The United States may have been knocked out of World Cup play on Tuesday, but in bars and restaurants and at organized events in city parks, alternately whooping and gasping crowds showed that Bay Area soccer fans are proud of the American team to the end -- and can get fired up about a not-very-American sport.

At San Jose's Plaza de Cesar Chavez, about 500 optimistic Team USA boosters -- only a brave five-strong cluster of three adults and two children bore the Belgian colors -- gathered to fill every shady spot and watch the game on a big screen.

Andy Huyng, Terra Wood-Taylor, and Isaiah Campos, from left, cheer at an outdoor World Cup viewing party at Plaza de Cesar Chavez in San Jose, Calif., as
Andy Huyng, Terra Wood-Taylor, and Isaiah Campos, from left, cheer at an outdoor World Cup viewing party at Plaza de Cesar Chavez in San Jose, Calif., as the United States rallies late against Belgium 2-1 Tuesday afternoon July 1, 2014. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group) ( Karl Mondon )

For nearly all of the 21/2 hours of regulation play plus overtime, they remained seated as the Americans were on the defensive. But in the second half, the excitement notched up as San Jose Earthquakes striker Chris Wondolowski entered play, bringing some to their feet at his dramatic near-miss on the Belgians that would have likely sent the Americans to their first quarterfinal since 2002.

"I had a feeling Wondo was going to do it, that he was going to win this thing for us," said Ted Smith, an Earthquakes season ticket holder from the South Bay and self-described "total fanatic" of the sport.

At the Dublin Sports Bar and Grill a similar hopeful buzz gained momentum when the Danville native entered the game.


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"He's one of us," said Suzette Roman, who is from Wondolowski's hometown.

She was at the bar with her boss and said if he hadn't brought her, she might have had to "sneak off from work."

"How can you not be caught up in it?" Roman asked.

As the match dragged into extra time, Max Agajan sat with a bit of nerves next to his wife Sandy and along with more than 200 fans at Speisekammer Restaurant and Bar in Alameda.

Soccer fans react at an outdoor World Cup viewing party at Plaza de Cesar Chavez in San Jose, Calif., as the United States falls to Belgium, 2-1, Tuesday
Soccer fans react at an outdoor World Cup viewing party at Plaza de Cesar Chavez in San Jose, Calif., as the United States falls to Belgium, 2-1, Tuesday afternoon July 1, 2014. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group) ( Karl Mondon )

He was on a natural high: Tuesday was his first day of retirement after decades as a carpenter, and he made the trek from Novato to be among the international fans that haunt the Lincoln Avenue establishment.

"I couldn't make it to Brazil. This is as close as I could get," he said.

A minute or so later, he covered his face in disbelief and leaned back as Belgium scored the match's first goal, and the three-room bar was silent for the first time all afternoon.

The second Belgian goal nearly killed the mood at Cesar Chavez park, where faces drooped, and some even started packing up to leave before the home team's goal buoyed spirits and got the familiar U-S-A chant in full swing before hopes were dashed.

"We were far better than they expected us to be," said Jorge Loera of San Jose, who just returned from watching games in Brazil. "We would have had it, but you never know how the ball bounces. There are chances, and it didn't happen for us."

Marjolijn Gijsel, one of the few Red Devils fans at the San Jose park, said the Wondolowski moment was indeed the knuckle-biter of the game.

"That was their best chance," said a grinning Gijsel after her team pulled two ahead. "USA should have had it there, but they didn't."

But that's OK, said soccer fans. Things are looking up for their sport.

"I'm happy already because of how people have responded to this," said Jason Murray at the Dublin pub before the match. "Football is still king here, but we're getting bigger."

And the team's looking good.

"This is a precedent for what is considered a success," said Jason Purdy, 32, of Cupertino. "Now we will have to go one better. That is where expectations are."