- Associated Press - Thursday, June 26, 2014

CINCINNATI (AP) - Chants of “USA!” dominated a downtown square in Cincinnati as World Cup fans packed in Thursday to watch the U.S.-Germany game eagerly anticipated in a city with a deep German heritage.

While the vast majority wore U.S. soccer shirts with a few Uncle Sam hats thrown in, it wasn’t all red, white and blue.

Nineteen-year-old Hamburg native Julia Harwardt held up a black, red and yellow banner while Katia Landwehr, 25, wore a German playing jersey of U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann, along with a Cincinnati Reds baseball cap.

“Today I am both sides, but my German half is more,” said the 25-year-old Munich native.

Talitha Renkert, 19, of Freiburg, said she liked seeing the big U.S. fan turnout. “Soccer is becoming more famous here,” she said.

All three said they wanted to see both teams advance.

There were no divided loyalties for Cincinnati native Andy Espenshade, 42, despite his German ancestry. He was rooting for the United States to win, “for love of team, love of country. I’ll cheer for the American team no matter what.”

He staked out good seats for himself and some marketing co-workers directly across from the building showing the game on a large screen on its side. He said they persuaded a Germany-fan colleague not to wear any German team regalia.

Thousands have been coming to Fountain Square watch parties for U.S. games this year.

Grant Park in Chicago has also drawn big crowds for outdoor watch parties, while sports bars and ethnic pubs there and in other U.S. cities with large German-American populations such as Milwaukee and Minneapolis-St. Paul have been packed for World Cup games.

“German-Americans here are really excited about both teams,” said Don Heinrich Tolzmann, president of the German-American Citizens League of Greater Cincinnati. Some are wearing German jerseys with U.S. hats, he added.

“It has a double-barreled type of excitement for everybody,” he said, noting that the U.S. team not only has a German coach but five German-American players.

German immigrants who flocked here in the 19th century shaped architecture, religious life, arts and cuisine in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood and throughout the city, with hundreds of thousands of people of German descent still in the Cincinnati region today.

Fountain Square is the traditional public gathering spot for celebrations of big wins by the Cincinnati Reds, who around the turn of the 20th century were sometimes referred to as “The Rhinelanders.” And it hosts the annual Oktoberfest Zinzinnati celebration, which last year drew some 600,000 people who consumed mass quantities of bratwurst, sauerkraut balls, strudel and beer.

German-born Alexander Saar, who was among a few dozen people on the square Wednesday watching the end of Argentina’s 3-2 victory over Nigeria, said he’s pleased to see Americans warming to the game he insists should be called “football,” not soccer, in the city where professional baseball was born in 1869 with the Cincinnati Red Stockings.

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