Nine-year-old Emma Kropp’s bold prediction of a 4-0 United States win over Portugal may have gone poof in the opening minutes Sunday afternoon, but her World Cup enthusiasm never wavered.
She and about 700 other fans piled into the Bing Crosby Theater, embarking on a group thrill ride that brought big-time soccer onto perhaps the biggest screen in Spokane.
“Clint Dempsey. He’s my favorite. He’s fast,” Kropp said after a thoughtful pause regarding which player she likes most.
Kropp and four of her teammates of a Spokane Foxes soccer club from north Spokane arrived with painted faces, hair in ribbons, big smiles and a bunch of bottled-up screams just waiting to be uncorked. It took more than an hour.
Jermaine Jones sent a curving kick into the net behind the busy Portuguese goalie in the 64th minute and the Bing erupted into the kind of leap-to-your-feet roar not heard in Spokane since Gonzaga’s last basketball game.
And then it really got loud when Dempsey, the Seattle Sounders star and a leader of the U.S. squad, used his torso to redirect a nifty pass into the goal for a 2-1 lead about 15 minutes later.
Portugal performed its own late-game heroics in the closing seconds when the heralded Cristiano Ronaldo fired a kick that caromed off the head of a teammate to tie the game.
Troy Nealy, the marketing director for event sponsor Spokane Youth Sports Association, said the nonprofit group that brought soccer lessons and Saturday games to thousands of children over the years made about $1,500 on the day.
“This event has been a huge success for fans,” he said. “For us, too. It took a lot of work but it’s worth it.”
About 500 tickets were presold, and some 200 more were snapped up by game time.
Kropp and her teammates, Gracy Albers, Mya Hernandez, Sam Hernandez and Bella Haeberle admitted being a bit soccer crazy during this first full week of summer vacation. They want to come back for more games if the U.S. advances.
The next World Cup game on the Bing’s docket is the title match, although Nealy said Sunday’s success could hatch an earlier screening should the U.S. team make it to the knockout rounds.
So paint on your game face and arrive early.