Brazil 2014: World Cup Round of 16 – USMNT 1-2 Belgium
The dream is over and OTF’s Joe Maskivish brings the USMNT vs. Belgium review…
With that, it’s over. In a game that fully encompassed the United States’ play in Brazil, the Yanks lost 2-1 in extra time against the upstart Belgians. This match was equal parts Ghana, Portugal and Germany and in the end the sum of those parts is a trip home.
Dominating possession, in common with many of the Nats’ opponents, Belgium played the part of aggressor. Were it not for a legendary performance by Tim Howard the score line would have looked much worse. Had the U.S. pulled this one out, Howard’s performance would have gone down in American sporting lore.
The Americans were able to weather the first half storm and get to the locker room with the game knotted at 0-0. This defensive performance was highlighted by DeAndre Yedlin’s entrance into the game in the 32nd minute for an injured Fabian Johnson.
Surely many Americans held their collective breath at the thought of a half and change of Yedlin against Eden Hazard, but the young Seattle Sounder held his own.
The lapses were there, but not plentiful. Mostly we saw Yedlin’s courage to get forward on the attack. Conversely, Hazard was hardly dangerous throughout, much to the credit of Yedlin.
The U.S. should have felt fortunate in their halftime position, and it was evident the game plan for the next 45 would be to hold things down defensively and steal a goal late. What a game plan it almost was: Chris Wondolowski’s wide-open chance in stoppage time would have been a highlight for generations to come. If it had gone in.
It’s easy to say a world class striker buries that chance, but the statement would be a disservice to fate. Frankly, it just wasn’t meant to be and the ball bounced feebly off his boot and over the bar, robbing the country of a momentous memory.
On to extra time we went, with the issue still in doubt and the knowledge that the affair could go either way. It didn’t take long for reality to set in. Going into the match and the World Cup in general, it was common knowledge the U.S. were playing against the odds. The lofty ambitions of a nation were brought down to earth three minutes into extra time as Kevin De Bruyne knocked home a shot after a strong run by the powerful Romelu Lukaku.
As if to drive the point home, Lukaku appeared to seal the deal by netting his own goal in the 105th minute. At that point, the valiant effort was for naught. Or was it?
Julian Green had yet to play in the tournament. It was obvious this was a learning trip for him. It was a surprise to many that he even made the squad; it was believed he came along to gain valuable experience for down the road.
Whether Jurgen Klinsmann threw him in to get his feet wet or it was a strategic move to get back in the game, young Julian decided he wanted no part in observing.
On his first touch, Green lobbed a world class shot into the back of the net from an equally world class pass from Michael Bradley (where was that all tournament?). With that, hope was restored. From Green’s goal in the 107th minute to the final whistle, the Americans fought on with a rarely seen sense of urgency.
However, despite shot after shot, the Yanks were unable to find the net again and after one minute of stoppage time, despite several minutes of blatant time wasting, the final whistle blew.
Make no mistake, Belgium deserved this win as the better team on the day. But the cold, hard truth doesn’t make the sting hurt any less.
The narrative of this World Cup for the Americans will be written over time. For now, as Americans we can hold our heads high by the effort put forth. As with any game, any tournament, moments in time stick and often lead to the second-guessing of decisions.
There will be a time and place for such discussion, in the interim, hats off the boys for the effort in this match and on we march to the Gold Cup, Copa America, the Olympics and beyond.
Before closing the book on this game, let’s look back at what we were wondering going in:
Can the defensive duo of Jermaine Jones and Kyle Beckerman shut down the ultra-talented Eden Hazard?
The defensive work to keep Hazard quiet came from an unexpected source: DeAndre Yedlin. Yedlin’s speed allowed him to make up for the mistakes any young player in his position would make, and the Chelsea star – Hazard – was a non-factor.
If Altidore suits up, will we see him come off the bench?
Jozy did suit up, but didn’t see the field. The time since his injury was not enough to fully recover and Altidore is surely disappointed with his Brazil experience.
Will the U.S. appear fatigued as the game progresses, coming off a rough group stage?
During points at the end of the game, the U.S. did appear fatigued. It’s incredibly difficult to chase as much as they did in this tournament and win.
Will the first team to two goals win?
Final score 2-1 Belgium.
Can the U.S. make it through a match without someone breaking his nose?
The hamstring took over as the injury du jour for the Americans, as Fabian Johnson was forced out early. Injuries happen to all teams in a grueling tournament such as this and the injury bug made sure to take a bite out of the Yanks.
OTF Man of the Match: Tim Howard
Timmy stood on his head and without his effort this game would not have been close. If this is his last World Cup game, or even last game for the Stars and Stripes, he went out with a bang and played incredibly well
Need more World Cup and USMNT chat?
OTF’s Joe Maskivish will be tracking USMNT’s World Cup preparations and progress until the boys come back from Brazil. Follow him @JoeMaskivish.