MERRILLVILLE | Robert Suarez, of Lowell, and his daughter Allison Suarez, 12, wore their U.S. soccer team loyalty on their sleeves Thursday, and around their necks, and on their heads.
The father and daughter both wore team USA shirts and scarves to Catch 22 in Merrillville to watch the U.S. play Germany in Thursday's World Cup soccer match.
Allison wore a headband with flag-themed, star-shaped antennae while her dad chose a U.S. soccer baseball cap.
They brought small U.S. flags to wave as well.
Robert Suarez said his father played professional soccer in Mexico and amateur soccer in Chicago. Suarez and his family are season ticket-holders for the Chicago Fire.
The elder Suarez also coached soccer in the region in the 1970s. He said that was when he saw Americans getting more interested in what was then considered more of a European or South American game.
"The big thing that changed it as far as I was concerned was getting the girls involved then," he said. "Those girls grew up and became mommies and wanted to keep up with it and got their sons and daughters playing now."
Suarez calls himself "a soccer missionary," trying to convert nonfans.
"I take nonfans along to Fire games all the time, and I've never taken someone that didn't wind up hooked on the game," he said. "They say, 'It's so slow and boring,' but that just means they don't yet understand the sport."
Maria Moschinger, of Lafayette, joined her boyfriend and his family on a couch in front of the big-screen TV a few feet from the Suarez family Thursday. Moschinger said the group was traveling from Lafayette to Lake Michigan's shores and searched online for a good place to stop to watch the game.
"I feel exhausted just watching this," she said. "These guys are such amazing athletes."
Like the Suarez family, they, too, donned red, white and blue.
Joe Vought, of Lafayette, is the assistant varsity soccer coach for Twin Lakes High School in Monticello, Ind., and watched the game with his family and Moschinger.
"I wish we would have won that game with Portugal, then we wouldn't have to worry about this," Vought said.
Vought said he is pleased with the increasing interest in soccer sparked by the success of the Americans in the World Cup.
"I just hope it's not temporary," he said. "I think international soccer is just more interesting than (Major League Soccer). Hopefully, it'll get more people interested for the long term."
Suarez said he was nervous about Thursday's match against Germany.
"On paper, we're not supposed to have a chance, but the European powers are all falling out," he said. "Our guys are just so spunky in an all-American way. They won't quit."
Garrett Shoemaker, of Washington, D.C., was in the area on business Thursday and watched the game at Catch 22 with his colleagues. Shoemaker was a goalie in high school and always has been a soccer fan.
"I keep saying it's just like Normandy. We just need to defeat the Germans," Shoemaker said.
In the end, the loss to Germany did not matter. The U.S. advanced on Ghana's loss to Portugal based on goal differential.