Thousands gather at Bethlehem’s SteelStacks to watch U.S. soccer team’s World Cup win

By Danielle Nelson

*This article is posted on The Express Times website.

soccerSherif ElGogari, of Reading, Pa., kicks the ball around during halftime. Soccer fans from across the Eastern Pennsylvania and Western New Jersey flock to the ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks June 16, 2014, for the outdoor viewing party for the World Cup Soccer game of the United States against Ghana. Express-Times Photo | CHRIS POST
Chris Post | For


A sea of red, white and blue flooded SteelStacks tonight in Bethlehem.

Long before the coin was flipped to pick sides of the pitch, chants of “U.S.A” bellowed among thousands of fans gathered at the ArtsQuest Center on the South Side campus. They were at the FIFA World Cup SoccerFest and Viewing Party to watch the U.S soccer team take on Ghana in its first 2014 World Cup match. They left with a victory; United States won 2-1.

People adorned in red, white and blue hats, shirts, socks, pants and U.S. soccer jerseys were on hand, and others showed their patriotism by painting their faces with the American flag. Jason Jerwick, a student at Lehigh University, took it further, painting the image of an American flag on his body.

“I wanted to go overboard,” said Jerwick, who watched with more than 30 friends. “I knew there was going to be a ton of people here so I wanted to bring enthusiasm and a lot of energy.”

Dave Weitzman, the coach of the F.C. Lehigh Valley United Sonic soccer team, said he would not have missed the gathering for the world.

“You have to be with the passionate fans,” said Weitzman, who said he grew up watching the Allentown-based Pennsylvania Stoners soccer team play in the 1970s and 80s.

Amid the thousands of U.S. fans was one Ghanaian fan who was not afraid to wear his country’s jersey. Patrice Tamkpinou said he knew he would be up against a U.S. crowd but he had to represent his country of origin.

Delfin Mongendu said he is rooting for Portugal in the World Cup but thought the U.S. team would beat Ghana after Ghana knocked the U.S. out of the previous two World Cups.

Fans watched the game on three LED screens then erupted in cheers as Cliff Dempsey put the United States on the board less than a minute into the match. Ghana’s Andre Ayew tied the game in the 81st minute shortly before America’s John Brook sent the U.S. to a 2-1 victory.

The win sent fans at the Steelstacks home the same way they arrived: chanting.

The next viewing party is noon Thursday and they run through the weekend, ending with the Sunday match-up of the United States facing Portugal. Find more about the schedule here.

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