But fans’ dreams were dashed, as Belgium’s Kevin De Bruyne turned a heroic night for U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard into defeat on Tuesday with an extra-time goal and an assist that gave Belgium a 2-1 victory.
Belgium, not the U.S., will now go on to the quarterfinal match against Argentina.
In Brooklyn, a giant screen was set up at the Archway in DUMBO under the Manhattan Bridge. The showings were for all ages, free of charge and open to the public, and hundreds gathered to take advantage of them.
“We’re all rooting for U.S.A. today, so we’re hoping that they’ll win,” one woman said enthusiastically.
As CBS 2’s Otis Livingston reported, Howard did his best to keep the Belgians at bay, deflecting shot after shot. He kept the game scoreless until it went into extra time, but the Belgians would score twice.
The U.S. finally got a goal soon afterward and the crowd in Brooklyn went wild, but the mood turned grim as the Americans failed to get the equalizer.
The clock ticked down as the promise of Team U.S.A. advancing ended in disappointment. And many at the Brooklyn viewing site were crestfallen.
“It’s one of the saddest days of my life,” said one man, Ariel Kohane. “It’s probably going to take me a few months to get over this.”
“I literally cried, like, right there – like, I seriously cried,” another man said. “I’m sad. But we gave it our all.”
Others thought the U.S. might have stood a chance.
“I thought we had a chance going into overtime, especially if we went into penalties,” said fan Marko Collazo. “And after we scored that first goal in overtime, I thought we might have had a chance to tie it back up.”
In Manhattan, fans watched the game at the Southwest Porch outdoor lounge in Bryant Park and were equally dejected when Team USA lost.
One fan in Bryant Park told 1010 WINS’ Sonia Rincon he was proud of the U.S. for making it through the Group of Death, and the fans for getting into it the way they did.
“When the World Cup starts, everybody just comes together where everybody’s supporting one country; one nation,” he said.
But another fan said it was hard to see the U.S. knocked out.
“What can I say – four years?” he said. “I do want to see Tim Howard. But you know one thing – I question the coach’s decision to leave out Donovan. What if we had him?”
Still, as WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman reported, this World Cup was a win by all accounts for soccer fans who spent their lives trying to get Americans on board.
“You don’t even see this for the Super Bowl or any other sporting event,” he said.
And across the river in Jersey City, fans at the Blue Moon Café were likewise disappointed.
“The U.S. played great, but when it came down to crunch time, they didn’t do as well,” said fan Richard Alberez.
But the owner of the restaurant called this year’s World Cup the big moment for soccer in America, CBS 2’s Don Champion reported.
“I just think we were ready, and it was the right time, and it was close enough and in the right time zone so we could actually enjoy it; we don’t have to watch the game at 3 o’clock in the morning,” said owner Carlos Ortiz.
But even with the loss, one thing was for sure — fans remained optimistic.
“We’re probably like, eight or 12 years away from being an elite team, but definitely excited for the next four years — see what happens,” said Leo Araujo.
And the loss did indeed put a cap on a period of excitement and enthusiasm, with restaurants and bars packed with soccer fans across the Tri-State Area.
On television, American viewership has been at record levels. Ten million people watched the U.S. match against Germany last Thursday. ESPN said New York City has been one of the top markets so far this World Cup.
World Cup fever also hit North Burnswick, New Jersey, where U.S. goalkeeper Howard was born and raised.
“His competitive level was higher than anybody I’ve ever seen,” said John Cipot, who has been friends with Howard since they were 10. “We knew that he was going to be a phenomenal athlete.”
It seems Howard was also able to see his future back when he was a senior at North Brunswick Township High School.
“It will take a nation of millions to hold me back,” his yearbook quote read.
For young players like 12-year-old Mackenzie Amber, the hometown hero is an inspiration.
“I think that if you follow your dreams you can definitely get to the spot where he is,” she said.
Those who remember Howard said the 35-year-old was a good student, an all around good guy and of course a star athlete on both the soccer and basketball teams, earning him a place in the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
“He has a certain will about himself that he just pushes himself beyond what you would think would be normal borders of effort and normal borders of accomplishment,” said Howard’s high school basketball coach Eddie Breheney.
Howard’s athletic accomplishments are even more impressive because he was diagnosed with Tourette syndrome as a child, CBS 2’s Elise Finch reported last month. He’s since become an advocate for people living with neurological disorders, especially children.
“You need to see somebody who has experienced just what you’re experiencing, the pain of what you’re experiencing and has come out the other end whole. And in Tim’s case more than whole, he’s come out as a superstar,” said Faith Rice, with the New Jersey Center for Tourette Syndrome.
Howard will be back in North Brunswick this summer to host a fundraiser for Tourette syndrome awareness.
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