SALVADOR, BRAZIL – US Soccer fans left a humid Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador Tuesday night, disappointed but with their heads held high after the American men's national team fell 2-1 in extra time to Belgium in the Round of 16 of the World Cup.
While a late goal by 18-year old Julian Green have a burst of hope to U.S. fans it was not enough to lift the U.S. over the Belgian squad.
Despite the loss, hundreds of U.S. fans stayed in the stands on the stadium after the game to chant "U-S-A, U-S-A" as grateful American players Kyle Beckerman and Geoff Cameron waved to fans and gave their thanks.
The U.S. team bus left the Are a Fonte Nova about an hour after the match but was not able to evade U.S. fans who cheered their fallen heroes from the street and an army of Brazilian police cars and motorcycles guarded the players on their way back to the team's hotel.
The American squad may not have been able to pull of the win to go and face Argentina in Brasilia in the Round of 8, but most fans say that the 2014 World Cup was a huge victory for soccer in the U.S. nonetheless. Thousands of supporters made the journey to cities like Natal, Manaus and Recife to cheer on their team in person and many more supported them at home, including an estimated 25,000 yesterday at Soldier Field in Chicago.
"It's growing and people are really coming around the sport," said Steve Schaller, a U.S. Soccer fan in Salavador told Fox News Latino. "Back home the sport has been amazing."
In Rio de Janeiro, upward of 20,000 people, mostly Americans, packed the golden sands of Copacabana beach in front of a giant TV screen set up in the FIFA Fan Fest watch area in Rio.
Fans stood and cheered the entire time, packed tightly and with barely any wiggle room to get through the crowd.
Like many fans, Travis Rood, a 28-year-old from Seattle, his face painted red, white and blue and an American flag draped around his shoulder, started to leave the beach after Belgium went up 2-0.
But Rood froze in his tracks and turned around after the U.S. scored a late goal to spark hope that ultimately faded with the final whistle.
"This World Cup was a turning point for us," he said. "People around the world are beginning to respect us as a team."
A common refrain, Rood said there was no shame in losing to the young, talented Belgian team, who now move on to a tough quarter-final match with Argentina.
"They're a small country but on paper," he said of Belgium. "But they're twice as good as we are at soccer."
At a pub in Sao Paulo, Brazil's biggest city, it got so packed people were sitting on the floor to watch the match. They shouted every time U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard made a spectacular save — which he did 16 times.
Many of the American faithful in Sao Paulo were shouting the U.S. chant of "I believe that we will win" throughout the game. Some added emphatically "We love you!" for their team.
But in the end, most acknowledged that Belgium played a much better game, saying the U.S. waited too long to go on the attack.
"Belgium just played much better. They deserve it," said Nick Venditti, a 26-year-old from New York. "I am still happy we made it out of the 'group of death.' That wasn't easy."
He added, hopefully: "In the next four years, we will be so much better."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Follow Andrew O'Reilly on Twitter @aoreilly84.