For fans all over Long Island, yesterday's World Cup match started with anticipation and ended with misery.
About 150 people crammed into Monaghan's in Rockville Centre, which opened well in advance of the game's 2:30 p.m. start to accommodate a crush of soccer fans old and new.
"It's a big day for the U.S. team," said Jorge Medrano, 24, of Hempstead, who dressed in a red, white and blue Uncle Sam costume. "You never know what's going to happen. Everyone looks at us as underdogs."
Just five minutes in, Ghana scored the game's first goal. Shortly after halftime, U.S. star Landon Donovan scored on a penalty kick to tie, but a few minutes into extra time, Ghana scored again - and stayed ahead, leaving the score at 2-1 and knocking the Americans out of the tournament.
"It's frustrating. Just frustrating," said Chris Gregorio, 22, of Carle Place. "We had 30 minutes left, and we just couldn't close it."
The day started with high hopes. Fans went out bearing flags, bandannas and at least one vuvuzela, the long, noisy horn popularized by World Cup fans. They roared as the game kicked off.
After the early Ghana goal, Sean Rosenberg called for patience at The Bench in Stony Brook. "Letting in an early goal isn't something to really worry about," said Rosenberg, 21.
Then, Donovan's shot went in, and over at Monaghan's, the place went into a state of bedlam. Everyone jumped up and down, waving flags, high-fiving and chanting "U-S-A." One patron shook his beer bottle, held it up and opened it, spraying the contents.
"That was awesome," Gregorio said. "That's it. We've got it."
The U.S. couldn't take the lead in the last 30 minutes of regular play. That didn't faze most fans. "All these late runs has made a really exciting World Cup," Rosenberg said.
But then, Ghana scored again. Fans at Monaghan's cringed, a few moaned. "It's disheartening," said Stacey Winsch, 22, of Westbury.
As the minutes ticked away, a handful of fans tried starting another "U-S-A" chant, but it didn't stick. When the game ended, many fans pushed their way to the exit, perhaps trying to evade TV images of Ghana celebrating its win.
Brian Corneliess, 22, sat alone at Monaghan's bar, looking down. "They played pretty well," he said, but added it's tough "to have to wait four more years when you lose."
Kevin Hauser, 26, a chemistry student at Stony Brook University watching the game at The Bench, found a silver lining. "I'm sad, but I was also really excited to see our country take an interest in international sports," he said.
With Evan Klonsky