Rivalry and rapport: Germany, USA soccer fans cheer together

McClatchy Washington BureauJune 26, 2014 

— Gary Overman was utterly convinced that the U.S. national soccer team could beat Germany on Thursday and qualify for the next round of play at the top of its World Cup group.

“I believe, yes, I believe,” said Overman. “Come on! USA all the way,” he chanted. Overman, who’s originally from Kansas City, Kan., but now lives in Abingdon, Md., was cheering for America, even though his wife and children root for Germany.

“My wife is German, my kids are bilingual and of course my house is in chaos,” he said with a smile as he tried to find an empty space for his family among the scores of people who gathered at Dupont Circle, an urban park in Washington, for a free viewing party hosted by the German embassy.

Flags from both teams flew high and U.S. fans chanted as the game got underway. Yet like many at Dupont Circle, Overman knew this would be a difficult game for the United States.

“No bets this time. I just say USA is going to win,” Overman, 51, said moments before giving up his search for a clear spot and walking into the periphery of the circle, where many stood on their toes trying to catch a glimpse of the game on two massive screens.

“I hope we win, or tie, I don’t really care as long as we move on,” said Kate Rodden, a 21-year-old from Portsmouth, Va.

The United States was in one of the few World Cup groups in which all four teams _ including Germany, Portugal and Ghana _ had a chance to advance to the round of 16. The complicated math meant the United States needed a win, a tie or a narrow loss against the powerful German team to advance. Portugal and Ghana were playing their match at the same time; a win by Portugal would help the U.S. team.

“I’m cool with a tie, and that Portugal rips Ghana apart but not too much,” said Rodden.

As the game began, the crowd gasped and cheered, following every turnover of the ball and intervention by the goalkeepers.

“USA needs to pay attention towards the end of the half,” Sean Petersen said to his German friend, Peter Mockel.

“I’m, like, a nervous wreck,” added Petersen, who’s 38. “They’ve (the German team) been on our end the whole time.”

Petersen, however, trusted that the U.S. could win, just as Mockel believed in his German team. “I believe we can win but I’m also worried, because I saw Germany lose against the U.S. last summer,” said Mockel, who like Petersen works at the World Bank.

At halftime, the game was tied with no goals. “It will be a tumultuous second half,” said Mockel, 44, who predicted five goals in total, three for Germany, two for the United States.

And indeed, it was a tumultuous second half. Germany pushed forward, just as it did in the first half, and by minute 54 the United States was down one goal to nil.

“I’m just hoping USA can pull it off,” said Alessandro Burlew, 17.

“Michael Bradley needs to step it up,” Burlew added as he applauded for his team and its key midfielder. But neither Bradley nor star striker Clint Dempsey overturned the score, and Germany won.

Yet, thanks in part to Portugal’s narrow victory over Ghana, the United States will be playing in the next round.

Jon Mosier, 28, walked toward a nearby subway station and said he was pleased with the outcome. “It’s nice,” he said, “when you can lose and still win.”

Email: afragoso@mcclatchydc.com

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