USA Eliminated From World Cup After Loss to Belgium
The run had to end sometime, but unfortunately for US fans it was in the round of 16 at the hands of the Belgians. Even a miracle performance from Tim Howard could not keep the USA in it, but he tried. Howard’s 16 saves were the most in a World Cup game in 50 years. That is unreal.
Jurgen Klinsmann deployed a 4-3-3 formation for the match with Geoff Cameron in for Kyle Beckerman and Omar Gonzalez starting in central defense. It was a defensive formation that saw the US pull back with 10 behind the ball for most of the match, and saw Howard get peppered with shots for 90 minutes and extra time.
Chances for the US were few and far between in the first half, with the best being a curler from Clint Dempsey that flew right into the hands of Courtois late in the half. Going into the half at 0-0 felt like a win for the Americans. However, the most important concern for the US came in the 32nd minute when right back Fabian Johnson had to be taken off with a hamstring injury. DeAndre Yedlin, not Timmy Chandler, was brought on for Johnson. The 20 year-old Seattle man was thrown into the fire having to defend against a world-class player like Eden Hazard.
Early into the second half Belgium kept throwing players forward at the US defense, but could not find anything past Tim Howard. It was clear that Howard was playing the game of his life in Salvador. Chance after chance was denied by Howard and the US defense, and it appeared extra time was imminent. However, into regular time injury time the US launched its best chance of the night ending with Chris Wondolowski getting in behind the defense, but he could not finish the shot on his first time hit 4 meters out. It was a chance of a lifetime, but Wondo could not finish, and the match headed to extra time.
Belgium kicked off the first period of extra time with a goal just 3 minutes in, and it was in similar fashion to the Ghana match from years ago that knocked the US out. Romelu Lukaku powered into the penalty area and cut the ball back, it deflect off of Matt Besler’s outstretched foot and Kevin De Bruyne scored. There was nothing Tim Howard could do to keep it out, he had finally been beaten. But the USA still had a chance with 27 minutes left in ET. That was until the 105th minute when Romelu Lukaku scored a second for Belgium, game over, right?
Julian Green came on at the end of the first ET period for the US and gave them a spark. His first touch of the game was a goal from a fabulous chipped ball into the box by Michael Bradley, and the USA had a dying chance to tie the match. Belgium were put on the back foot for the rest of the period, and the US hammered away at them. The best chance to get a goal at the death came in the 113th minute on a free kick. It was marvelously worked as Clint Dempsey peeled off the wall to be put in on goal by a Chris Wondolowski pass, but his shot was blocked away by a diving Courtois. That was it, and the US were done in Brazil. A 2-1 loss to Belgium saw them off.
It was an amazing performance from Tim Howard, but in the end it wasn’t enough. I have to think this could be Howard’s final competitive tournament for the US, he’s 35 years old and has Brad Guzan waiting in the wings. With that being said, he’s one of the best to ever put on a US jersey, if not the best. Our great country filled stadiums and squares to watch soccer. Cities and towns across the country fought every second along with our national team, and that is something we have never seen before. Soccer is going places in this country, I can assure you of that. Our job now as Americans is to support our league of MLS. Many of our national team players play in MLS and the talent is there. We have to now support that talent on the domestic stage as well as the international. It’s our sport, America, let’s get behind it, because we are the closest we have ever been to making a World Cup a realistic goal. We have the fans, the coach, and now some of the players to do so, let’s stay believing in this team, and this sport in this country.
Sports Kings contributor Cody Maggard