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Duluth pub becomes World Cup central

Bret Busakowski (from left), Thomas Farell and Mark Florence react to a play during the first half of Monday’s World Cup soccer game between the U.S. and Ghana. The three were among a crowd of soccer fans watching the game at Dubh Linn Irish Brew Pub in Duluth. (Steve Kuchera /

Jeremy McKay was like a lot of World Cup spectators at Dubh Linn Irish Brew Pub on Monday: ornamented in red, white and blue beads, eyes glued to the big screen, hands praying one second, then arms raised in jubilation as the United States’ men’s national soccer team scored the game-winner late in its World Cup opener against Ghana.

McKay was joined by a couple hundred others who were going bananas at the Superior Street pub, which has transformed itself into World Cup central.

“As much as there can be a soccer destination in Duluth, this is the place to be,” said McKay, a one-time soccer player for Proctor, then the University of Wisconsin-Superior. “It’s kind of gotten around by word of mouth.”

Dubh Linn owner Mike Maxim said his pub earned its reputation — and the wall-to-wall guests — naturally. Even when not in World Cup season, their televisions are often found tuned to international soccer games. Local soccer coaches stop in all the time. The bartender Monday was a University of Minnesota Duluth soccer alum.

“Coaches are always in here,” Maxim said. “The soccer started seeping in.”

Maxim’s brother, Seth, another soccer enthusiast, made a special brew for the United States’ opener, calling it ’Murica – a mild pale ale Maxim compared to Summit.

“It’s a good pizza beer,” Maxim said.

Everywhere Monday, stars and stripes dominated. Chants of “U-S-A” rose and fell. The emotion of the crowd spread throughout the place as folks watched on two giant screens as well as other monitors dispersed throughout the building. Emotion was as tangible as the swelling and falling of the waves on Lake Superior; one moment’s collective “Whoa!” followed by a sea of groans.

Among the throng of 20-something-year-old men who dominated the place, one row of the pub’s impromptu stadium seating was filled with a group of men from Africa.

Daniel Cheruiyot and his friends rose like rockets when Ghana scored the equalizer in the 82nd minute, shouting, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” It was a short-lived tie, and the U.S. responded four minutes later to take a 2-1 victory.

“I’m supporting all the African teams,” said Cheruiyot, a College of St. Scholastica student by way of Kenya. “But, definitely at the end, I’ll be rooting for Ghana. I’m very disappointed. The United States got lucky.”

He’s not completely wrong. Ghana played foil to the Americans in each of the past two World Cups and dominated passages of play at times in this most recent affair. Cheruiyot said he and his friends came to Dubh Linn to soak in the celebratory soccer atmosphere.

“I want to be out where the people are,” he said, “for the competition and for the camaraderie.”

That’s music to Maxim’s ears. He said U.S. momentum in the tournament will only increase the frenzy surrounding the games. He added five staff to Monday’s game after the pub packed the place for Saturday’s much-hyped England-Italy match.   

“I knew then the U.S. game was going to be insane,” he said.

Mission accomplished.

“U.S. success helps immensely,” he said. “It’s helps with the entire energy. I compare it to when the Wild are making a playoff run. People want to be a part of the excitement.”

The diehard McKay couldn’t have been more pleased. He’s impressed with what new coach Jürgen Klinsmann has brought to the American party.

“It’s really neat for a lot of us who have played the game since we were three,” McKay said, “to finally see us taking a European approach to the game.”

If Dubh Linn Pub is a guide, a raucous European approach has come to the American way of soccer cheering, too.