U.S. ends World Cup drought, thrilling Michigan fans

Leonard N. Fleming
The Detroit News

It’s been 16 long years for the U.S. Women’s soccer team.

Celebrated this year with a new crop of stars, interest had been building for the first World Cup victory since 1999.

On Sunday night, with the U.S. favored, the women’s team won its third World Cup title, avenging its loss to Japan in 2011. The team started scoring goals early, thrilling fans and ending the 16-year drought that trounced early hope the U.S. was starting a dynasty with its 1999 win over China.

Local fans, it appeared Sunday night, had waited long enough. They packed Red Fox English Pub in Royal Oak and jammed Thomas Magee’s Sporting House and Whiskey Bar in Eastern Market in Detroit, following every goal and proclaiming it the U.S.’ to lose.

Boris Nisnevich, 30, of Detroit raised his arms high at Magee’s bar, wearing his USA soccer jersey as the U.S. claimed victory.

“They made up for 2011, the 2012 Olympics,” he said. “This team has been building to this for six years,” he said, over the chants of “USA, USA.”

For Chad Haase, the World Cup victory was enjoyed at the Red Fox English Pub in Royal Oak with his daughter, Natalie, 11. Compared to the last time the U.S. women’s team won a title, this time “it’s much more competitive with the women globally now than it was 16 years ago.”

“Obviously it was quite an accomplishment back then but I think it’s just that much harder to win it,” Haase said. As for his daughter, this was her first World Cup.

“It was nice to share that experience with her because there’s not many bars locally you can go to,” he said. “She was definitely inspired.”

With 35-year-old Abby Wambach playing in her final World Cup, and Hope Solo, 33, and Carli Lloyd, 32 — the standout star in Sunday’s game — likely doing the same, the team will be remembered as the one that finally emerged from beneath a shadow.

Since then, the U.S. has made the final only once, four years ago. It was time to bring it home, said Lauren Lobert of Brighton.

She was another of the rabid soccer fans jammed into Magee’s on Sunday, watching a 4-0 early lead by the United States that shocked everyone in a game where goals can be rare.

“This is unheard of really,” said Lobert, 29, who watched the game with her sister, Alyson Lobert, 32, and other friends.

“It’s cool to see all the women like Abby Wambach and everybody who hadn’t won a World Cup yet," she said.

Her sister added it was “so inspirational” for the “kids now who are playing soccer, to all of us who have grown up playing soccer.”

The Lobert sisters, both of whom play in local soccer leagues, have been to two men’s World Cups in Brazil and South Africa. This year, they watched closer to home as the U.S. team play in Vancouver, British Columbia.

“We’ve been to probably 10 World Cup games live and we’ve never seen four goals scored by one team,” Lauren Lobert said. “It’s pretty crazy.”

Magee’s sports bar is the official fan bar for soccer in Michigan and is known across the country, says owner Erik Olsen.

“This is normal for us, we’re used to it,” said Olsen over the loud cheers and “ohhhhs” and “ahhhs” after every close play on the several screens above him. “We were going to be closed today for the holiday but once we made the final, we were obviously going to open up for it.”

Regan Watson, 36, of Hamtramck also watched the Cup victory at Magee’s. Originally from Canada, said “there’s no better way than America winning the World Cup the day after the Fourth of July.”

Detroit News wire services contributed to this report.