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Soccer fans pack Market Square to watch U.S.-Belgium World Cup game

| Tuesday, July 1, 2014, 10:53 a.m.

Nick Potts, 19, fluffed his fake mullet over a tattered American flag cape. He walked away from Market Square twice on Tuesday. Both times, he left without a win.

“I usually watch at my house,” the Robinson man said, “but this game meant a lot more.”

Pittsburgh police estimate at least 3,500 fans donned red, white and blue to cheer on the U.S. men's national team as it battled Belgium for a historic chance at the quarterfinals in the World Cup.

America fell 2-1 in extra time to Belgium, but Downtown, they believed.

Kevin Lintelman, 29, still in his apron, slipped out of kitchen duties at Butcher in the Rye to catch a few minutes of the first half. He threw parties at his home in Plum for the first two matches. For the third and fourth, he tried to watch on his phone.

“It's hard to focus, you know?” Lintelman said. “I want to see them win.”

Hosted by the city of Pittsburgh and the nonprofit Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, the open-air watch party drew businessmen, parents and crop-top-clad teenagers to the same 16-by-9-foot high-resolution LED big screen organizers use outside Consol Energy Center during Pittsburgh Penguins playoff games.

Deyoniah Simmons, 9, wiped her brow in the 90 degree heat. Her patriotic balloon antlers were heavy, the Pittsburgh girl said.

Jim Duessel, 23, of Hampton sported a crimson tie over a tailored, navy suit. He usually gets off at 5 p.m., he said, but the assistant portfolio manager worked a little faster on Tuesday.

For the second consecutive World Cup, America had a chance for a fresh start.

“People act like soccer is something new, but it isn't,” said James Snyder, 17, of Carroll Township. “The game is growing all over, especially in Pittsburgh, so something like this is great.”

Still scoreless at the end of regulation, heads fell when Belgium midfielder Kevin De Bruyne lobbed the ball just right of American goalie Tim Howard's arm in the 93rd minute.

“I actually skipped class to be here,” said Penn State student Zachary Wilson, 19, adjusting a red, white and blue lei. “I wanted to be with like-minded people for this one.”

Twelve minutes later, Belgium's second goal ripped through the crowd. Like Potts, dozens packed up their towels and chairs, only to sprint back — flags hoisted high — two minutes later when 19-year-old rookie winger Julian Green scored for Team USA.

“This is what I love about Pittsburgh. It's so vibrant,” said Tove Stigum, 49, who moved Downtown two weeks ago.

She was already a soccer fan, she said.

Pittsburgh is growing on her, too.

Megan Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at 412-388-5815 or mharris@tribweb.com.

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