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U.S. soccer fans at Pulaski Barracks in Germany watch Saturday’s U.S.-Italy World Cup game and celebrate after American Bobby Convey’s pass was deflected into the net by Italian Cristian Zaccardo for a U.S. goal, tying the score 1-1.

U.S. soccer fans at Pulaski Barracks in Germany watch Saturday’s U.S.-Italy World Cup game and celebrate after American Bobby Convey’s pass was deflected into the net by Italian Cristian Zaccardo for a U.S. goal, tying the score 1-1. (Scott Schonauer / S&S)

U.S. soccer fans at Pulaski Barracks in Germany watch Saturday’s U.S.-Italy World Cup game and celebrate after American Bobby Convey’s pass was deflected into the net by Italian Cristian Zaccardo for a U.S. goal, tying the score 1-1.

U.S. soccer fans at Pulaski Barracks in Germany watch Saturday’s U.S.-Italy World Cup game and celebrate after American Bobby Convey’s pass was deflected into the net by Italian Cristian Zaccardo for a U.S. goal, tying the score 1-1. (Scott Schonauer / S&S)

U.S. fans at Pulaski Barracks in Germany watch Saturday’s U.S.-Italy World Cup game.

U.S. fans at Pulaski Barracks in Germany watch Saturday’s U.S.-Italy World Cup game. (Scott Schonauer / S&S)

A U.S. soccer fan waves the American flag at Pulaski Barracks in Germany during Saturday’s U.S.-Italy World Cup game.

A U.S. soccer fan waves the American flag at Pulaski Barracks in Germany during Saturday’s U.S.-Italy World Cup game. (Scott Schonauer / S&S)

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Jubilant American servicemembers waved flags, danced to blaring techno music and marched through downtown chanting “USA! USA!” until early Sunday morning after the U.S. tied Italy in a World Cup match.

The team’s gutsy 1-1 draw Saturday night saved some hope of reaching the next round.

The troops stationed in the city they call “K-town” said the U.S. team deserved a heap of respect for playing with nine men for 43 minutes to tie the three-time World Cup champions.

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Dennis Leon said the team’s performance was inspiring.

“I think the U.S. has showed the rest of the world that we’ve grown up as a soccer country,” said Leon, who traveled from RAF Lakenheath in England to see the game. “Despite [our] having done so well in the last World Cup, they still didn’t respect us this World Cup and to tie against Italy with nine men, I think is a huge achievement. We still have a chance.”

A victory over Ghana on Thursday combined with an Italy victory over the Czech Repbulic will put the Americans into the second round.

The game served as a potent adrenaline shot for Americans who began partying well before first half.

The late start providing plenty of opportunity for some “pre-gaming” at bars and in the city streets.

City officials predicted as many as 200,000 people would descend downtown due to how close Italy is and the roughly 50,000 Americans stationed at bases spread throughout the area.

Most Americans seized the chance to witness what some have called the United States’ best soccer performances in history. So many people crowded the center of Kaiserslautern that people climbed atop picnic tables and scaled building ledges to see outdoor big-screen TVs.

Americans who didn’t want to brave the large downtown crowds or fight the traffic gathered at the World Cup Fest at Pulaski Park in nearby Pulaski Barracks. A crowd, filled mostly with families, watched the game on a 400-square-foot jumbo television screen.

Many fans had low expectations of the U.S. beating Italy after the team lost to Czech Republic 3-0 five days earlier.

But the game was filled with the type of drama and action that defied American soccer critics who call the sport boring. The U.S. was down a goal, then tied it 1-1, and then hung onto the draw behind a pair of big saves by goalkeeper Kasey Keller after two players received red cards.

“Italy is a tough team, and we’ve never beaten them,” said Air Force Senior Airman Danny Scofield, who is stationed down the road at Ramstein Air Base. “It was inspiring. We earned respect tonight.”

Regardless of the score, some Americans were just happy to be in Germany and enjoying the hoopla and festivities surrounding the most-watched sporting event in the world.

Army Sgt. Keith Noon, a soldier based in Oklahoma, came to Kaiserslautern during his two-week leave from his deployment to Kuwait.

“I’m having a blast,” he said. “It’s good times. I’m really glad to be here and glad I came.”

Judging by the many flag-waving Americans dancing in the streets, he wasn’t the only one.

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