July 2, 2014

World Cup: US fans in Triangle area make presence felt

Belgium sent the US men's soccer team home Tuesday after a 2-1 victory that went into extra time after both teams went scoreless in regulation. US goalkeeper Tim Howard had a record-breaking 16 saves in the loss. Despite falling short of a World Cup, many fans say they are proud of the US just for making it out of its "Group of Death" pool. There's always the next World Cup in 2018.

American flags flowed fluidly from left to right as the crowd at WakeMed Soccer Park made its presence felt. The bleachers echoed with rapid vibrations as proud fans of the U.S. drove their alternating feet to the ground, creating a booming rumbling sound. Then came the chants.

"I believe that we will win. I believe that we will win."

The atmosphere, even moments before the United States' round of 16 matchup against Belgium kicked off, is part of what brought hundreds of fans, united in their support of the national soccer team, into the 91-degree heat.

Nicole Suggs, 27, a waitress from Durham, contributed to that atmosphere with a lot of screaming, yelling and clapping.

"There's lots of energy, lots of people and everybody's super excited about the same thing," said Suggs, decorated from head to toe with red and white striped leggings, blue shorts, an American flag bikini covered by a white mesh top, a red and white headband and a group of red, white and blue stars painted on each side of her face.

"It's a lot of fun."

Gasps, applause and cheers

The crowd was a bit dormant in the scoreless first half. There were more gasps of fear and brief applause than intense cheers to signal a potential goal as Belgium got eight shots on goal compared to the United States' one. The second half was more of the same. Nevertheless, fans still believed.

"I believe that we will win. I believe that we will win," they chanted yet again, this time at the end of regulation.

Randy Tucker, 56, a substance abuse treatment program supervisor from Cary, said the atmosphere was great.

"It's nice seeing this kind of turnout," said Tucker, with a U.S. scarf around his neck, an American flag visor and a U.S. soccer T-shirt. "That's why I like coming out and being around people. The atmosphere is what does it."

Belgium struck twice in the first of two extra 15-minute sessions. Some fans gave up and made their way to their cars. Others continued to believe.

"I believe that we will win. I believe that we will win."

Hope springs out of a loss

The chants continued into the final extra session, when the crowd was at its peak. "I believe that we ," the crowd began before bursting with excitement in the 107th minute after 19-year-old forward Julian Green put the United States' lone goal through the net.

Goalkeeper Tim Howard had a record-breaking 16 saves, but it wasn't enough.

Howard's performance was "freaking amazing," Robby Patterson, 19, said. Despite the 2-1 loss, the college student from Cary, sporting white shorts, a red, white and blue shirt and a blue bandana, said this World Cup was easily a success for the U.S.

"We weren't even supposed to be getting out of the 'Group of Death,' " he said. "It was awesome.

"I think soccer in the U.S. is gonna be growing. We'll have better players coming out now. Look out for the U.S. in 2018 in Russia."

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