World Cup fever grips Indiana
More evidence of soccer's growing popularity in the United States: Sunday's thrilling USA-Portugal game drew the highest-ever overnight rating for a World Cup match on ESPN. The sport also seems to be surging in Indiana.
On the pitch in Westfield, Paul Christensen dreams of one day playing in the World Cup.
"I don't think it's out of my reach. It's definitely going to take hard work,” said Christensen.
Christensen and the nation's top teenage soccer players are trying to impress more than 400 college coaches at the US Soccer Development Academy.
"I'm watching them play. As many as I can,” said Joe Clarke, head coach of the Washington University team in St. Louis. “For soccer, this is a very big event. There are kids out here right now playing on the youth national teams including the Seattle Sounders youth team.”
While they are focused on making a good impression, they are also still buzzing about Sunday's dramatic USA-Portugal match. The thrilling comeback by the Americans which included Clint Dempsey's "stomach goal" that many thought would be the game winner and the heart-breaking equalizer that Portugal got with time running out that snatched a victory away from the US. It was a heart-breaking finish for American fans.
"It felt like a loss at the end. If you told me before the game that we would get a 2-2 tie against Portugal, I would say I'd take it,” said Clarke. "I don’t think we could have a better time to beat Portugal missing three to four starters and Ronaldo's playing hurt. Their heart really wasn't in it like the United States.”
"They got the last goal at the end, but I thought it showed how far we've come in terms of soccer," said Christensen. "Basically, we had five seconds left in the game and all we had to do was kill it, but we couldn't do that. In the past, it may have been good to get a 2-2 result against Portugal, but we expected to win that game because of where we were. I think that's the worst part is that we were so close to winning it."
The sport's surge in popularity is filling bars and soccer fields across Central Indiana. As the Americans shake off the disappointment from the Portugal tie and point toward Thursday's showdown against Germany, the next generation of US stars is hard at work on the fields of Westfield.