Fans roar in North Side pub as U.S. beats Iran, advancing in World Cup

Politics were set aside briefly as Iran and the United States faced elimination Tuesday. The U.S. advances to the knockout round, where it will face the Netherlands on Saturday.

SHARE Fans roar in North Side pub as U.S. beats Iran, advancing in World Cup
Fans at Fado Irish Pub in River North react to the U.S. scoring a goal in Tuesday’s World Cup game against Iran. The Americans advanced to the knockout round against the Netherlands on Saturday.

Fans at Fado Irish Pub in River North react to the U.S. scoring a goal in Tuesday’s World Cup game against Iran. The Americans advanced to the knockout round against the Netherlands on Saturday.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

Thomas Salinas sat on the floor and held his head in his hands as the final whistle blew Tuesday in the United States men’s soccer team’s World Cup game against Iran, sealing the Americans’ 1-0 victory and advancement to the knockout round.

Around him, other spectators cheered, hugged and chanted “USA,” but Salinas, a Texas native dressed in an Uncle Sam costume, lingered on the floor.

“My heart was going to explode. I’m 27 — I’m too young to have a heart attack,” he said.

“We should all get a Purple Heart for this.”

Seth Smith, left in red, Connor King, in blue, watch the U.S. men’s soccer team play Iran in the World Cup game at Fado Irish Pub at 100 W. Grand Ave. in River North.

Seth Smith (left, in red) and Connor King (in blue) watch the U.S. men’s soccer team play Iran on Tuesday. The 2022 World Cup has faced protests over host country Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

The North Side resident was among about 400 spectators watching the game at Fado Irish Pub at the intersection of Grand Avenue and Clark Street on the Near North Side.

The third and final group stage game in the sport’s signature tournament, it was a must-win game for the U.S. team to advance.

After not making it into the 2018 tournament, the U.S. will now move on to the knockout round of 16, playing the Netherlands on Saturday.

“We live to fight another day,” said Ruben Joseph, who said he was a veteran of three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan with the Army.

The 41-year-old took the day off from work to come in from his home in the suburbs to support the team.

“I’m here to make sure the U.S. advances. This only comes around every four years, or for us, every eight years.”

Ruben Joseph watches the U.S. men’s soccer team play Iran in a World Cup game at Fado Irish Pub at 100 W. Grand Ave. in River North.

“We live to fight another day,” said Ruben Joseph, an Army veteran of three tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

The U.S. took the lead late in the first half, but the game remained tense until the end.

“That was a flagrant foul!” said Bill Tilch, after an Iranian player pulled an American to the ground from behind in the final minutes.

The 55-year-old said he wasn’t typically a soccer fan, but he decided to watch given the stakes.

“I’m happy to still be in it,” said the Streeterville resident.

Several on hand didn’t feel great watching because of the controversy around having the World Cup in Qatar, which has been criticized for its treatment of migrant workers in building the stadiums, but they were happy to support the U.S.

“At the end of the day, it all drives discussion and brings people together,” said Greg Brownson, 28.

The Virginia native said he appreciated that the game brought attention to the ongoing protests in Iran.

“It brings a megaphone to these issues.”

Thomas Clemens, (left), Aazam Khan, (center), Vincent Messina, (right) watch the U.S. men’s soccer team play Iran in a World Cup game at Fado Irish Pub at 100 W. Grand Ave. in River North. 

Thomas Clemens (from left), Aazam Khan and Vincent Messina met up to catch the U.S.-Iran game.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

The country has been roiled by protests since the death of Mahsa Amini, an Iranian woman who died under suspicious circumstances in September after being taken into custody by Iranian police.

Aazam Khan, 28, recalled that his mom, who is Muslim, called him “heartbroken” by Amini’s death. “This isn’t about religion, it’s about control,” he said.

On Tuesday however, Khan’s eyes were on the game. The River North resident came to the pub with friends from Dixon who also now live in Chicago. The three played soccer together at Dixon High School.

“Phenomenal match,” Khan said.

Michael Loria is a staff reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times via Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster the paper’s coverage of communities on the South Side and West Side.

Fans react to the U.S. men’s soccer team scoring a goal against Iran in a World Cup game at Fado Irish Pub at 100 W. Grand Ave. in River North.

Fans at Fado Irish Pub in River North react to the U.S. men’s soccer team scoring a goal against Iran in the World Cup on Tuesday.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

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