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Tuesday, May 22, 2018
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Raucous fans in Tampa cheer on U.S. in World Cup

— Four years ago, Jerry Green was at MacDinton's Irish Pub and Restaurant in South Tampa to watch the 2010 U.S. men's soccer matches. While there was a large crowd, it didn't have the energy like the one at MacDinton's on Monday night, he said.

“This time there is a buzz for this team,” Green said. “There is a buzz in the air about soccer in America that I haven't seen before.”

Of course, even without being surrounded by a raucous crowd festooned in red, white and blue jerseys, Green had another reason for the extra adrenaline: His 19-year-old son, Julian Green, is a member of the U.S. team playing for the World Cup in Brazil.

The Americans opened play with a 2-1 victory over Ghana.

“There are no words that adequately express what I feel,” Green said. “I'm just beaming with pride. He represents this country and Tampa.”

Professional soccer has historically struggled to reach mainstream status in the United States, but the World Cup has always had a way of ensnaring the casual fan with a mixture of competition and patriotism.

Inside MacDinton's, men and women wore U.S. soccer team jerseys, scarves and bandanas. One man wore an Uncle Sam's beard. Another man wore cowboy boots with the stars and stripes.

When the “Star Spangled Banner” played before the match started, the crowd took off their hats and sang as if they were at the stadium in Natal, Brazil.

MacDinton's hit capacity early, even though the 6 p.m. game fell on a Monday. The hundreds of people inside when the game started were lucky; the line that stretched outside moved only when someone in the bar left and one more person was allowed in. Other restaurants and bars held similar crowds that erupted in pandemonium when the U.S. scored a goal only a few seconds into the game.

The victory boosted fans' confidence that the U.S. team can make it out of its group of four, which includes Ghana, Portugal and Germany. If the U.S. squad does become of the 16 teams to advance from its group, the competition switches to single elimination.

“We can play with anybody in the world,” said Matt Belanger, 29, of Tampa. “If we can make the quarterfinals, you'd have to see this campaign as one of the best in U.S. soccer history.”

Lindsay Murray was moved by the crowd's energy, intensity and patriotism at MacDinton's.

“Everyone has a lot of American pride and I think that's good,” Murray said. “A good team can't be good without great fans.”

Green also sees the team's potential. Once the teams are on the pitch, the rankings don't matter, he said.

“We take it a game at a time,” Green said.

Green spoke to his son earlier in the day and told him the country believed the United States could beat Ghana.

“I'm sure you guys believe it,” Green said he told his son. “And he said, 'Yes.' ”

The U.S. next plays Portugal at 6 p.m. Sunday.

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