July 1, 2014 at 11:01 pm

Tense match keeps fans glued to Cadillac Square screens; defeat doesn't quell soccer pride

Detroit — Local U.S. soccer fans in Metro Detroit were disappointed, yet sympathetic Tuesday afternoon after the home team lost a “do or die” game against Belgium 2-1 in a knockout-round match.

“I think the U.S. gave every effort they had,” said Jeff Keloff of New Baltimore. “They played the game right to the last minute.”

Keloff, 44, and his fiancee, April VanAssche, joined hundreds of soccer fans who poured into Cadillac Square Park to watch the game.

The FIFA World Cup live broadcast viewing party featured two large screens for downtown workers, visitors and families. Many fans wore patriotic colors and accessories including hats, scarves and face paint.

The packed crowd was energetic during the second half of the game that began with no points for the USA or Belgium.

The crowd remained enthusiastic, chanting “USA” and hitting thunder sticks even when the team missed goals.

“I’m thinking the U.S. needs to step it up,” said Rachel Combs, 17, who watched the game with soccer team friends from Troy Athens High School. “We fought the British and we won.”

Combs and her friends decided to hop in the car around 2 p.m. for the viewing party. They got their faces painted for free and held up signs reading “Go USA.”

The trip, albeit without a win, was worth it, the group said.

As the game entered extra time fans said they felt the pressure for the USA to score.

Basel Basha, 31, of West Bloomfield was joined by his brother Feras Basha, also of West Bloomfield, and their friend Ciprian Gradinaru of Dearborn Heights.

“For a country that doesn’t appreciate soccer as much as others do it’s impressive,” Basel Basha said.

Basha said goalkeeper Tim Howard would have deserved the title of most valuable player if the USA had won.

“He’s the hero of the game,” he said.

The crowd reacted in shock as Belgium scored its first goal in extra time against the USA.

When Belgium got its second goal about a quarter of the crowd left.

The excitement quickly returned — as well as some of the game watchers — after USA’s Julian Green scored.

Cameron Day, 24, of Detroit wore a flag as a cape and was joined by friend Angeles Meneses, 23.

“This is much more electric,” Day said of watching the game in Cadillac Square.

Meneses said she’s been following the whole tournament, even during a two-week vacation in Scotland.

“I’m excited to be here, to be a part of history,” she said.

Day said the country’s participation in the World Cup brought a sense of cohesiveness.

“There is so much division about so many things,” Day said. “We put those differences aside to be behind one thing.”

Amber Silvani of Southgate watches the final minutes of the U.S.-Belgium game Tuesday on a large screen in Cadillac Square in Detroit. Belgium won 2-1, knocking the USA out of the World Cup during the second stage of competition. / Steve Perez / The Detroit News
Kazmira Eldaly, center, of Eastpointe, cheers team USA during the national ... (Stephen Perez / The Detroit News)