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Wednesday, May 22

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Soccer Wed Jul 01 2015

Watching Team USA Kick Ass in the Park

By Veronica Arreola

The build-up to the Women's World Cup has been almost as much about judging the entertainment value of women's sports as it has been the quality of Team USA to win the cup. Last night US Soccer held a last minute outdoor viewing party for the semifinal match against Germany and Chicago showed up. The diversity was amazing.

As I sat on a picnic blanket with my husband and our soccer-obsessed pre-teen, I took note of many other families on their own blankets. But there were also the countless college-age students who made it clear they wanted to stand in the front row and cheer on our team. The group of people in front of us looked like they swapped meeting up at their neighborhood bar for the lawn in foggy Lincoln Park. And it should be noted that the beer garden was heartily packed.

usawomenssoccer2015.jpgI did not grow up loving soccer, so it took me some time to relish the agony of a scoreless match, which this was during the first half. The US did not score until a penalty kick at the 69th minute by Carli Lloyd. But the anticipation of that first goal is much like waiting to see who will finally break up a no-hitter. Germany's Celia Sasic's missed penalty kick just minutes prior was equally thrilling for the crowd gathered. Kelley O'Hara's goal in the 75th minute to seal Team USA's victory allowed the crowd to breath again. And the match included a three minute stoppage for a gushing head wound after USA's Morgan Brian was hit by Germany's Alexandra Popp. Close-ups of Popp's blonde hair being rinsed of blood and then Popp and Brian's quick return to the field should forever silence critics who say women don't play with heart. Sadly, it won't.

Instead of waking up to photos of a screaming O'Hara or a bloody Popp in Chicago's sports media, the establishment stayed focused on machinations of hockey and mid-season state of our baseball teams. Meaning that one would be forgiven for missing the news of the big win last night. Despite being the underdog and defeating the number one ranked team in the world, the match was missing from the main page at the Sun-Times and relegated to a measly paragraph in the print edition that I peeked at while picking up my morning coffee. But if you turn to the Tribune for your news, you would see a great slideshow of the fans gathered last night as well as a few stories on their website.

Last night's viewing party addressed both parts of World Cup fever chatter. One that people will pack up food and drinks to watch the world's top women athletes battle each other on a cool summer night and two that the match was exciting enough to make Chicagoans make that Olympic leap from sitting on the ground to standing in less time than it takes to yell, "GOOOOOOOAAAALLL!!!!!!!"

Team USA takes on whoever wins tonight's England-Japan match on Sunday, July 5. The viewing party returns to the lawn just south of Lincoln Park Zoo at 3pm. Be there.

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