Local soccer fans are consoling themselves after Japan beat the U.S. women's team Sunday by noting the Japanese troubles at home.

But does it make losing any easier?

"Knowing what all Japan went through kind of takes the sting out of losing," Dori-Lynn Coburn of Hanahan said after watching the U.S. team in a shootout Sunday at the Madra Rua Irish Pub in North Charleston.

The Japanese were looking to lift their national spirit as they continue to recover from a devastating earthquake, analysts noted, and they did it. They beat the U.S. team in a series of shootout kicks to break a tie.

"You couldn't have picked a better team to lose to, if you had to lose," Dave Koller of Buffalo, N.Y., who is stationed at the Charleston Air Base, said after the game, "They hung in there. They fought hard."

He also watched the game at Madra Rua, along with Mike Mangum of Daniel Island.

"I was definitely disappointed in the way it finished," said Mangum, who leads a soccer club at the pub called the American Outlaws. "The penalty kicks were a shock to me. We're better than that. But if there was ever a team that was going to beat us, thank goodness it was Japan. They needed it."

About 125 people crowded into Madra Rua for the game. About the same number gathered at the Three Lions Club, a shrine to soccer on the second floor of Blackbaud Stadium, home of The Charleston Battery.

Little American flags decorated the tables. The wait staff sported stars and stripes shirts.

"I feel sorry for the Japanese people, not for the team," Zach Whiteman of Franklin, Tenn., a rising senior who was in Charleston for the Ralph Lundy Soccer Academy at the College of Charleston, said before the kickoff.

"The U.S. should win, right?" Kevin O'Neil of Mount Pleasant said. "They should."

Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553.