Many came dressed to show their patriotic pride. But minutes after the match started, cheers were replaced by silence when Kevin Prince Boateng put Ghana ahead when he stripped the ball from Ricardo Clark in the 5th minute and beat goalkeeper Tim Howard from 16 yards.
The crowed watched nervously as the clock ticked down to the end of the first half, but most remained confident.
"They're going to give us a cardiac arrest," soccer fan Eddie Alcantar said. "But we're going to come back."
Early in the second half, it looked like the prayers of the fans might be answered.
The U.S. came back, and Landon Donovan tied the score with a penalty kick in the 62nd minute after Jonathan Mensah pulled down Clint Dempsey streaking in. But no matter how much the Americans pressured after Asamoah Gyan scored, they couldn't tie it again.
"This team is one of the best USA teams in a long time," said Joe Hill, draped in red, white and blue. "I'm very proud of these guys."
The U.S. didn't come up with the win that would have sent them to the quarterfinals, but fans didn't leave shedding tears.
"It was a hard loss, but we played a great second half," U.S. fan Mishi Schueller said. "Overall, I think (U.S. coach) Bob Bradley made some great decisions, we pushed hard, we left it all on the field."
"In four years, we're going to win it all, I promise you," Mary Grace Bologna added. "Don't you worry."
In the first-ever extra time World Cup game for the U.S., Gyan got the winning goal 3 minutes into overtime when he took a long ball from Andre Ayew over the defense and beat U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra, his teammate on the French club Rennes. Gyan let the ball bounce, took a touch with his chest, and with Jay DeMerit vainly trying to catch up, scored over goalkeeper Tim Howard with a left-footed shot from 16 yards.
"We've made everybody proud," Gyan said. "Not Ghana alone, but all of Africa."
There was no late magic this time to equal Landon Donovan's injury-time goal against Algeria that moved the Americans into the second round. The closest the U.S. came to tying it again was in the 98th minute, when Maurice Edu's header off Donovan's corner kick went wide.
With Howard pushed up, DeMerit's desperation long shot in the final minutes went over the crossbar. Then Dempsey sent a header wide.
At the final whistle, Howard consoled Bocanegra and Maurice Edu collapsed to the ground. Donovan exchanged jerseys with a Ghana player and walked off the field, put on a coat, sat on the bunch and hung his head.
"A stinging, tough defeat," Bradley said. "We knew Ghana was a good team and we didn't get the job done."
Ghana, the only African team left in the tournament, celebrated moving into the quarterfinals against Uruguay on Friday in Johannesburg. In their second World Cup appearance, the Black Stars bettered their 2006 team, which lost to Brazil 3-0 in the second round. That teams beat the Americans 2-1 in the final game of the opening round to send the U.S. home.
"We did it before," Gyan said. "We did it in 2006."
While the U.S. came from behind to draw England 1-1 and Slovenia 2-2 in the first round, the Americans looked ragged the time. They go home pondering a World Cup that could have been so much more. They thrilled the large number of American who were the largest group of overseas ticket buyers, but failed to do as well as the 2002 team, which reached the quarterfinals in the best U.S. finish since 1930.
The defense allowed the first goal in three of four games, and the Americans kept up their record of never coming from behind to win in 29 World Cup matches.
"This is a terrific group and we're proud" Bradley said. "We're also disappointed that we couldn't take it further."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.