal to score a goal.

Fans looked in disbelief as one of several giant screens in the venue showed the blunder in slow motion.

But fans continued to cheer -- they clapped hoping their team would come back with an equalizer.

"My brain is telling me not to be hopeful, but my hearts says I should be," said Jovani Diaz, 34, who drove from the Channel Islands to the event. "They have to make some changes for them to come back."

Then, twenty minutes into the second half, the U.S. scored, tying the game 1-1. Later, Clint Dempsey scored to give the U.S. a 2-1 lead.

The game ended a few minutes later with the score tied at 2-2.