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News Maryland Harford County Bel Air

Bel Air fans turn out for World Cup soccer

For U.K. native Jimmy Lewis and Honduran native Roger Carcamo, Tuesday's nail-biting soccer match between Team USA and Belgium for a spot in the 2014 World Cup quarterfinals was like a reminder of home for the Harford County residents.

Lewis, who lives in Bel Air, and Carcamo, who lives in Fallston, gathered with friends and strangers alike in a standing-room only crowd at Looney's Pub in Bel Air to watch the late Tuesday afternoon game.

The crowds were ultimately left without a win, however, as the Belgians defeated the Americans 2-1 in overtime, even with several key players out with injuries.

While soccer is typically not as popular in America as it is throughout the world – where it is typically known as football – the crowd at Looney's, dressed in red, white and blue, was similar to the type of crowd watching the Super Bowl.

"You're seeing America participate in a global community," Lewis said. "The rest of the world's been doing this for 40 years, now the U.S., it's beautiful!"

Patrons chanted "I believe that we will win," and "USA! USA!" as they watched the action unfold on television screens throughout the bar and restaurant.

Lewis said the American national team has "become something of a Cinderella story" during its battle through a tournament that the U.S. is not typically favored to do well in.

He said his friends and family in England were rooting for Team USA.

"It's the team for everybody, USA, man," Carcamo said.

Their friend, Zach Knotts of Jarrettsville, called the game "a defensive battle between two of the best goalkeepers in the world."

He was referring to American goalie Tim Howard and Belgian goalie Thibaut Courtois.

"Right now it looks like it's going to come down to who has the most gas left," he said toward the end of the game.

Reid Barger of Fallston watched the game from the stage at Looney's where patrons could look out and see a bar area filled with fans in red, white and blue shirts and headgear. One man wearing an American flag as a cape stood up and led the crowd in a cheer as the game intensified.

Barger was hoping having several Belgian players out would work in Team USA's favor, as well as his presence in Looney's.

"I find myself here every time the USA team plays," he said.

Soccer runs in Barger's family: he played soccer in high school; his uncle, Joey played for the Baltimore Blast, and his sister Riley plays on the University of Maryland women's soccer team and is working for a spot on the U.S. national team.

Looney's staffer Taylor Ruzicka said employees had been "running around like crazy" serving the crowd.

Ruzicka said she is not a big soccer fan, but she was enjoying seeing the patrons have a good time.

World Cup fever was spreading around Bel Air as most of the tables in the dining area of the Main Street Oyster House were filled with soccer fans who cheered as the action picked up.

Alex Haskins of Joppa said the contest had been a "fast-paced game; I like seeing that."

"We need to pick it up, create more scoring opportunities," he said of the American players.

Justin King, also of Joppa, agreed with Haskins that the U.S. had the ability to beat Belgium, but "whether or not we do is another question."

L.J. Hamel, whose family owns Simply Grande Home Furnishings of Forest Hill, placed the message "We believe, go Team USA" on the store's marquee along Jarrettsville Road.

"It's always good to support something good when there's so much bad in the world," he said.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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