By SCOTT RICHEY
CHAMPAIGN — The parking lots at Orange and Brew were overflowing Tuesday, cars spilling out onto side streets around the Neil and Avondale restaurant.
Inside, the watch party for the United States’ knockout-round World Cup match bounced through a gamut of emotions as the Stars and Stripes squared off against Belgium.
Crescendoing and decrescendoing “Ohhhs” followed every missed U.S. chance. Big sighs of relief came after shot after shot for Belgium just missed. And the applause was generally limited to big stop after big stop by Tim Howard, as the U.S. goalkeeper kept Belgium off the scoreboard until the overtime period.
The result, a 2-1 Belgium win, wasn’t what the pro-U.S. crowd wanted. An Orange and Brew full of Stars and Stripes supporters, though? That’s exactly what Illinois soccer coach Janet Rayfield had in mind when she scheduled the watch party, hosted by the Illini soccer program and the Fighting Illini Upper 90 Club.
“My first experience into soccer was my coach bringing me to a closed-circuit viewing of a World Cup game,” Rayfield said. “The energy when you’re watching with other people is so much better than watching it at home alone.”
Owner Dan Manolakes said about 225 people were in attendance.
Dario Remenji, a German native and Illinois grad and resident the past 12 years, brought his four young children to the watch party. It was an event he said he’d attend again given the opportunity.
“Totally,” he said. “Soccer’s always a good day.”
Just not for the U.S. on Tuesday.