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The US bows out in the Round of 16, standing tall

Howard saves

Wow! That’s about all you can say after that crazy US/Belgium game in the Round of 16. The foremost impression one has from that game is that Tim Howard was Superman in goal. Thankfully. If he hadn’t been, the US would have been extremely embarrassed and humiliated, because Belgium’s offense had so many chances.

According to official stats, Howard saved 16 strikes on goal. Some you just knew were going in, and then….there he was saving the day again and again. It was sad that at the end of 120 minutes, the US came up short and couldn’t reward him with another game for all his hard work. He kept the US in the game, but aside from Julian Green’s goal in the 118th minute, we couldn’t finish the few chances we had.

Game takeaways:

– Having to sub Johnson in the first 30 minutes due to injury changed Klinsmann’s plan. Of course, we’d already had a player leave for injury in our first game against Ghana. Nothing new, but a critical loss of a sub early.

– Johnson had played very well in all the games up to that point. He defended well with speed and was able to push the ball up wide and give some service into the box.

– The good news was, DeAndre Yedlin came in and continued to cause Belgium problems on that side. His speed, ball handling and service gave us a number of opportunities.

– Zusi had a real difficult game and just seemed flat out overwhelmed the entire time he was in. I’d say all-in-all he had minimal impact on the game, which is better than a negative impact. … he never stopped working hard.

– Beasley was solid all World Cup and no different in this game. Maybe he had to play catch up a couple times, but all in all, his play was stellar for an ‘older’ player.

– Bradley was marginally better in this game than the 3 previous. Taylor Twellman and Alexi Lalas continue to find excuses for his lackluster performance. His moment of brilliance was his service to Julian Green for the goal.

– We were the only team Belgium had faced to that point, who scored against them.

– Chris Wondolowski overshot a sitter in front of goal at the end of stoppage time which would have been a stunner nevermind a winner. …. there are mixed news as to whether he was called off or not..looks like maybe not. Twellman mentioned a prior miss in the 2011 Gold Cup by Wondo that this was reminiscent of. Wow, we slay Wondo but are supportive when Altidore misses sitters and doesn’t score in 27 games for his club and national team. Bummer all the way around.

– Julian Green got his big moment and it came in Extra Time. As he cut behind the defense, he signaled Bradley for the ball and scored. Good service and finish!Julian scores

– Tim Howard was the man of the match for the US, making save after save to give the team a chance. He was brilliant! While the play as a whole didn’t merit a quarterfinal berth, Howard’s singular play did.

– The team NEVER gave up. It is not in the nature of a US team to give up. I think that’s not always the case when something seems inevitable. For instance in the Nigeria/France game, it appeared a number of Nigerian players looked like they’d given up near the end of the game. In ours, the players continued to push and press and had one last chance with Dempsey on the threshold of the goal. Unfortunately, he was denied by the Belgium goalkeeper Courtois and the US lost the game and their chance to move to the quarterfinals.

– The good news is that the US got farther than the pundits and their competition expected in their group. Group G consisted of previous World Cup Champions Germany, power house Portugal with game changer (as we saw) Christiano Ronaldo, and their nemesis of the last two World Cups, Ghana. We were 1-1-1, and we never had a larger goal differential than 1, even in the game against Ghana.

– It may not have been pretty, but it was gritty, and we pushed the competition to their limits.

Congratulations to the 2014 US Men’s National Team, and Jurgen Klinsmann and Staff. Job well done. It was a thrilling ride. Get ‘em next time.

 

 

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