Former Illini football player enjoys making Champaign bar a hot spot for World Cup matches involving the United States.
It is going to get loud.
At least that’s Jason Reda’s hope.
The former Illinois kicker is the general manager of Champaign’s Derailed.
Open less than a year, the downtown bar has become Soccer Central during the U.S. World Cup matches.
At 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Reda opens the doors at Derailed. Five hours, 30 minutes earlier than usual.
The phone has been buzzing all week with the same question: Are you going to be open for Thursday’s U.S.-Germany match?
“Yes, we are,” Reda said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we have a fantastic turnout.”
Check out the YouTube video from Sunday’s U.S.-Portugal match. When the U.S. took a 2-1 lead, the place was up for grabs. In a good way.
“It was exciting,” Reda said. “It was intense. It was an atmosphere I relate to back when the UI basketball team was in the national championship game.”
Of course, a few minutes later, there was despair. Portugal’s last-minute goal kept the U.S. from clinching a spot in the knockout round. Inside Derailed, you could have heard a pin drop on a bed of feathers.
“If you’ve ever seen air being taken out of someone’s lungs, that was the entire place,” Reda said. “Oxygen in the room was gone. No one really knew how to react.”
Not a word was said. At first.
“Silence,” Reda said.
That reaction might be a good sign for soccer in the U.S. Instead of apathy, people care. Fans were actually demoralized by the late goal. Just like they would be by a Hail Mary pass going against their team in football. Or a walkoff home run by the bad guys in baseball.
“The passion people are showing for this is incredible,” Reda said. “I am actually shocked. The fact that they were in so much disbelief at that time shows the passion involved. They care about it.”
Derailed has an official capacity of 99. How many were there during Sunday’s match?
“Ninety-nine,” Reda said.
How did the World Cup become so big at Derailed? Partly by design.
A former high school soccer star in Rock Island, Reda loves the sport.
He also got some help. Jason Marry is in charge of a group that supports the U.S. men’s national team. Marry talked with Reda and decided Derailed would be a good place to watch.
“It has spread from there,” Reda said.
The feel is different for this World Cup than the 2010 edition. Then, fans had to scramble to find places to see the matches.
“Maybe at home,” Reda said.
As long as the U.S. stays alive, Reda will show the matches on Derailed’s nine TVs. The timing has been good as Derailed builds its image.
“This is helping out a lot,” Reda said. “Soccer has been, bar none, the best thing we’ve done. It does surprise me. Let’s face it, in the United States, soccer isn’t exactly the No. 1 sport right now.”
Owner Anthony Donato supports Reda’s soccer plan.
“He lets me do what is needed to make the place work,” Reda said. “He’s a big soccer guy. He was overjoyed that we have become a soccer bar.”
Bob Asmussen writes three columns a week for The News-Gazette. He can be reached at 217-351-5233 or by email at email@example.com.