The U.S. soccer team may have failed to get into the quarterfinals in its 2-1 World Cup knockout loss to Belgium on Tuesday, but for many fans who gathered across the Southland to watch, it wasn’t a complete loss.
From downtown Los Angeles to downtown Long Beach, Redondo Beach to Anaheim, fans were consumed with what many considered to be the most important test of the U.S. team’s resolve on soccer’s greatest stage. They were held to the last minute of overtime to be disappointed.
"Anything can happen. That's the World Cup. Don't blink, don't look down," said Iris Kennedy, a 39-year-old special education teacher, who watched the game in downtown L.A.
Although the loss to Belgium was disappointing, that the U.S. was even able to survive the so-called “Group of Death” to advance to the knockout stage was a triumph.
At giant viewing parties in Long Beach, Redondo Beach and Anaheim, crowds of fans were sent on a roller-coaster ride of emotions as the U.S. defended attack after attack from Belgium’s strikers.
Max Abundez, 18, drove from Riverside to Downtown Disney in Anaheim to watch the game with a crowd of strangers united behind their country's soccer team.
"It's a great feeling," Abundez said, "being around people who care and cheering alongside them."
The crowd, some wearing flags over their jerseys, occasionally broke into chants of "USA" and "I believe that we will win."
"You're not the only one feeling it; this entire group of people standing next to you is also feeling it,” Sanchez’s friend, Josh Sanchez, 18, said.
But where there was shared exhilaration, in the end, there was also shared disappointment.
"It's a lot to build on. This wasn't supposed to be our year,” said Michael Galas, 32, who works at a law firm in downtown L.A. that operates out of Latin American countries. “It’s a tough loss."
Still, he said the U.S. team played "inspired futbol" the last 15 minutes, invoking the Spanish term for soccer.
"I wish that team would have shown up earlier," he said.
Although it was a low-scoring game, which Galas said is one of the main criticisms of the sport, it still held viewers' interest.
"It was still a really exciting game," he said. "And that's soccer."
The U.S., which had a poor attack game in the tournament according to FIFA's statistics, had to push forward against Belgium, The Times' Kevin Baxter reported. But that never materialized.
Belgium will now advance to the quarterfinals to take on Argentina, which beat Switzerland 1-0 in overtime Tuesday morning.