Local fans gather for World Cup watch party

BOSTON -- Mike Williams' lunch break couldn't have come at a better time on Thursday.

Working in Boston's downtown financial district, Williams, along with several of his co-workers, made the decision to head several blocks over from the office to City Hall Plaza, where Boston mayor Marty Walsh was hosting a viewing party for Team USA's World Cup game against Germany.

It wasn't your typical Thursday lunch break, Williams pointed out. There was no half-hour rush for food or hourlong sit-down at a restaurant nearby. Instead, Williams and his co-workers decided -- on their own terms -- to take an extended break, one that would conveniently end at the conclusion of the soccer game.

"We were a little proactive on that," Williams said.

Nor were they alone as thousands in Boston made their way to City Hall Plaza despite a noontime kickoff to see Team USA lose 1-0 to Germany in pool play. Although the crowd was small at first, fans of all ages continued to fill the plaza as play went on, all cheering vigorously as a Portugal win over Ghana Thursday afternoon sent the U.S. to the round of 16 at the World Cup.

"The thing that makes soccer so special is that whole communal feel of being at the event together, cheering together, singing together," New England Revolution team president Brian Bilello said. "It's a sport where you want to be with others when you're supporting and I think you see that here."

Following the success of their House of Blues watch party Sunday evening for the U.S.'s game against Portugal, the Revolution worked with the mayor's office and the city of Boston to get Thursday's event together on short notice.

"I know they're excited about soccer and the potential for soccer in the city," Bilello said. "They thought it would be great to get people out to City Hall Plaza and of course we were more than happy to try to support that."

Bilello got things started roughly 20 minutes before kickoff, leading the crowd in an inspiring chant of "I believe that we will win," the de facto cheer for this year's team. He then handed the microphone over to Mayor Walsh, who pleaded with everyone in attendance to cheer loud enough for the team to hear them down in Brazil.

Walsh wasted no time doing his part, ending his speech with a chant of "USA!" that the entire crowd joined.

"I love World Cup soccer -- it's the best," said Walsh, wearing a custom-made No. 14 Team USA away jersey with his name on the back. "The people that are watching -- if they don't like soccer, they think it's boring -- if they watch the game, watch how they pass the ball and kick it, it's unbelievable."

A soccer fan himself, Walsh shied away from offering a score prediction for the game but correctly guessed that it would be close as the U.S. was the first team to hold the highly touted Germans to a single goal during Cup play this year. Furthermore, Walsh made it clear that the city will look to continue holding watch parties for games as World Cup play continues into the next round.

"As long as we're in this tournament we will have the games on at City Hall Plaza for the rest of the tournament," Walsh said.

Plan your extended breaks accordingly.