SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) - Thousands of soccer fans packed the Gallivan Center in Downtown Salt Lake City to watch the United States-Belgium World Cup match on a 19-foot wide big screen. Belgium prevailed 2-1 in extra time to knock the U.S. out of the tournament. Belgium advanced to the quarterfinals where they'll face Argentina on Saturday.
"What a great atmosphere," Team USA and Real Salt Lake fan Garrett Cederquist told ABC 4 News. "It was fantastic to be out here. I don't know how many people, probably thousands at least but tough to see that end the way it did but we fought to the end."
"It just shows you how much soccer has grown because in the past it wasn't as big but now it's all come together," said a man in an Uncle Sam type hat and Stars and Stripes sunglasses. "Yeah we got out but we'll be back. We'll be back stronger than ever."
They cheered in the hot sun for more than two and a half hours, reacting vocally to every shot and save. The crowd seemed shocked and dismayed when Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku scores 12 minutes apart in extra time to put the Belgians ahead 2-0 but they erupted with sheer exuberance when Julian Greene scored a late goal to cut the deficit in half and keep hope alive.
When Clint Dempsey's shot was stopped by Belgium goalkeeper Thibault Courtois, the Gallivan crowd let out a collective groan.
"We shouldn't have made it this far anyways," Real Salt Lake season ticket holder Michael Aller said. "We got out of the Group of Death. Still proud but unfortunately we didn't win."
RSL midfielder Kyle Beckerman, who was very effective in the three U.S. Group G matches remained on the sideline Tuesday as U.S. Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann chose not to play him against Belgium.
"Wish we would have played him because he held very well as a holding midfielder and that's how we had so much success in that group stage," Cederquist said.
"The thing this game was really lacking was a solid midfield," Rachael Ainsworth said. "There was no possession. There was no ability to transition from defense to offense and vice-versa. Whenever we'd attack we would leave our back open and we just really needed Kyle Beckerman there as a strong midfielder. I heard he was taken out just because he was too short."
The party was sponsored by Real Salt Lake, the Broadway Media Group and the Salt Lake City Mayor's Office.