I stood behind a frustrated woman wearing a Clint Dempsey jersey. She had had enough.
"It should be like, 4-0!" she said, sharing the sentiments of a packed bar at The Highbury this morning.
We had all witnessed the USA miss multiple chances to break a scoreless draw with Algeria in a match the Americans needed to win to advance to the last 16 and time was growing short.
There were few casual fans among us. I had been among hundreds of people for a Saturday match with England and last Friday's contest with Slovenia. But anyone who creates time on a Wednesday morning to watch the World Cup is truly devoted.
This was a group full of hope. Three guys wearing oversized Uncle Sam hats stood near the back of the bar leading the throng in the Highbury American anthem. It's sung to the tune of Ricky Nelson's 60's hit, "I Will Follow You."
We love you, we love you, we love you
And where you go we'll follow, we'll follow, we'll follow
We're here to cheer the U.S.! The U.S.! The U.S.!
And that's the way we like it! We like it! We like it!
This might seem a little corny on the printed page but trust me; if you're there, it's rousing stuff.
In the true spirit of partisanship, the patrons were grasping to say anything negative about the Algerian team.
"They don't even know their own anthem," was the most biting comment I heard, spoken over a shot of the African squad not singing while their national anthem played at the start of the game.
"I don't know what it's like back home but I'm very tense," said play-by-play announcer Ian Darke.
I can assure you, Ian. It was very tense back home, particularly in this corner of Bay View. It got a whole lot more tense when Algeria's Rafik Djebbour hit a rocket off the crossbar in the sixth minute. The U.S. barely avoided playing from behind again. It appeared the Americans would take their first lead of the tournament when Dempsey scored off a pass from the wonderfully-named Herculez Gomez, but Dempsey was ruled offside. Replays showed the call was incorrect.
That, coupled with Maurice Edu's disallowed winner against Slovenia and many other near misses today and you had to wonder if Team USA was feeling cursed; doomed to a 0-0 result and an early trip home.
Color analyst and former U.S. national player John Harkes flagrantly flouted the "no cheering in the press box rule," doing some on-the-air coaching.
"The U.S. needs to show more patience. They have to attack but must be careful not to get too many men forward and get caught on the counter," Harkes repeatedly announced words to that effect during the telecast.
It was 0-0 at halftime. People at the bar talked nervously about things other than the game, whistling past the graveyard. Scoreless in the 60th minute. The 70th. The 80th.
England, meanwhile, led Slovenia 1-0. The U.S. players would get no help from the central European side. They needed to score a goal.
Still scoreless in the 90th minute. If it had ended at this point, the lasting image most American fans would take away from the cup would have been Coach Bob Bradley's oft-photographed grimaces at his team's near misses.
But then suddenly, it wasn't 0-0 anymore.
In the 91st minute, Josey Altidore led a breakaway. His shot was deflected by Dempsey to Algerian keeper Rais Bolihi. Bolihi made the save but left a rebound on the doorstep for Landon Donovan, who poked in the game-winner, rescuing his team who were just minutes from elimination.
The crowd at the Highbury cried out for joy, jumping around like it was the start of the fourth quarter at Camp Randall, high-fiving total strangers, getting soaked by a beer shower that drenched nearly everyone. The last time I witnessed unleashed emotion like this in person was when I was in the stands at Miller Park for Ryan Braun's late September 2008 walk-off grand slam that kept the Brewers' playoff hopes alive.
The importance of Donovan's goal cannot be overstated. Had the U.S. players not scored, they would have been sent home to an American sports audience that in large part is skeptical about soccer. And they would have been dispatched by a scoreless draw, the life blood of that skepticism.
Instead it was a thrilling finish that will become an iconic moment in our nation's athletic history. And by advancing to the last 16, the Americans now gain legitimacy on the world stage among the sport's superpowers.
It should have been like 4-0, but 1-0 will do just fine.
Before arriving in Wisconsin, Mark was a TV sports director at stations in Greensboro, the Quad Cities and Fort Smith, Arkansas. He got his first job at the ABC affiliate in Syracuse during his junior year at Syracuse University where he majored in TV and Radio at the Newhouse School.
Mark is an avid fan of all sports. He covered the Packers at Super Bowl XXXI in New Orleans and has also reported on the Final Four, the Daytona 500, the Rose Bowl, the NLCS and the PGA and U.S. Open golf championships. He covered the GMO for 20 years. Mark played soccer in high school and is a passionate supporter of "The Beautiful Game." One of his greatest experiences was attending a UEFA Champions League game hosted by Real Madrid at Bernabeu Stadium.
Mark was born in Philadelphia but has happily made the transition from cheese steaks to cheese heads and is thrilled to now call Wisconsin home. He is currently president of Concannon Communications LLC and working on projects involving, writing, producing, voice-overs and public relations.