MLS might be taking a break from action during the World Cup, but Red Bull Arena was jumping with noise and action on Saturday afternoon as the Red Bulls hosted a watch party for the US-England World Cup match. Red Bulls’ officials estimate that between 700-800 fans showed up for the viewing party to enjoy burgers, fries, suds and soccer.
There was “Johnny Toro,” the famed fan who paints his face and wears horns to Red Bulls games, in his United States national team jersey. There were some fans from the supporters clubs in one corner, sitting down for a change rather than standing all game long and chanting. There was a little girl in a yellow jersey, still wearing her cleats and shinguards from a game this morning, who sat with her eyes glued to the match.
A hearty singing of the national anthem as flags waved inside the lounge kicked things off. And of course, every time David Beckham’s face splashed across the screen, there was a loud and enthusiastic series of boos.
While other cities have been given the title before, Harrison might in fact be “Soccer City, USA.”
“It is an absolutely great atmosphere, here with other fans,” said Eric Holtzman of Wanye, N.J. Holtzman says he is a season ticket holder and comes to the games at Red Bull Arena with his father. “It really has been a lot of fun.”
On the ride into Red Bull Arena, a stream of fans were walking from the local community, draped in American flags. Entire families, some wearing jerseys from other leagues and speaking Spanish or Portuguese as they crossed the road, were stopping to cheer and wave flags as motorists drove by, honking their horns. An hour before kickoff, it seemed like every corner of the world was coming to Red Bull Arena to cheer on the Yanks.
One of those not wearing a United States’ jersey at the watch party was David Sempier of Elmwood Park, NJ. Sempier, in his English kit, was born in the United States but maintains strong ties to England and the United Kingdom. He has had family on both sides who played for different levels of the Irish national team and one of his relatives suited up for Manchester United. Sempier, himself a member of the United States cycling team who will compete in the world championships in September, said that he is rooting for England but in all the other games, can and will cheer for the United States.
Sempier has only recently really begun to follow MLS.
“I only really started to follow the league since [Red Bull Arena] was built,” Sempier said. “I’ve been to a few games and this is a great atmosphere here with the fans. I really like it.”
When the United States equalized in the 40th minute, Sempier’s friend Ricardo Perez turned to him and yelled out: “In your face!”
The crowd erupted around Sempier as he sat there quietly.
“I told him he was going to be in the minority here,” Perez, a native of Jersey City said with a smile.
When the final whistle blew, the crowd at Red Bull Arena roared. As a television crew from Spanish network Galavision panned the crowd in the post-game celebrations, fans of all ethnicities and races, some in United States jerseys and others from Portugal, Argentina and other places, burst into a rabid “USA!” chant.
Kristian Dyer is a reporter for MLSSoccer.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.