World Cup: Fresno fans ride highs, lows together in cruel tie for U.S.

The Fresno BeeJune 22, 2014 

It felt like a loss.

A stunning, confusing and quite a deflating loss at that.

The packed room of fans who passionately watched the World Cup at the Mad Duck Neighborhood Grill and Taphouse in Clovis could attest.

They cheered, they roared, they grunted and groaned. And when it was over, many left feeling dejected and robbed.

In reality, though, they had finished watching a tie after the U.S. soccer team allowed a goal in the final seconds of stoppage time and settled for a 2-2 draw with Portugal.

"I thought we'd won," said Jesse Mendoza, a Clovis resident who had joined the room of about 200 fans who filled Clovis' hot spot venue to watch soccer.

"I feel sick to my stomach. I can't believe they scored at the end. What happened?"

The United States had rallied from a 1-0 halftime deficit against a Portugal squad that was armed with perhaps the world's greatest, if not most popular, soccer player in Cristiano Ronaldo.

Jermaine Jones of the United States tied it at 1-1 with a curling shot in the 64th minute. Then Clint Dempsey placed the Americans ahead 2-1 in the 81st minute off a cross from Graham Zusi.

On both occasions, fans inside the Mad Duck erupted in cheer.

They chanted "U-S-A" over and over again.

They recited the trendy and popular chant: "I believe that we will win."

And each time U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard made a save, the crowd tensely watched before sharing their relief with one another. The roller coaster of emotions from the match was on display until the end.

"The atmosphere here is awesome," said Modesto's Travis Dillon, who came to the Mad Duck wearing a replica U.S. jersey and carried around a U.S. flag.

"Everyone's standing up, cheering their hearts out. Wish the game would've stopped after regulation. It's just definitely deflating how it ended."

As regulation neared a close, fans began singing "Olé, Olé, Olé, Olé."

Referees, however, issued five extra minutes of stoppage time after regulation.

One fan turned to his friend and expressed concern: "Five minutes is a lot of time, dude. A lot of time."

The United States stifled Portugal's attacks for 41/2 minutes during stoppage play. The Mad Duck crowd simply was waiting for time to expire to explode in celebration.

But with less than 30 seconds left, Ronaldo sent a cross to Silvestre Varela near the goal. And Varela delivered a diving header that got past Howard for the last-second tie.

Mad Duck's crowded room of U.S. fans went silent. That is, except one Portugal fan who stood from her chair and celebrated alone.

"It feels like I'm a Dodgers fan in a sea of Giants fans," said Alexis Perez, who is from Spain, moved to Clovis 13 years ago, played soccer at Clovis North and remains loyal to Spain and Portugal soccer. "I respect everything the United States has given to me. And I like how soccer has gotten bigger and bigger in the United States every year.

"But when it's something that's so close to you like soccer and the World Cup, you have to go with your neighbor country and your loyalty to the European League. Portugal deserved this."

With the draw, the Americans were denied a spot in the second round for the time being. The United States still can reach the second round with a win or tie Thursday against Germany, or some other scenarios if they lose.

"We handed that to them on a silver platter," Dillon said. "If we don't get lackadaisical, we would've won it. We just got to go out and play well against Germany now.

"We've still got a chance to advance."


The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6362, or @Banteola_TheBee on Twitter.

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