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World Cup Fans Ditch Work for N.Y. Bars as Team USA Falls

U.S. Soccer Fan
Christian Raja, of Brooklyn, reacts while watching the U.S versus Belgium, during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Round of 16 match between Belgium and the United States at Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, on a projected screen under the Manhattan Bridge on July 1, 2014. Photographer: Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Workers up and down Manhattan hovered around flat-screen TVs in offices and bars to cheer on their World Cup teams as the U.S. was eliminated in a closely fought 2-1 loss to Belgium.

Yesterday’s match began just as U.S. stock markets closed at 4 p.m. New York time, making it easier for workers to slip out to the local watering hole. Packed taverns in Midtown left fans roving from bar to bar in hopes of finding someplace with room to watch the contest.

The after-work crowd spilled into the street in front of Cassidy’s Pub & Restaurant on West 55th Street at halftime. Some people had been forced to find a place outside the office because their company had curbed viewing of the game.

“We shut down Internet access to some sites like ESPN as it has flooded our network during match times,” said Peter Esler, a computer systems manager for investment bank Jefferies & Co., in an interview at halftime.

Midtown 1015, a bar on Second Avenue, doubled its staff in anticipation of heavy crowds, said Laura Langella, a bartender. She expected more than 500 revelers at the pub, which is a few blocks from Citigroup Inc.’s headquarters.

Downtown at Warren 77, a staple of the Wall Street happy-hour circuit just blocks from the headquarters of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., the crowd overflowed into standing room only on the sidewalk of the open-air bar to catch a glimpse of the game. Patrons chanted “USA! USA!” as they waved U.S. flags and downed bottles of Coors Light and Budweiser.

One waitress at the bar, which hired an extra server for the match, said it was the biggest crowd they’ve seen during the busy World Cup season.

Office Party

Some companies didn’t drive their employees out of the office. IAC/InterActiveCorp hosted a viewing party at its New York headquarters overlooking the Hudson River. Two hundred seats were set up in the lobby for people to watch the match, which also was broadcast on a 120-foot-long wall outside the media and Internet company’s offices.

IAC planned to serve pizza, snacks and beverages during the match, Ryan Trostle, a spokesman for IAC, said in an e-mail.

Yesterday’s game in Salvador, Brazil, remained scoreless until three minutes into extra time when Kevin de Bruyne capitalized on a slip by U.S. defender Matt Besler to score. Romelu Lukaku added a second goal 12 minutes later and U.S. substitute Julian Green cut the deficit two minutes later with a volley. Belgium held on for the last 13 minutes to advance to a July 5 quarterfinals meeting with Argentina.

Belgian Waffles

It was a different story at BXL Zoute, a Belgian restaurant and bar on 22nd Street, where hundreds of fans, including members of Belgium’s consulate general in New York, crowded shoulder to shoulder to root for their team, pouring out onto the sidewalk.

They wore team jerseys and face paint, tossing Belgian flags and an inflatable pitchfork into the air. They balanced pints of Stella Artois and Jupiler beer while waitresses carried plates of bar snacks and, of course, waffles. In the back corner, three lonely American fans, wearing Landon Donovan jerseys and standing on chairs, shouted “Go USA!” -- a cheer that was met by an overpowering rendition of the Belgian national anthem.

Chloe Van Waeyenberge, a Belgian consular officer, said watching the game at BXL Zoute was bittersweet. She’s lived in the U.S. for 17 years, though of course she still supports her national team.

“It’s a relief because the U.S., they had very good defense. Belgium kept on coming, they showed all their skills and finally made it happen. Now we’re going all the way. We are going to be the champions.”

Packed Bar

Church Publick, an eclectic beer bar nestled in the TriBeCa neighborhood near the financial and court districts, was filled with professionals who had ditched work to catch the contest on three TVs. The place was so packed that the hostess had even lost the real estate around her reservations stand.

Barak Wrobel, a 35-year-old attorney for New York’s City Planning Department, said he had just returned from Europe and “it’s almost as exciting here. It’s fun to be back and riding the World Cup wave at home.”

Josian Antoine, a 40-year-old tax attorney watching at Church Publick, was more philosophical about the U.S. team.

“I’m upset, but we’ve come a long way,” she said. “We’ve gotten much farther than we thought.”

Describing herself as a true “football” fan, Antoine maintained “this is just the beginning. We have some passionate young players, and this could be the start of a real franchise.”

Leon Katselnik, 43, one of the few people rooting for the U.S. team at BXL Zoute, also tried to look on the bright side.

“I love how we played,” he said. While the better team won, “both played their hearts out.”

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