Seattle soccer fans let loose with U.S. World Cup victory

The collective roar is what draws us to bars for big sporting events.

The food is more expensive. The beer is more expensive. But the roar keeps us coming back, a community feeling that we’re all in this together, win or lose. The modern-day town square.

That is why hundreds of people crammed around tables inside and outside at The George and Dragon in Fremont. They were all waiting, hoping, for that moment.

By 1:30 p.m., a crowd of about 50 had gathered on the patio in front of one of Seattle’s best-known soccer bars to watch on TV. An hour later, still 30 minutes from kickoff, the place was nearing capacity, and a 10-minute-long line formed to get inside. By kickoff, a line had formed on the sidewalk to grab a coveted patio spot.

It only took a matter of seconds of play for The George and the Dragon to turn into a block party. Twenty-nine seconds into the game, Clint Dempsey, the American captain and Sounders FC star, kept the ball at his feet like it was attached to a string, then fired a shot into the bottom corner of the net.

A couple of beer bottles shattered on the ground. High-fives and hugs were easy to come by. After watching the United States struggle early in games throughout the last World Cup, optimism took hold.

And then it faded, slowly.

By halftime, the conversation at The George and Dragon had turned. The Americans still held the lead, but the word that kept circulating was “survive.”

There had been so much buildup to this World Cup for the United States. Much of it has focused on recycled narratives: Is soccer gaining popularity? Will the Americans finally break through? And some of it has been new: Was Jurgen Klinsmann wrong to say the U.S. couldn’t win the World Cup? Should he have kept Landon Donovan on the roster?

But, finally, all of that faded away into the background, and only the game mattered.

The tension escalated in the 82nd minute, when Ghana tied the score, just as the shadows started to take hold of the patio. A few swear words were yelled. A group of Ghana fans in the corner cheered.

The U.S. appeared to be on the ropes, having hardly thrown a punch since the opening sequence. A tie seemed like a good thing, but not a guarantee.

“We’re in trouble,” a 20-something in a U.S. jersey said to his friend around the 80th minute, and he was not alone in thinking that way.

And then came the moment, the one that will likely overshadow Dempsey’s goal.

When John Brooks headed in the winner in the 86th minute, no one stood still. Most people jumped in the air. Some hugged those next to them. And a few exuberant, alcohol-fueled fans sent their beers flying, splashing those around them as the roar took hold.

No one seemed to mind.

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