Fans are good sports despite loss by US

Rebecca Abbott of Medford held her head in Cambridge as she watched Ayumi Kaihori save a US shot in Frankfurt. Rebecca Abbott of Medford held her head in Cambridge as she watched Ayumi Kaihori save a US shot in Frankfurt. (Yoon S. Byun/ Globe Staff)
By Taylor Adams
Globe Correspondent / July 18, 2011

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CAMBRIDGE - Fans piled into the Phoenix Landing yesterday afternoon to watch the US women battle Japan in the Women’s World Cup final.

And despite the heartbreaking loss by the United States in a penalty kick shootout after a 2-2 tie, cordiality, pride, and enthusiasm ruled in the otherwise rowdy pub.

Disappointment after Japan won the shootout, 3-1, in Frankfurt was palpable, but anger was not widespread.

“I’m proud of them,’’ said Maureen Coyle, who came to the Central Square pub with friends to watch the match and cheer for the US women.

Four who played in yesterday’s game - Rachel Buehler, Lauren Cheney, and Amy LePeilbet of the US team, and Japan’s Aya Sameshima - are members of the Boston Breakers.

“It’s great to see a women’s team get this much fan support,’’ Coyle said.

But not everyone was rooting for the home team.

Thirty-three-year-old Kouki Harasaki, a dual US-Japanese citizen, sat draped in a Japanese flag with a small, enthusiastic group of fellow fans near the center of the bar.

“This has been one of the hardest years for Japan,’’ he said before the game began. “We need this. Morale in Japan is low’’ in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the northern coast of the country in March.

When Japan clinched victory, Harasaki and his friends were ecstatic.

“This is a great moment,’’ he said.

He praised the other soccer fans in the bar for being tolerant, even kind, as his table loudly cheered on the Japanese team.

“There are very few cities in the world where this could happen without me getting my teeth knocked in,’’ said Harasaki. “That’s why I love Boston, and America.’’

The United States squandered two leads in the gripping championship game, the first late in regulation time and then late in overtime.

Sixty-year-old Avi Leibovici led a rallying chant from atop his chair. He said he was in town from Los Angeles visiting his daughter Sara, a nurse at Massachusetts General Hospital. “Thank God my daughter’s a nurse,’’ he said of the close game. “I’m about to have a heart attack.’’

Most of the fans interviewed in the Phoenix Landing yesterday identified themselves as general soccer fans, but there was plenty of praise for the US women.

“This team is incredible and inspiring,’’ said Daren McKelvey, 32, who works in New York City and Boston and said he is working for a soccer-film festival called “Kicking + Screening.’’

“There’s an energy in here,’’ he said. “I’m getting the chills right now.’’

Nathan Vaughan, a student at Northeastern University who said he was one of the only male fans to frequent his school’s women’s soccer games, looked stunned after the US loss.

“It’s a hard break,’’ he said. “This whole game was a roller coaster.’’

Phoenix Landing co-owner Joe McCabe said his bar had been drawing ardent soccer fans since it became a base for fans of Liverpool over a decade ago.

“Soccer fans have been taking it on themselves’’ to learn about and love the game, he said, noting that interest in American soccer erupted after the men’s World Cup last year.

Taylor Adams can be reached

Correction: Because of a reporting error, an earlier version of this story misidentified a festival of soccer films held in New York City. It is the Kicking + Screening film festival.