SOUTH PORTLAND — A crowd of people of all ages, including many women and girls, went absolutely nuts Sunday afternoon at Buffalo Wild Wings sports bar in South Portland – cheering, clapping, pounding on tables, chanting and singing along to Queen’s seminal sports victory anthems “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions.”

Fans said the U.S. women’s national soccer team’s emphatic 2-0 victory over the Netherlands in the FIFA Women’s World Cup final was an inspiring moment, showcasing the athletic prowess of American women and amplifying the national debate over gender parity in the workplace.

“They’ve been showing that women can dominate any kind of sport,” said fan Meg Tartre of Dayton. “And they should be getting paid more.”

Emma Burke, 16, right, her sister, Nicky Burke, 14, and their brother, Riley Burke, 18, react during the Women’s World Cup final on Sunday. The siblings, who are from Pennsylvania and staying in a rental cottage on Sebago Lake, were among the customers gathered at Buffalo Wild Wings in South Portland to watch the championship game. Jill Brady/Staff Photographer

The South Portland crowd was consistently engaged during an intense final that contained a number of clutch saves, near misses, bone-jarring player collisions and questionable referee calls. At times, the fans broke out in chants of “USA! USA! USA!”

Among the sports bar’s roughly 300 patrons for Sunday’s game was 13-year-old Ellis Piper of Cape Elizabeth, a goalkeeper for the Global Premier Soccer youth league’s Maine and national teams. Piper’s team is heading to Gothenburg, Sweden, this month to participate in the Gothia Cup, the largest international youth soccer tournament in the world.

“I play soccer, so obviously I wanted to watch the game,” she said. “I think they’re really good at what they do.”

Tartre and Piper were among a boisterous crowd that erupted in cheers – and occasional jeers and gasps – at pivotal moments during the game. One of the biggest such moments occurred around the 61-minute mark, when the U.S. team’s outspoken star forward Megan Rapinoe scored on a penalty kick to put her team up 1-0 over the Netherlands women’s national football team.

Rapinoe’s tie-breaking score came after a tense moment in which the officials conducted a video review and ultimately determined Netherlands defender Stefanie van der Gragt had fouled U.S. forward Alex Morgan with a kick to the shoulder, The Associated Press reported.

Rapinoe, the team’s purple-haired captain and top scorer, received an encore round of applause when she was substituted out toward the end of the game.

The U.S. team’s second score from midfielder Rose Lavelle, who landed an 18-foot shot around the 69-minute mark after a solo run up the center of the field, also drew thunderous cheers and applause inside the sports bar. The 24-year-old Lavelle is regarded as an up-and-coming star for the U.S.

Women’s professional soccer has sparked controversy in recent months, most notably when a group representing the U.S. national team’s 28 players sued the U.S. Soccer Federation in March, claiming gender discrimination in wages and other terms of employment.

Rapinoe also has drawn both condemnation and support from various groups – including insults from an angry President Trump – by saying repeatedly that she and her teammates would refuse to visit the White House.

At Buffalo Wild Wings on Sunday, tournament viewers seemed to be focused on how the U.S. team’s success has brought people together, rather than how it has divided some fans.

“My dad is 92 years old – he’s in an assisted-living facility – and I’ve been going there and watching the games with him,” Biddeford resident Carol LaMontagne said.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: