Updates: D.C. region watches the U.S. vs. Belgium World Cup game

7:13 p.m. “Just a game”

Mariana Marcaletti reports:

They came to Freedom Plaza from all over the region and even other parts of the country, hoping to find camaraderie with other Americans who care about soccer as deeply as they do.

Victor Santiago, 29, brought the group of high school students whom he was leading on a tour of Washington to Freedom Plaza to watch the game after their morning visit to the monuments. “Soccer is more important than most people think,” Santiago said. “It makes kids socialize. It helps them to get to know people.”

A 41-year-old man from Bowie who has played soccer for 20 years brought a homemade poster that said “In Howard We Trust.” “This is the number one sport in the world. Playing soccer, we learn camaraderie, teamwork, and we find out how to see ahead of somebody’s position,” he said.

In the game’s final moments, spectators clapped their hands over their mouths. They cursed. They begged their team for more.

Charley Benhase, 24, got down on one knee. “I am stressed out,” Benhase said. “This is big. Because the better we do, the more popular soccer will become.”

Then it came to an end, and the crowd streamed out of Freedom Plaza. As people milled past him, Edmund Burke, 44, stood with tears in his eyes.

“It’s not that bad. It’s better being here with people than alone on my computer,” said Burke, who lives in Silver Spring. After all, he sighed, “It’s just a game.”

 

6:33 p.m. It’s over

If it’s Tuesday, it must be Belgium. The U.S. has been eliminated from the World Cup, and D.C. fans are heading home.

 

6:30 p.m. Down to the wire

It’s getting tense.

 

6:24 p.m. Renewed hope

Mariana Marcaletti reports that U.S. fans, who seemed to lose hope when Belgium scored twice at the beginning of extra time, are now chanting once more after America’s goal.

The score is 2-1 Belgium, with at least five minutes left in extra time for America to score again.

 

6:21 p.m. Maybe they don’t believe

Kiratiana Freelon reports that USA fans are leaving the National Portrait Gallery, with the clock ticking down on extra time and Belgium ahead 2-1.

Also, Freelon says, the TV just happened to go out at the Portrait Gallery as the United States scored its only goal of the game.

 

6:12 p.m. Belgium scores again

It’s 2-0, and fans at Freedom Plaza aren’t happy.

 

6:07 p.m. Watching in the White House briefing room

 

6:02 p.m. Watching at the firehouse

One more workplace glued to the game right now: a Howard County fire station.

Groans just went up all over the region as Belgium scored in the early moments of extra time, putting the score at 1-0.

 

5:56 p.m. Extra time begins

After a close-but-no-cigar finish to the second half, the game moves into extra time.

 

5:46 p.m. Think you’re the most passionate fan?

Kiratiana Freelon has found a contender for the title at the National Portrait Gallery.

 

5:43 p.m. “A big deal”

Wesley Robinson reports:

“We thought it would be sick to be here for the big viewing party,” said Matt Bennett, 22, a former soccer player himself who came to Freedom Plaza with his friend Jason Martin. “I’ve never been to anything like this before. The closest thing was an outdoor movies. It shows that soccer is becoming more of a big deal in the United States.”

Bennett and Martin said they were on an interstate bike tour that started in Chicago. Recent graduates of Olivet Nazarene University, they said they are filming a movie and writing a book.

They were part of a crowd in Freedom Plaza that in some places was pressed together shoulder-to-shoulder. The viewers were tense at times as the scoreless game continued, but most seemed to be in a celebratory mood.

 

5:29 p.m. The White House gets in on the cheering

Tweets from the official presidential account:

 

5:26 p.m. Take me out to the (other) ballgame

The World Cup game is on the screen at Nationals Park while the Rockies warm up for tonight’s 7:05 p.m. game.

 

5:10 p.m. We’re back

Much like the players in Brazil, D.C. fans spent halftime rehydrating.

 

4:57 p.m. Halftime: Time to reapply the face paint

Mariana Marcaletti reports:

Erin Pasini and Miguel Hurley-Guerrero just painted their faces a few minutes ago, but the sweat made it hard for the color to stick. They sat down to put on some more.

 

4:51 p.m. Red, white and blue all over

Wesley Robinson reports:

Sean Saadat, 22, a medical student at George Washington University, spent nearly an hour painting himself before coming out to Freedom Plaza to watch the game.

 

“I just felt like I wanted to show my true colors for the USA. I figured, why not just put it on my skin rather than wear a shirt?” Saadat said.

With the game scoreless at halftime, Saadat predicted a 2-1 victory for the U.S.

“My shower will be patriotic colors as well. I’m killing two birds with one stone,” he said.

 

4:43 p.m. Where to watch

A big screen and air-conditioning? The Newseum and the National Portrait Gallery seem like good choices right now.

 

Outside of DC, there are big crowds at National Harbor and One Loudoun too.

 

4:31 p.m. Selling to the crowd

Wesley Robinson reports that at least 15 vendors have set up shop at Freedom Plaza, offering t-shirts, hats, American flags, food, and water bottles to the hot, thirsty crowd.

 

4:15 p.m. View from the Wilson Building

Mike DeBonis snapped a neat photo from the home of the District’s government, which sponsored today’s outdoor screening of the game.

 

4:12 p.m. Feels like 100 degrees out there

Capital Weather Gang reports that it’s 93 degrees in D.C. right now, and a nicer 78 degrees in Salvador, Brazil.

 

But the heat hasn’t stopped fans from crowding into Freedom Plaza.

 

4:05 p.m. One brave Belgium fan in Freedom Plaza

The game is underway! Kiratiana Freelon met one Belgium fan amid the hordes of American supporters in Freedom Plaza.

 

3:52 p.m.: Preparing for the game

World Cup fans around the region have assembled in front of screens large and small, ready to watch the U.S. men’s team take on Belgium at 4 p.m. While dozens of bars, restaurants, and businesses are luring fans with happy hour specials and other gimmicks, the biggest crowd can be found at Freedom Plaza, where the District government is sponsoring a watch party.

 

Wesley Robinson reports that U.S. flags are on sale for $5 at Freedom Plaza.

 

Water bottles are free, courtesy of D.C. United. And if you feel the need to cool off externally too, D.C. Water has set up a misting tent.

Julie Zauzmer is a local news reporter.
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Julie Zauzmer · July 1, 2014