The Full 90

Scenes from a watch party, Episode IV: A new hope for U.S.

Beer was spilled during the watch party Friday at Johnny’s Tavern at the Power & Light District.

But not tears.

At halftime of the United States’ 2-2 tie with Slovenia, sadness and frustration were the prevailing feelings among the crowd of about 250 fervent fans.

This was ground central for the American Outlaws, a supporters' group of the U.S. national team. But that mood after halftime changed dramatically in a roller coaster of a second half. Despair gave way to hope, which was followed by joy and then white-hot anger. Not only did the U.S. rally to tie the game, which led to a few spilled beverages, but the Americans had a goal disallowed for reasons that were, let’s say, dubious at best.

When it was over, it was only 11 a.m. and fans, who had the place packed by 7:30, had been through the ringer.

“It’s just so exciting,” said Jason Grill, who was wearing an Edson Buddle shirt. “I wish more and more people would get into soccer in the United States. What a great game.”

Grill was taking a break from his day job as a lawyer at the firm of King Hershey. And, oh by the way, he’s also a member of Missouri’s House of Representatives.

“I’ve got to take off my jersey and put on my tie,” he said.

A fervent supporter of the Wizards, Grill has plans for the next World Cup: “I’m going to wear a Michael Harrington jersey in 2014.”

Grill was hardly alone in sporting a USA jersey. The place was packed in the red, white and blue, and the Wizards estimated that there were another 500 or so fans watching in the Living Room at the Power & Light District as well. Most of them were decked out as well.

Tim Dowling wore a Clint Dempsey jersey along with American flag pants. Those aren’t your ordinary American flag pants either (if there is such a thing).

At halftime with the U.S. down 2-0, Dowling said: “These pants are going to get us two goals.”

So it’s safe to say that Dowling, who is a member of the Outlaws, has a special relationship with those pants.

He was surrounded by friends Greg Basye, Chris Smith, Chris Donahoo and Brian Netherton, among others.

While Grill wishes more people would get into soccer, the Outlaws are doing their part. Netherton is a recent convert, having become hooked on the sport after the United States beat Spain 2-0 in last summer’s Confederation Cup.

“I didn’t know anything about soccer until Spain last year,” Netherton said. “Now I’m here at 7:30 in the morning for a game. The American Outlaws are bringing people into soccer.”

It’d be hard not being a fan after Friday’s game. A deafening cheer filled Johnny’s as the U.S. continued scoring goals (there were three, but only two counted) and the high fives were shared with friends and strangers.

“Look at this,” Grill said. “This place at halftime and then at the end of the game, it was like night and day.”

| Pete Grathoff, pgrathoff@kcstar.com

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