Although the nation is in mourning, there are some positives to take away from yesterday's defeat. (ussoccer.com)
United States goalkeeper Tim Howard played the game of his life yesterday, saving 16 shots, the most saves in a World Cup game for almost 50 years. But it was Howard who found himself lying on his back staring at the Brazil sky in disbelief, as his side was sent crashing out of the World Cup in the Round of 16 for the third consecutive time.
With goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku in the first half of extra-time, Belgium moves on to the quarterfinals to face Argentina this Saturday.
Nineteen-year-old midfielder Julian Green gave all of America false hope when he volleyed home a lofted ball from midfielder Michael Bradley in the 107th minute. There would be no heroics, there would be no last-second goal, there would only be disappointment and heartache as the final whistle sounded.
Just before the final whistle sounded on the first 90, U.S. forward Chris Wondolowski had a golden opportunity just a few yards in front of goal, but a lack of technique sent the ball into orbit. The United States was outplayed from whistle-to-whistle.
Slow in the midfield, indecisive in attack and struggling to hold possession, this U.S. side never looked like advancing past today. They had 70 clearances against Belgium; the most by any team in a single game this World Cup. Even that number seems a bit low for how often they were pushed into Howard’s box.
De Bruyne was a menace the whole game, but the dynamic of the Belgium attack changed when Lukaku came on in extra-time. Belgium started pacey striker Divock Origi, who caused problems on his own with his quick feet and acceleration inside the box to get past defenders. But when Lukaku came on, he was able to out-strength the U.S. defense and have his way with whatever it was he wanted to do. Lukaku bullied defenders and was at the heart of both goals, setting up the first and scoring the second.
Even though the nation is in mourning, there were some positives to take from yesterday.
Fullback DeAndre Yedlin was a sight for sore eyes, giving the United States tons of pace on the wings and creating numerous chances, definitely a name to keep an eye out in the future as I suspect he’ll be at the core of this new generation of U.S. soccer.
Green showed why he is highly rated throughout the soccer world, providing that ounce of magic it takes to win games. That ounce of magic just wasn’t enough, this time.
Defender Geoff Cameron had a brilliant World Cup, minus his miscue against Portugal, and is only going to be 32 during the next World Cup.
Defender Omar Gonazlez is going to be 29, and defender John Brooks, the American savior, is going to be 25 for the next World Cup. They should be the center backs of the future.
Now that the World Cup is over, the United States turns its attention to the women’s national team as they prepare for their World Cup qualifying which takes place in the fall.