The World Cup soccer fever that has taken hold of American fans has spread to Blaine and Birch Bay, with local restaurants experiencing crowds that rival those during the Superbowl.
Will’O Pub in Birch Bay hosted a full house during the U.S. match against Portugal June 22. When American striker Clint Dempsey, who also plays for the Seattle Sounders, scored the goal that put America ahead 2–1 in the 81st minute, the place went wild.
“Everybody was celebrating like all get out,” said owner Andrew Weightman. Spirits were understandably high; a win against Portugal would have guaranteed the U.S. a bid to the next round of the tournament. Then, in the last play of the game, deep into stoppage time, Portugal scored the equalizer.
“You could have heard a pin drop,” Weightman said. “It was kind of a bummer.”
Fans may have been let down by the tie, but team America’s prospects are still good. According to analysts, the U.S. Men’s National Team (USMNT) has a 76 percent chance of making it through to the next round.
Team U.S.A. can advance in one of three ways: It can beat or tie Germany, ranked third in the world, in its next game on Thursday, June 26. It can also lose to Germany and still advance if Portugal and Ghana tie in their game, which they will play at the same time as the U.S./Germany game. Finally, if the U.S. loses to Germany and the winner of the Ghana/Portugal game has a lower goal differential (total goals scored in the tournament minus total goals scored against), the U.S. will still advance. There are other factors that take effect in the event of a tied goal differential, but it’s safe to say American fans are hoping for a low-scoring, even game between Ghana and Portugal (and of course a win over Germany).
Mario Medina, a Blaine resident who was born in Uruguay, has watched every game of the World Cup since 1966. He is rooting for the U.S. and Uruguay, but said he is also a fan of the teams from the Netherlands and Germany.
“Soccer is crazy in Uruguay,” Medina said. “It’s the smallest country to win the World Cup, in 1930 and 1950. The U.S. has come a long way. The American team is playing good soccer.”
Medina watched the U.S. v. Ghana match, which America won 2–1, on June 16 at Paso Del Norte. A few other American fans sat watching the game, despite the fact that it was 4:30 p.m. on a Monday.
Jay Graves had finished his day’s work at Coastal and met some friends to watch the game over margaritas.
“We have to win this one,” Graves said.
Aydee Ramos at Paso Del Norte said fans had packed the bar to watch games during happy hour and over the weekend.
“It was really busy here for the weekend games,” Ramos said.
At the Will’O Pub, England’s matches drew large numbers of fans as well, likely due to the influx of Canadian visitors to Birch Bay. England was knocked out of its group and will not advance after losing to Italy and Paraguay and tying with Costa Rica.
“People have been trickling in for the other games, but it’s mostly been the U.S. and England games,” Weightman said. “For the U.S./Portugal game, we had about the same amount of people here as we did for the Superbowl.”
The U.S./Germany game begins at 9 a.m. on Thursday, June 26.