Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Soccer Fans Turn Out in Droves on Brady Street for the World Cup

The Nomad and surrounding bars pack in a crowd for America's first match

By Nathaniel Scharping
usa world cup the garage
Fans take in the U.S./Ghana match at the Garage on Brady St. - Photo credit: Dave Zylstra
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Soccer has had a traditionally low profile in the U.S., but you wouldn’t know it from how fans turned out at area bars to watch Monday’s World Cup game. Whether they were lifelong enthusiasts or just caught up in the excitement of one of the world’s largest sports competitions, Milwaukee’s soccer fan base came out in droves for America’s first match against Ghana.

Brady Street was the epicenter of soccer mania in Milwaukee, with hundreds of people filling the street as they waited to enter popular bars such as Nomad World Pub. Nomad, which drew controversy earlier this month for its Brazilian-themed decorations, reached capacity well before the game started, leaving the overflow to trickle out to surrounding bars.

At Replay Sports Bar on North the scene was much quieter, although there was a core of dedicated fans cheering and groaning with each shot and save. A first-minute goal by Chris Dempsey set a hopeful tone for the match, which soon settled into a tense standoff broken by an equalizer from Ghanaian winger Andre Ayew and an ecstatic game-winning header from John Brooks Jr. to seal the match for the U.S.

Although some fans were clearly there as passive spectators, most were swept up in the excitement of the often nerve-wracking match. Jake Diaz, of Milwaukee, said that he hadn’t really paid much attention to soccer before this year, but has been watching the qualifying rounds with growing excitement. He was confident in the U.S. team, but worried about America’s upcoming match against Portugal, whose team has arguably the best player in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo. If we were to win the World Cup though?

“I have no words to describe it. I would be flipping out,” he said.

The U.S. team’s contention in the World Cup, held only once every four years, has brought significant attention to a sport often underrepresented in the U.S. There were roughly 20,000 fans at Monday’s match, and only Brazil has bought more tickets to the World Cup, according to Viagogo, an online ticket exchange.

Kelly Karp, also of Milwaukee, said that she wishes the sport would draw more attention among U.S. sports fans. A lifelong fan herself, she said that she loves the international aspect of soccer. Having countries across the globe included makes the game much more exciting and adds an element of competition not found inside the borders of a country, she said. Karp has been a soccer player since sixth grade, and she felt that her experience was a big part of her love for the game.

“If people were more educated about soccer, I think they would be more into it,” she said.

For her, the goals are the most exciting part. She understands how difficult it is to put a ball into the net, making any goal a ridiculous occurrence, she said.

The fans at Replay certainly agreed with her, leaping to their feet with roars of approval and wild applause for both stunning goals in the U.S. match. Cheers and chants mixed with delighted high fives abounded, bringing the crowd together in a moment of pure glee. World Cup victory or not, U.S. fans finally have something to celebrate together.

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