FORSYTH COUNTY, N.C. — Soccer fans across America gathered Sunday night to cheer on the U.S. men’s soccer team in its World Cup match against Portugal, and Forsyth County was no exception, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.
From Kernersville to Winston-Salem, restaurants and bars were awash with people sporting red, white and blue and cheering “USA!”
The match ended in a 2-2 draw due to a stoppage-time goal by Portugal’s Silvestre Varela, but U.S. fans remained optimistic.
“Coming away with a tie is not what we wanted, but it keeps us in it. … We’ve got to just stay optimistic,” said Dennis Martinez, one of a few hundred people gathered on Fifth Street in Winston-Salem to watch the game on an 80-inch television set up outside Small Batch Beer Co.
There, the Winston-Salem chapter of the American Outlaws – a group that supports the U.S. men’s soccer team – held a watch party. But festivities began outside Small Batch long before the 6 p.m. match. Police blocked off Fifth Street between Cherry and Trade streets at about 2 p.m. for the block party, complete with vendors, live music, Brazilian street food, corn hole games and informal street soccer matches.
The air was electric later as people gathered around the television outside to watch the game. Fans cheered and chanted throughout. They sat in lawn chairs, stood on picnic tables – anything to get a good vantage point.
“It was great. It was like one body here,” said Martinez, a lifelong soccer fan who now serves as a U.S. Soccer Federation referee.
His nephew, Michael Martinez, came decked out in red swimming trunks, an American flag tank top, a bandana and an American flag tied around his neck like a cape.
“The soccer fan – we have to go above and beyond,” Michael Martinez said.
The atmosphere was also charged at Finnigan’s Wake on Trade Street, where the pub was packed to standing room only.
Natalie Broyhill said she usually watches from home, but she and her friends had to do something different for the World Cup match.
“Everyone in the world’s watching,” she said.
She described the mood as optimistic and patriotic in the first half.
“I like this energy,” she said as people chanted “USA” in the background.
In Kernersville, fans gathered in restaurants and sports bars to watch the madness unfold.
Bridget O’Brien and Claire Campbell, soccer players at East Forsyth High School, watched the game at JP Looneys in Kernersville. O’Brien said they came for the close-up view on the big screens.
“We want the U.S. to win,” Campbell said. “Portugal is a very good team.”
“I feel like we’re going to go far this year,” O’Brien said optimistically.
Watching the World Cup is awesome, O’Brien said, because you realize how huge the sport is worldwide.
“Just cherish it,” she said.
Summers Bohenstiel and Sherri Jones brought their 10-year-old son, Zander Bohenstiel, to JP Looneys to watch the game. Zander has played soccer since he was 3.
“Right now, I’m very disappointed,” Zander lamented early in the game as Nani scored a goal for Portugal about five minutes in.
Zander said his coach taught him that “if you huddle up in a group, you’re gonna lose.”
Fans in downtown Winston-Salem had a similar reaction when Portugal tied the match at 2 apiece in the last minute.
But earlier in the second half, the cheers had been deafening as Jermaine Jones tied the game for the U.S. at 1, then Clint Dempsey put the U.S. ahead 2-1.
Now the U.S. will face Germany on Thursday in its bid to make the final 16.
The U.S. has had a loyal local following thus far. For the U.S.’s match versus Ghana last week, folks filled local bars.
Ryan Blain, co-owner of Small Batch and president of the local American Outlaws chapter, said they wanted to take the celebration to the street this time. He said it was awesome to see folks fill Fifth Street for the party. He described the event as “family friendly,” a way to bring people together.
Blain said soccer is the most played youth sport in America, and as those kids grow up, the sport’s popularity grows.
“I think it’s going to grow and grow,” he said.
Dan Fernandez is one of those folks who played soccer from age 4 through high school and is now a loyal fan. He made his way down to Fifth Street on Sunday.
“It’s really cool that this many people are interested in U.S. soccer,” Fernandez said.