Long Islanders have World Cup fever


Soccer fans gathered at Plattduetsche Park Restaurant to watch the USA vs Portugal game during the World Cup, June 22, 2014. Photo Credit: Johnny Milano

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Fans across Long Island were set to throw a Sweet 16 party for the United States soccer team. A victory over Portugal in the World Cup Sunday would have secured the United States a spot in the second round of the final 16 teams.

An estimated crowd of 1,200 people, many wearing U.S. soccer jerseys or draped in American flags, gathered to watch the game at Plattduetsche Park in Franklin Square, a family-friendly restaurant and beer garden with big screens and tables both indoors and out.

Echoes of the chant "We believe that we will win!" carried down the town's streets. And then, silence. Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo sent a cross to Varela, who scored the tying goal on a diving header with just seconds remaining in stoppage time to tie the game at 2.

"It was heartbreaking," said Denise Stott of Garden City. "Ten seconds away from the game being over. People were almost in tears. It was physically painful."

When Clint Dempsey scored in the 81st minute to give the United States a 2-1 lead, the crowd erupted, as strangers hugged and drinks flew through the air in celebration.

"The atmosphere has been great," restaurant general manager Matthew Buck said. "Everyone comes here and gets wrapped up in the team spirit. There is electricity in the air."

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The scene also was electric at Declan Quinn's in Bay Shore. The bar was filled to capacity before the game began and a line of people formed down the sidewalk. The crowd was so large and enthusiastic that one fan worried about the floor, saying: "They better stop jumping, or they're going to end up in the basement."

About 300 people had shown up to watch the Unites States' previous victory, and that number doubled Sunday.

"We love to support the USA in the World Cup and we're happy to spread the love for everybody," said Sonny Tufano, owner of Declan Quinn's. "Business is coming faster than we can handle sometimes. If they keep winning, we'll keep winning."

Michael Donnelly of Ronkonkoma, wearing a U.S. bandanna and an American flag like a cape, said that after the team's victory over Ghana, he lost his voice for a few days. He was expecting to do so again.

"For soccer to be this popular and to be able to celebrate in a place like this with this many people blows my mind," he said. "This is like the Super Bowl for a soccer game."

The crowds are expected to return Thursday when Team USA faces Germany needing a win or draw to advance to the second round.

"You think in America, this would never happen," James Pollitt of Valley Stream said of support for the team. "We may not be the best fans in the world but we have some passion, and it's a wonderful thing to see. If I can get off work, I'll be back here [at Plattduetsche Park] on Thursday."

So will many other fans, hoping to throw that Sweet 16 party.

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