- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 26, 2010

The U.S. versus Ghana World Cup match drew people from all over Washington, D.C., together for a rowdy Saturday afternoon.

Summers Pub in Arlington was witness to the throngs of happy soccer fans charging through the door seeking to trump the D.C. heat with camaraderie, pitchers of beer and a good game of football. But although it may be the prime scene in Arlington for World Cup action, this is no place for a casual fan.

“Oh, no, I told my wife not to come,” said George Fester, a native of Alexandria. “She wouldn’t exactly fit in with this crowd.”

The fans here recognize the potency of this game — the winner, after all, advances to play Uruguay in the round of eight. But what also hangs in the balance is the future of soccer in America.

“If the Americans can pull this off, soccer just might finally launch itself into the mainstream in this country,” said Summers patron Mark Weztel.

With this in mind, the optimistic onslaught of fans, propelled somewhat belligerently by now, prepare themselves for watching one of the biggest game of American soccer by emulating a longstanding tradition of soccer bars around the world — a healthy dose of debate.

“It’ll be tough for USA to win this one,” said Rudy Gonzalez, clad in a red-white-and-blue top hat. “Ghana is fast and experienced, and they have the nation of Africa behind them.”

The Ghanaian faithful, all decked out in red, yellow and green, did not hesitate to reply when asked about Ghana’s chances against the scrappy Yanks.

“We gonna win,” said one member of the band of Black Star supporters. “Two-nil.”

A confident answer, no doubt aided by the vacant pitchers of beer strewn across the table. But the Ghanaians will not waver, even when chants of “USA!” resounded throughout the USMNT supporters.

Summers now closed off to the tardy, the crowd is ready for the main event. The American and Ghanaian national teams are finally showed for the first time on dozens of televisions lining the walls of the pub, evoking a deafening burst of giddiness from all spectators.

The dreaded blast of a vuvuzela is heard. Apparently, someone has decided Summers will get the real experience of a World Cup match. This may be a long game.

Mysteriously, the crowd erupts in glee when President Clinton and Mick Jagger are shown standing together during the national anthem. An odd combination, but the patrons of this pub love it.

The flighty chatter before the match now has been replaced with focused intensity as the game ensues. After all, this is the World Cup.

Oh, the agony! Desolate silence permeates the air as the American supporters stare blankly at the television screen in horror. U.S. defender Ricardo Clark goofs up horrendously and, just like the England and Slovenia games, the United States surrenders an early goal — this one happening just five minutes into the game. Seizing upon the devastation, one particularly brazen member of the Ghanaian faithful emerges from the back room and proudly displays a flag. Of course, he is booed heartily.

The crowd senses the poor play by Clark and proceeds to jeer at his image on the television screen whenever he touches the ball. These fans are ruthless.

They aren’t entirely jaded yet, though — American goalkeeper Tim Howard makes a nice save and draws a round of applause. A smug fan starts a “t-o-u-r-e-t-t-e-s” chant for Howard, who was diagnosed with the syndrome.

Maurice Edu is shown warming up on the sideline, presumably instructed by coach Bob Bradley to replace the flustered Clark. A man at Summers agrees with the decision, saying, “Bobby, you’re making sense!” And with that, the first half is about done.

Halftime at Summers features some profound analysis of the first half of play. Some of the better comments include: “Steve Cherundolo plays like a deranged gazelle,” and “I think Bill Clinton and Mick Jagger were discussing the Bible.”

The second half kicks off with the crowd exuding mild trepidation. But repeated chances by Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan gives them hope for an attack that will finally put the ball in the back of the net.

Their patience is rewarded in the 62nd minute. Dempsey receives a brilliantly placed through ball and is taken down in the box. A penalty kick is rewarded to the Americans. Summers is engulfed in cries of joy. Donovan buries the penalty kick. Chants of “USA! USA! USA!” ensue. A woman screams, “Donovan is SEXY!” Men hug other men; a fellow nearby has wet himself.

Unfortunately, that would be all the happiness the U.S. faithful would muster for the rest of the game. Ghana took the lead in extra time, sending the previously revived crowd into a state of deep despair bordering on disbelief. The U.S. would fail to respond for the rest of the allotted time, ensuring Ghana’s advancement into the round of eight and a date with the tough Uruguay squad on Friday — final score, 2-1.

No one said much. The sound system quickly switched to John Cougar Mellencamp’s “R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.” as they shuffled morosely out the door. When it was time to break off and head home, the goodbye was acknowledged with a simple grunt and nod of the head.

The U.S.soccer faithful will have to wait another four years before it can gather like it did in bars across the country Saturday afternoon. They’ll put this game behind them. But they’ll remember how they halted all activity, ordered a beer and planted themselves in front of a T.V. screen for two intense hours of soccer.

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