CONROE, Texas—An auditorium at Star Cinema Grill was transformed into a massive World Cup watch party Sunday.
Young players from the Challenge Soccer Club wore their uniforms, and some even painted their faces for the big match between the U.S. and Japan.
Sophia Mundy, now a coach for Challenger, watched the match with a twinge of envy.
"Yeah I’m absolutely jealous of them would be the first impression that I have," said Mundy. "But so happy for them."
Mundy once played professionally for the Atlanta Beat, but left the game after knee surgery. She knows some of the players on the U.S. Women’s National Team.
"I played with a lot of those players and played against a lot of those players," she said.
But no one in the auditorium watched quite as intently as Dave "Smitty" Smith. He coached a few of the girls who played for the world title.
"Just seeing some of those young ladies when they were 15 and 16 and now here they are 8 to 10 years, later playing in a world arena, it’s just fantastic," said Smith.
Smith used to coach national youth soccer and said he keeps in touch with two players, midfielder Heather O’Reilly and defender Rachel Buehler.
"With O’Reilly, she was an instant hit and two years later, she won an Olympic medal in Greece," said Smith.
He said the story on Buehler is quite different.
"No one would have thought she would have made this level, no one," said Smith. "I don’t say that in a negative way. She put a big smile on my face."
So when Japan beat the U.S. on penalty kicks, you can imagine Smith’s reaction.
"Obviously devastated," he said. "What they did really I think is generate a great buzz for this sport again in this country and it can only make us better."