USMNT Report: Bested By Belgium As Brazil Run EndsThe United States’ run in the 2014 FIFA World Cup has come to an end
by Herb Scribner | Wednesday, July 02, 2014
Four years of qualifying, friendlies and analysis have come to a close, as the United States Men’s National Team bowed out of its Brazilian campaign with a 2-1 loss to Belgium.
In a game where the USA was surely bested, and heroics and drama played a part, the United States made large strides forward towards becoming somewhat of a soccer nation.
POST-GAME REACTIONS: Goalkeeper Tim Howard, the hero for the USA and much of its fans, was very open about how heartbreaking this loss was.
"It's heartbreaking," Howard said. "I don't think we could have given any more."
USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann agreed with Howard, saying that the USA gave all it had.
“I think they learned a tremendous amount. I think they all went to their limits. They gave everything they had,” Klinsmann said. “You meet teams like Belgium or you meet teams like Germany and they maybe have a little bit more quality in their program. They beat you after a game like this today you have to give them a compliment and wish them best of luck going forward.”
MAN OF THE MATCH: Tim Howard — The Everton goalkeeper wins Man of the Match for two reasons. His saving ability was off the charts, as he kept the United States in the game and refused to let the Americans go down easily to the Red Devils. Secondly, Howard inspire an array of Internet memes and tweets, essentially becoming a pop culture sensation within those 2 or so hours of play.
ANALYSIS: Don’t let the heroics, drama and close score fool you — this was a bad USA side.
The USMNT was bested by Belgium considerably throughout Tuesday match. Had it not been for Howard’s diving saves and extreme heroics — 16 to be specific, the most saves by a goalkeeper in a single game since 1966 — the USA might have been handed a more depressing result.
Belgium pressed forward a lot and knocked on the door again and again. Eventually, the big bad wolf blew the house down and forced the USA to attack. Few times did the USA have possession. And when the Americans could control the ball, it was easily lost or their counter-attack turned into nothing. That was a main theme for the US against Belgium — the Yanks’ chances and opportunities turned into nothing. Too many times did the USA fail to convert in the final third, wasting the slew of opportunities it was handed throughout the game and into extra time.
On the other side of the field, the USA’s backline was virtually nonexistent and was carved up like it had been in previous affairs. The defensive work that was so vital against Germany in the final game of the group stage disappeared, and it was replaced by a lackluster back four that couldn’t get their play set right. DeAndre Yedlin and DaMarcus Beasley did the best of the bunch. Yedlin excelled with his attacking runs and discipline in the back. Beasley was decent at points, but towards the end of the match his age caught up with him, and he was too slow to make an impact. Part of the reason for defensive lapses might have had to do with Kyle Beckerman being out of the lineup, which forced Michael Bradley to play a little bit more defensively and step away from the attacking role we’ve seen him in this World Cup.
All of this hits on the larger issues the USA continues to face. It’s defense is too prone to giving up goals. And at the other end, the Americans can’t seem to find the back of the net. No matter how many runs Yedlin made up the right — he did play out of his class against Belgium, which will surely raise his stock on the international front — barely anything came of it. Julian Green’s surprise goal at the end was a much-needed score, and a good sign for his future and confidence. But the USMNT still lacks that pure striker up top, which killed them against Belgium. There was no one to put away those floating balls in the box.
The USA showed a lot of positive signs for the future. But for now, things are clear: The Americans can go toe-to-toe with the bigger soccer nations, but aren’t good enough to beat them. Not enough is being done upfront to score, nor enough in the back to keep things calm and even. There’s still a lot to work on.
So now the USA heads back stateside to begin another 4 years of qualifying and preparing for the next World Cup. But the country it returns to is a much different one than when they left. Fans across the country have found a new hope in the USMNT, and the mainstream media has certainly found a new talking point, too. The Americans are in the national conversation, and it seems that it could latch on to the public consciousness.
The USA did lose to Belgium in the Round of 16, and showed there’s plenty of work to be done for Klinsmann over the next World Cup cycle. But surviving the group stage and making games competitive and dramatic did enough back home that the USA may no longer be a world power without an impactful soccer team. Instead, this World Cup run may have been the US’ coming out party less to world, but more to its own nation that it is ready to be a world soccer power.
But we’ve got 4 years to go until we see for sure what the USA will become.
Qualification for the 2018 World Cup begins now.
NEXT UP: September 3 — Friendly: United States vs. Czech Republic, Prague, Czech Republic. TBD.