The United States, long a soccer lightweight, scored an improbable upset in its second game in the World Cup on Wednesday, beating highly regarded Colombia, 2-1, in front of a screaming, flag-waving crowd of 93,194 at the Rose Bowl.
It was the first World Cup win for the United States since 1950, when it stunned England 1-0 in Brazil. The win also means the U.S. team will almost certainly advance out of the first round of the World Cup for the first time since 1930.
The news of the win was viewed like an exploding rocket in the soccer world, which has come to view the American team as a hard-working but lightweight representative of one of the few nations that demonstrates an indifference to the world's most popular sport.
Beating Colombia was astonishing enough, but to utterly overwhelm one of the tournament's favorites will likely give American soccer instant credibility and boost interest in the tournament, which is being held in nine U.S. cities.
The magnitude of the win was not lost on the crowd at the Rose Bowl.
Sarah Perrin of Studio City was on her feet cheering during much of the game, even though this was her first professional soccer game.
"There's nothing like it," she said, after the United States took the unexpected win.
The Colombian loss also made an impact on fans at the Rose Bowl. After the game, many left the stadium in stunned disbelief. Oscar Alvarez, a Palm Springs mini-market owner and Medellin native, spoke softly as the crowd around him celebrated.
"The Colombians are going home with a great sadness but in football, this is how it is," said the 34-year-old, clutching his chest. "I feel this in my heart; this is a great loss."
For Colombian fans, the unthinkable had happened. "We never expected them to do this badly," said Alvaro Arenas, 55, a doctor from Bogota.
In Colombia, the streets were full of people with flags waving and car horns were honking as the game started. Afterward, the streets had become eerily quiet as the country, which had been picked by soccer legend Pele to win the tournament, dealt with its grief.
The first U.S. goal came in the 35th minute after a huge Colombian error. American midfielder John Harkes sent a centering pass to onrushing Ernie Stewart. Colombian defender Andres Escobar intercepted the pass and attempted to kick the ball harmlessly out of bounds. Instead, the ball bounced off his right foot into his own net.
Stewart scored the second goal after racing past most of the Colombian defense. The entire Colombian team, noted for its creativity and superior skill, played in disarray. After losing its opening game against Romania, Colombia was under tremendous pressure to win Wednesday.
For once, the U.S. team got a boost from the home crowd, which cheered with gusto. Most of the fans stood and howled in the game's waning moments as they took in the enormity of what the U.S. team had accomplished.
Not even a goal from Adolfo Valencia in the 90th minute could dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd or the players, who raced around the field after the game, trailing American flags and leaping into each other's arms.
For the United States, the 44-year wait for a victory in the World Cup was over.
Times staff writer J. Michael Kennedy contributed to this story.
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