Chants of U...S...A... rang out from Uncle Sam's Saloon as enthusiastic Tri-City soccer fans came out to watch the men's national team try to advance to the quarterfinals of the World Cup.
Fans draped in American flags and dressed head to toe in red, white and blue filled the Kennewick bar to capacity for Tuesday's game against Belgium. A makeshift sign had to be taped to the front of the bar's door to notify patrons the place was full.
Although the team would eventually lose 2-1 in extra time -- failing to get out of the round of 16 for the second World Cup in a row -- fans put their American pride on display and supported their team.
Some fans, like Jason Walters of Kennewick, went to work at 5 a.m. to ensure they could make it to Sam's for the game. A handful of others snuck out without their bosses' approval.
Never miss a local story.
"It's nerve racking. It's extremely intense in here," said Walters, 37. "You can feel it in the atmosphere here. There's non-soccer fans all over this place."
A local group of soccer fans who call themselves the Tri-City chapter of the American Outlaws led the crowd in cheers. Pitchers of beer filled tables and people across the bar joined in to chant, "I believe that we will win."
The Outlaws group made Sam's "home base" for this year's World Cup and they hope to grow in numbers in the coming months to support U.S. national soccer teams, said member Jason Mokuiki of Richland. The group has about 15 members.
Mokuiki and others were proud of the national team for making it out of group play -- where they matched against Germany, Portugal and Ghana in the "group of death" -- and for the way the community turned out to Sam's to show support.
"It's time for everybody to jump on the bandwagon. It's buzzing and everybody is just happy to be here," Mokuiki said before the game. "We are Americans and we always fight through adversity."
The U.S. team played a close game with Belgium, a team that has won every game it has played at the World Cup. Goalie Tim Howard led the way for the U.S., saving a record 16 shots, and 19-year-old Julian Green scored the team's only goal in the 107th minute.
Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku scored goals in extra time to put their team ahead 2-0.
Though fans were disappointed after the loss, many enjoyed joining together with fellow fans to cheer on the American team, they said.
Even people who never watch soccer, like Jason Rowland, showed up to Sam's to be with friends and be a fan of the game, only if it was for just one day.
"It's been a blast. Everyone is out rooting for the U.S.A.," the Burbank man said. "Even though I don't know the rules, I listen to my friends. It's still fun and it's all about the atmosphere."
-- Tyler Richardson: 509-582-1556; email@example.com; Twitter: @Ty_richardson