Despite being almost 4,000 miles away from her alma mater, Alyssa Naeher sent soccer fans in State College into a frenzy when her save on a late penalty kick against England secured the U.S. Women’s National team a spot in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final in France.
The crowd at Champs Downtown erupted in chants on “USA,” USA,” from fans who had been watching nervously as England was seemingly on the brink of tying the game and sending the semifinal into overtime.
Even though the game took place on a Tuesday afternoon, Champs was filled nearly to capacity, and the atmosphere inside the bar mimicked the intensity of the game.
“It’s much better than watching this at home, the crowd is very electric and into it,” said longtime U.S. national team fan Chris Kelleher.
Champs manager Dante Lucchesi had his doubts Monday on whether Tuesday’s crowd would match that which came out Friday for the quarterfinal match between the U.S. and host country France. But local fans did not disappoint.
Donning red, white and blue, dozens of fans in Champs Tuesday afternoon had their eyes glued to the bar’s many TV screens for the two-hour duration of the game.
As the game took place during the afternoon, younger fans — like State College resident Kellyn Roth — also got the chance to come out and cheer for the U.S. Women’s National team.
Kellyn Roth and her father, Todd Roth, just returned from France, where they watched last week’s quarterfinal game live with Kellyn’s youth soccer team, Mountain District Union.
From the atmosphere in France and the excitement felt back in the U.S., Kellyn and Todd Roth both said they believe more people are paying attention to women’s soccer.
“The interest in women’s soccer is definitely growing,” Todd Roth said. “There’s a lot of girls playing and there’s a lot of stars and a lot of good role models on the women’s team, and a lot of girls are following that.”
Added Kellyn Roth: “It’s really inspiring to see, especially because the women’s team does really well in the tournament. It’s inspiring as a player to see all the people from our country doing so well.”
The U.S. will take on the winner of Wednesday’s semifinal between the Netherlands and Sweden in its third straight World Cup final appearance at 11 a.m. Sunday.
To watch the game and cheer on Penn State grads Naeher and Ali Krieger, women’s soccer coach Erica Dambach has invited the entire community to come out to Panzer Stadium (the new lacrosse field). Admission is free.