Buildup and letdown: Chattanooga area soccer fans suffer through U.S. loss to Germany

Buildup and letdown: Chattanooga area soccer fans suffer through U.S. loss to Germany

June 27th, 2014 by Tyler Jett in Local Regional News

Fans react as the U.S. almost scores a last-minute goal to tie during a screening of the USA vs Germany World Cup match at the Waterhouse Pavilion in Miller Plaza on Thursday in Chattanooga. Fans gathered to watch the match despite a noon EDT start time. Even after a 1-0 loss to Germany the U.S. will advance to the elimination round of the tournament.

Photo by Doug Strickland/Times Free Press.

Dog Gracie wears a flag bandana as fans watch the USA vs. Germany World Cup match at the Waterhouse Pavilion in Miller Plaza on Thursday.

Photo by Doug Strickland/Times Free Press.

The group gathered in the Waterhouse Pavilion on Thursday afternoon remained confident.

It was 1:02 p.m. The start of the second half. Yes, the Germans dominated the U.S. in the first half so thoroughly that it looked like they had 20 extra players on the field. And yes, those Germans had about 1.6 million more shots on goal than the U.S. did in the opening 45 minutes.

But all of that was for nothing: The score remained locked at 0-0. That's all the United States needed to advance from the round-robin group stage to the knockout round.

And, actually, the U.S. team didn't even need that. Using some convoluted soccer algebra, the United States advanced with a loss as long as Ghana didn't win and also score two goals in its game against Portugal, which was unfolding at the same time. Through its first half, Ghana was losing 1-0.

But then the second half started, and the Germans continued to push the Americans back.

"Geeze," one fan yelled inside the Waterhouse Pavilion.

"Uh, oh," said another. "No. NOOO. Oh."

"OK," said a third. "Here we go. Wait. No."

At 1:12 p.m., U.S. keeper Tim Howard made a diving save. But the ball ricocheted away and rolled to the boot of Thomas Müller, who hammered it past Howard's right side. Germany had a 1-0 lead.

Then, at 1:15 p.m., Ghana scored. If the U.S. couldn't put a ball in the net and Ghana added one more goal, America's World Cup bid would be dead.

Seated in front of one of the TVs, 27-year-old John Ying draped a white jersey over his head and waved his arms in circles, urging the American players to push the ball forward.

"Come on!" he yelled. "Come! On!"

Ying came to the Waterhouse Pavilion after reading on Twitter that the River City Co. was hosting a watching party there. A fan since 1996, Ying loves to watch these games with crowds. He's from Washington, D.C., where hundreds of fans take over Dupont Circle on game days.

Thursday's match didn't draw quite that big of a crowd, but enough fans came to fill the pavilion. And there were plenty of other watching parties throughout the city.

At the Volkswagen Plant, workers gathered to watch the game. Jen Kappei, chief executive of VW logistics supplier Team 3 Logistics, said VW production plants in some countries will shut down during a World Cup match.

"This is not the case at the plant here," he said. "As the line runs, we work."

But, Kappei said, the match was streamed via the Internet into their work area. Team 3 employs about 475 workers in the city, according to the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce.

Jonas Goebeur said at Chattanooga's Volkswagen plant that there was interest among his fellow workers in the USA-Germany showdown. But, he said the sport isn't as popular in the U.S. as in his native Europe, noting Americans don't follow soccer as they do baseball.

Goebeur said he's from Belgium, which will be the U.S. team's next opponent.

VW Chattanooga spokesman Scott Wilson said the game was shown on TV in the factory's cafeteria, where both German and American foods were served. Also, flags of the two countries were featured in some of the office areas of the German automaker's plant, he said.

Brandon Miller, business development manager for German information technology business Honigsberg & Duvel in Chattanooga, said the company's U.S. chief, Heiko Juerges, is "a super big" soccer fan and took the day off.

"He absolutely is in love with America. He won the business case for them to be a U.S. entity," Miller said. He said Juerges stated that 'America is in my heart, except for today."'

Miller said other workers of H&D, which has 20 employees in Chattanooga and announced plans in 2012 to hire 116 more within three years, went from its downtown offices to the nearby Waterhouse Pavilion to watch the match.

In the back left corner of the pavilion, as the U.S. remained on the edges of World Cup extinction, 26-year-old Ryan Russell pressed his face against his American flag. He looked prepared to eat that flag if that would somehow help the U.S. team play better.

They shouldn't even be in this position, Ying said. On Sunday, the United States was about to clinch a spot in the knockout stage.

But up 2-1 against Portugal with just seconds left, the U.S. surrendered a goal after a beautiful cross by Cristiano Ronaldo - a man who taunts his opponents, models underwear and opens a museum dedicated to himself.

"It felt like a loss," Ying said of the 2-2 tie on Sunday. "For everybody."

Still, the United States was in an OK position. But those at the pavilion remained on edge. The U.S. attacked, then coughed up the ball.

"Come on!" yelled 19-year-old Andrew Kingsolver, who drove an hour from Spring City, Tenn., to be with other soccer fans.

The U.S. attacked again, then lost the ball again. Germany attacked. Howard made another save. Fans checked their phones to see the scores.

Finally, they heard an announcement: "Cristiano Ronaldo has scored for Portugal."

Ghana lost, 2-1. The U.S. lost also, 1-0. It didn't feel right, advancing on a loss, some fans said. But in a country where a candidate can lose the popular vote and still become president, Thursday's outcome wasn't necessarily un-American.

Contact Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or at tjett@timesfreepress.com.