‘We are the champions’: Most local soccer fans relish US’s victory

  • Josh Cohen, left, and his son, Wolf, of Florence, watch the World Cup finals at Packard’s in Northampton Sunday. Maureen O’Reilly

  • Shannon O’Neill, 29, left, and Erin Kavanaugh, 28, both of Northampton, watch the World Cup finals at Packard’s in Northampton Sunday. Maureen O’Reilly

  • Jane Hertz, of Northampton, watches the World Cup finals at La Veracruzana in Northampton Sunday. Maureen O’Reilly

  • From left, Belen Degener, 15, of Southampton, Pearl Shread, 16, Amina Meckel-Sam, 16, and Sage Friedman, 15, support the Netherlands in La Veracruzana on Sunday. Maureen O’Reilly

  • United States' Megan Rapinoe holds the trophy celebrating at the end of the Women's World Cup final soccer match between US and The Netherlands at the Stade de Lyon in Decines, outside Lyon, France, Sunday, July 7, 2019. The US defeated the Netherlands 2-0. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco) Francisco Seco

  • The United States players celebrate while holding the trophy at the end of the Women's World Cup final soccer match between US and The Netherlands at the Stade de Lyon in Decines, outside Lyon, France, Sunday. The US defeated the Netherlands 2-0. AP photo

For the Gazette
Published: 7/7/2019 8:23:52 PM

NORTHAMPON — Waiting in the 16-person line to enter Packard’s on Sunday morning to watch the Women’s World Cup final, Wolf Cohen, 9, was the only person wearing a jersey.

Cohen plays midfield on his Northampton Recreational Soccer League team and predicted that the U.S. would win the match over the Netherlands.

His sister, Viva, 12, agreed, but couldn’t predict the final score. “It’s just like you don’t know what is going to happen,” she said.

The siblings watched the game with their parents, Josh Cohen and Laura Manning of Florence and Viva’s friend, Inez Dole, 12.

A number of bars opened early to accommodate the crowds of soccer enthusiasts who gathered to watch the cumulation of an international soccer tournament that takes place every four years.

Jane Hertz, 82, of Northampton, watched the U.S. women play throughout the tournament. For the final, Hertz, who lives alone, was drawn to La Veracruzana for the camaraderie.

“I love the women’s soccer team and I decided that I wanted to come,” Hertz said.

Dutch supporters, a minority of 10 wearing the country’s iconic orange in a crowd numbering over 60, were also drawn to La Veracruana’s ambiance.

“It’s what we call ‘gezellig’ in Dutch,” Petrus Slaghekke, 52, of Haydenville, said, adding that although it’s hard to translate, the word conveys an environment that’s fun, cozy and has a social flow. Slaghekke was with three friends, all of whom are from the Netherlands but live locally.

“It’s exciting,” said Henritte Kets de Vries, 54, of Southampton, of seeing the Dutch team in the World Cup final. Kets de Vries relocated from the Netherlands to the U.S. 25 years ago and works as an assistant curator for the Smith College Museum of Art.

Pointing to her husband, Kets de Vries said, “He’s American and he roots for Holland. But he waivers a bit.”

Support for their sports team, Kets de Vries said, is “the only time the Dutch get nationalistic.”

“It’s a playful nationalism,” her husband, Micha Degener, 60, added.

Their daughter, Belen Degener, 15, recruited three friends to root for the Dutch team with her. Holding a Dutch flag and surrounded by U.S. fans, Belen said that Dutch supporters “just have to represent.”

The game was scoreless until the second half when American player Megan Rapinoe scored a penalty kick in the 61st minute, which was awarded to the U.S. for a foul on teammate Alex Morgan. Seven minutes later, U.S. midfielder Rose Lavelle darted through a Dutch defense to score the second American goal of the match.

Audible from the sidewalk, cheers erupted in Se7ens Sports Bar and Grill in Easthampton. They emanated from where Courtney Medeiros and Sarah Caplan, both 35 and of Easthampton, sat at the bar.

“We love soccer, we had to come out and watch it,” Medeiros said. She is the bar’s manager, but took the day off to watch the game.

Medeiros and Caplan analyzed the physicality of the match, noting that U.S. defender Becky Sauerbrunn returned to the game after receiving a blow to the head that left her bleeding.

In a game whose prematch coverage often cited the David-and-Goliath nature of a formidable U.S. team, the two teams had nearly even possession of the ball, with the U.S. controlling the ball 52 percent of the time to the Dutch’s 48 percent.

Farther down the bar, Jeff Findlay, 54, and Nick Grimaldi, 51, both of Florence, watched the game.

“I just really enjoy watching international soccer,” Grimaldi said. “With the U.S. in the final, I couldn’t miss it.”

As the final whistle sounded, applause broke out among the 20 people in the bar to support the U.S. 2-0 victory. Medeiros raised her tattooed arms in victory and sang along as “We Are the Champions” blasted through the loudspeakers.

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