U.S. rally in extra time falls short, World Cup ends for Americans 2-1 to Belgium.
By Robert Wagman
(Tuesday, July 1, 2014) -- The United States men’s rally in extra time fell just short and the Americans were eliminated from the Round of 16 in the FIFA World Cup 2-1 to Belgium, a team that dominated the match this afternoon before 51,227 at Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, Brazil.
U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard had a career day, making 16 saves, a record from World Cup recorded history, in the losing effort.
The bottom line was Belgium simply had too many players better than any in a U.S. uniform. Belgium coach Marc Wilmots fielded players, such as midfielders Marouane Fellaini, Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard, center-back Vincent Kompany striker Romelu Lukaku and keeper Thibaut Courtois. It did not matter that, between injuries and suspensions, Wilmots was missing four starters..
As what seems like the rule and not the exception, U.S. coach Jürgen Klinsmann made an unexpected lineup change, inserting Geoff Cameron into the midfield, even though he had only been used as a center-back in this World Cup. In reality, Cameron acted as a fifth defender and one that was much in need as the match progressed.
A major problem for the Americans came in the 32nd minute when standout right back Fabian Johnson went down with a hamstring injury. Klinsmann surprised many by inserting 20-year-old speedster DeAndre Yedlin, who plays midfield for his Major League Soccer club, the Seattle Sounders.
The whole match was a long, uphill climb for the U.S. Belgium blasted its first shot at Howard after just 39 seconds. From that point on, except for the first few minutes of the second half, the Americans were constantly off balance with opponents running at them from all angles. Were it not for Howard’s heroics, and some questionable Belgium finishing, the match would have been over by halftime with the U.S. down multiple goals.
Once again, as has been the case in all of its matches in this World Cup, the U.S. was largely absent any kind of offense. Occasionally, a ball would drop favorably, or a player would come through with an individual effort, but, for the most part, the Americans were back on their heels defending so often it really made no effort on attack during the 90 minutes of regular time.
That changed in the 30 minutes of overtime after Belgium went ahead 2-0. Then, nineteen-year-old reserve Julian Green, using his first touch of the match, volleyed fellow midfielder Michael Bradley’s looping feed into the right side of the net, allowing the U.S. to close to within 2-1 and giving the Americans life.
The U.S. seemed to catch its collective wind and besieged the Belgium, goal looking for the equalizer. Several players had great chances, but could not score and twice Courtois showed why he is considered one of the world’s best young keepers to keep the Red Devils ahead.
Four years ago in the World Cup in South Africa, almost to the day, Ghana scored early in extra time to eliminate the U.S. from that competition. It happened again today when Kevin De Bruyne planted a low shot into the left side of the net to put Belgium ahead 1-0.
Moments before the end of the first of two 15-minute extra periods, late substitute Romelu Lukaku made it 2-0.
The U.S. defied expectations by finishing second at 1-1-1 and advancing from the so-called Group of Death into the knockout round. The Americans made progress at this World Cup, displaying a never-say-die attitude, but it also demonstrated just how far away the U.S. is from joining the ranks of the world’s soccer elite. Belgium triumphed simply because it was a better team.
U.S. Player Ratings
Goalkeeper Tim Howard - 9: One of the greatest performances by a U.S. keeper ever. The only game that comes close is Kasey Keller’s shutout of Brazil in 1998.
Defender DaMarcus Beasley - 6: He was able to use his speed to create some chances and he was not easily beaten defensively, despite facing some formidable opponents. He had a strong match.
Defender Matt Besler - 6.5: This was his best match of this World Cup. He was often put under pressure, but except for a slip and fall that enabled Belgium’s first goal, he was up to the task all day..
Defender Omar Gonzalez - 6.5: He got better as the match progressed. He won balls in the air with consistency and was able to range to both sides, making defensive stops..
Defender Fabian Johnson - 5.5: He was just settling into the match when he went down with the injury. It was clear the U.S. missed him for the remainder of the contest.
Midfielder Michael Bradley - 6. No U.S. player ran as far or played as hard, but the results really did not match the effort, except for the exquisite pass he made on Green’s goal.
Midfielder Jermaine Jones - 7.5: Again he played himself into exhaustion. Overall, he had a terrific World Cup and this match was no different.
Midfielder Geoff Cameron -- 6: Played well at a position what is difficult for him.
Midfielder Alejandro Bedoya - 4: Over the full 90 minutes, he did not add much offensively to the U.S. cause. Made a good defensive effort, but the U.S. needed much more from him.
Midfielder Graham Zusi - 4.5: He simply did not have a good match. He contributed little and was ready to come out well before the end.
Forward Clint Dempsey - 5.5: No one can find fault with the effort he put out but, again, the results were lagging. Had one golden chance to knot the score, but could only push the ball at the keeper.
Defender DeAndre Yedlin (32nd minute for Johnson) - 5.5: He brought energy and pace to the match, but what he does not yet possess is experience and judgment. He was often caught well out of position and that often allowed Belgium to take off on easy counters.
Forward Chris Wondolowski (72nd minute for Zusi) - 4: His reputation is as an opportunistic goal scorer. When he had the match on his foot deep in extra time, he could not deliver.
Midfielder Julian Green (90th minute for Bedoya) - 7: Scored a goal on his first touch of the game; one can’t ask much more of a youngster. He is one of the players of the future for the U.S.
SoccerTimes U.S. Player of the Match: Tim Howard.
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
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