They heard about people back home watching during their lunch breaks, streaming on office computers or playing hooky. Then as the bus pulled away from the hotel Thursday, the U.S. World Cup team was struck with an unusual sight. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of fans in red, white and blue, walking for miles around stalled cars on flooded streets and highways, making their way to the stadium. "That kind of passion to root us on is what really helps drive us," defender Omar Gonzalez said. "Now we give them another game to go to." No late goals. No win. But despite a 1-0 loss to Germany, the United States reached the knockout stage of consecutive World Cups for the first time. Thomas Mueller scored off a rebound in the 55th minute to give Germany first place in Group G. But the Americans held onto second when Portugal beat Ghana 2-1 in Brasilia.
The Americans face Belgium in the round of 16 Tuesday.
Two minutes after Mueller's goal, Ghana's Asamoah Gyan tied the score, leaving his team a goal from tying the Americans with four points and moving ahead on the second tiebreaker, goals scored. But Cristiano Ronaldo put Portugal ahead in the 80th.
U.S. goalkeeper coach Chris Woods used his fingers to signal "2-1" to Tim Howard. But the keeper was unsure who led.
"Then Woods gave the thumbs up — in our favor," defender Matt Besler said.
Around the same time, the American fans behind the German goal started cheering, having learned of Ronaldo's goal from their electronic devices.
"Kind of calmed me down the last five minutes a little bit," U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said.
Sunday's game, in which Portugal earned a 2-2 tie on a last-minute goal, was seen by 24.7 million viewers on ESPN and Univision. Including online viewers, it was the most-watched soccer game in U.S. history. This game kicked off at noon, and ESPN said its online streaming application set a record with 1.7 million concurrent users for all programs.
Germany had 63 percent possession and nine shots on goal to one for the U.S. It scored when Per Mertesacker's header was parried by Howard into the path of Mueller, who curled in a shot from 18 yards.
But Portugal's one-goal win wasn't enough to overcome the United States in goal differential, the first tiebreaker.
U.S. midfielder Jermaine Jones said after the game, he thought back to a Times Square rally last month, when former national team players Alexi Lalas and Taylor Twellman, now ESPN analysts, predicted the Americans would not advance out of the "Group of Death."
"We showed some people," he said, "people that were talking like we have no chance to come through to the next round."