PORTLAND, Maine — Wild whoops, raised fists and long, stress-relieving kisses broke out in a pub on Commercial Street on Tuesday afternoon as the United States beat Iran in a do-or-die World Cup soccer match on a big screen television.

The final score was a nail-biting 1-0.

A few tears then followed — but only for a moment before the familiar, three-beat chant of U-S-A, U-S-A, started up at a deafening volume.

“It’s awesome,” said Wade Fleming, as he exited the bar, euphoric. “Everybody on the team came together. It’s beautiful.”

Fleming was one in a crowd of about 100 people who packed into the Irish-themed restaurant and bar RiRa. It’s a regular hangout for Portland soccer fans who like to watch televised matches together, but the World Cup brought in even more people.

Left to right: A team USA soccer fan wears a scarf while watching his team play a World Cup match against Iran in a Portland pub on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. Team USA won 1-0; Cory and Lexti Cadoret watch the United States play Iran in a World Cup soccer match in a Portland pub on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

The crowd was helped along by the USL to Portland organization who sent out invitations. The group hopes to get a professional United Soccer League team installed in town in the next few years.

“The beauty of soccer is the sense of place you get, like this USA crowd,” said Gabe Hoffman-Johnson, the organization’s leader. “We want the same thing for Portland.”

Hoffman said the daytime World Cup match was a good draw.

“Any chance to get people together for soccer is good,” he said.

Many of the fans on hand said they were aware of the political turmoil going on in Iran at the moment and that they were sympathetic to Irianians seeking freedom. But for the game, it was U.S.A., all the way.

Team USA soccer fans cheer their on television during World Cup match against Iran in a Portland pub on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. Team USA won and will play again on Saturday. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

“Soccer is soccer,” said Josh Cadoret. “The world is a wild place to be right now but this is about us making our mark on the world soccer stage.”

Cadoret was with his brother and sister-in-law. All were dressed in red, white and blue.

“I saved up enough time off from work to be here — and for the rest of the games, if they go on winning,” Cadoret said.

The United States’ victory was their first over Iran in World Cup action. The two squads played once before, at the 1998 World Cup in France. Iran won the group stage match 2-1.

The United States hasn’t had formal diplomatic ties to Iran since the revolution and hostage crisis of 1979.

Team U.S.A. will now advance to the final 16 teams for the first time since 2014 and will play the Netherlands on Saturday.

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Troy R. Bennett

Troy R. Bennett is a Buxton native and longtime Portland resident whose photojournalism has appeared in media outlets all over the world.