U.S. defeat sours memorable game for Howard -- and others

By Ridge Mahoney

A bitterly disappointing 2-1 overtime loss to Belgium ended the USA's World Cup in the round of 16 Tuesday in Salvador. Here are three takeaways in the aftermath of a second straight loss in the World Cup knockout rounds.

HOWARD MAKES HISTORY. Many times in his USA career keeper Tim Howard has bailed out his team through superb goalkeeping, yet he ascended new heights by stoning Belgium repeatedly before conceding two goals in extra time.

Howard’s 16 saves included several by his feet or diving at full stretch during a remarkable performance that wasn’t quite enough. It brought memories of a standout game from Tony Meola in a 2-0 defeat of England in a 1993 friendly, Kasey Keller’s great showing in a 1-0 shock of Brazil at the 1998 Gold Cup, and a wonderful game by Howard in a 2-0 upset of Spain at the 2009 Confederations Cup. Brad Friedel tied a World Cup record in 2002 by saving two penalty kicks in the same competition.

Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Vincent Kompany, Divock Origi and substitutes Kevin Mirallas and Romelu Lukaku – Howard’s club teammates at Everton – all tested Howard before De Bruyne put away a Lukaku feed in the 93rd minute and Lukaku fired inside the near post in the last seconds of the first period of extra time.

Fatigue is seldom discussed regarding goalkeepers, yet Howard considers his relentless work habits as one of his greatest assets. He dripped with sweat early in the match and needed that base during an arduous 120 minutes of blocking shots, smothering loose balls, and snagging crosses. He’s done it for the USA before, but never to the extreme, constant pressure he encountered.

“That’s my job, that’s what I signed up to do,” said Howard in his postgame interview on ESPN. “That’s part of it. In these big games, against top-quality competition, the levee’s going to break at some point if we continue that.”

The defeat soured memorable games for not only Howard, but centerback Matt Besler and midfielder Jermaine Jones, and several other players. A missed tackle by Besler allowed Lukaku to set up the first goal but otherwise the Sporting Kansas City star was excellent.

WING WORK. Eden Hazard, a rather lackluster figure in the group phase, raised his game somewhat against the USA, but De Bruyne simply terrorized the USA on Belgium’s left flank. The strained hamstring that knocked right back Fabian Johnson out of the game in the 32nd minute didn’t help the U.S. cause, yet as early as the first minute De Bruyne had scorched the back line and set up a chance for Origi that Howard saved superbly.

Hazard didn’t have as much luck running at DaMarcus Beasley, who against Belgium added some attacking forays to his stalwart work at left back. But on balance, the Americans only very late in regulation and in extra time brought anything close to the attacking influence generated by the Belgians. The five-man midfield that featured Geoff Cameron in place of Kyle Beckerman alongside Jermaine Jones, didn’t give up much through the center but Belgium overran the Americans out wide and through the channels. Graham Zusi and Alejandro Bedoya were far less effective defensively than they were in the group phase.

PERSONNEL DECISIONS. Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s decision to bring on Julian Green in extra time hit the jackpot when Green nicked home an excellent chip from Michael Bradley. The USA had to use up a substitution early when Johnson’s hamstring forced him off, to be replaced by DeAndre Yedlin. Klinsmann made a bold move with about 20 minutes to play when he replaced Zusi with San Jose forward Chris Wondolowski, who blazed a shot over the bar from a Jones flick in stoppage time of regulation.

Klinsmann opted for the 6-foot-3 Cameron in part to add his height and bulk into the middle as well as on set plays. The Americans struggled for most of the game to string passes together going forward and seldom established an attacking tempo, which is a key facet of Beckerman’s game. Klinsmann could have moved Cameron to right back and brought in Beckerman as a holding mid when Johnson went down but opted instead for Yedlin, who triggered a few threatening moves by getting deep into the Belgian half but left huge gaps. Lukaku steamed into space on that side to power Belgium’s second goal past Howard.

The naming of youngsters Green, Yedlin and John Brooks, who scored a dramatic winner in the group opener against Ghana, to the World Cup roster certainly proved productive and should bear fruit going forward. Yet the questions will be asked if more veteran experience might have been valuable against European foes Germany, Portugal and Belgium, none of which the Americans were able to beat.

17 comments about "U.S. defeat sours memorable game for Howard -- and others".
  1. John Soares, July 1, 2014 at 9:41 p.m.

    There is always going to be "Monday morning" experts and "what ifs".... Isn't hindsight perfect. Overall JK did a very good job with what he had and the superior teams that the USA faced. It wasn't always top level soccer, but, for the most part we don't have "top" level players. They (USMT) do have admirable spirit. Congratulations!!!

  2. Santiago 1314, July 1, 2014 at 11:08 p.m.

    Hugo Perez, Tab Ramos, Klopas, Harkes, Vermes, Balboa,. Dooley, Wynalda, Lalas, Reyna, Stewart, Kobi Jones,.. Which of Today's team would you pick over them..??? Doesn't anyone see that we haven't come anywhere in almost 30 years??? Sad... Only Yedlin, Fabian.. USA GKs, you are ALL Unbelievable!!!

  3. cisco martinez, July 1, 2014 at 11:32 p.m.

    Santiago, US has come far, look at the team in 2002, Alexis lalas first American in modern time to play in Italy, Howard played for Manchester United, Beasley and Reyna played in champions league games, Dempsey one of top forwards in the EPL, landon Donovan, etc. We've come so far from 1990 where we had college players playing in the World Cup.

  4. New WorldOrder, July 1, 2014 at 11:48 p.m.

    Santiago is right. Not much to show for. Cisco you mentioned 4 players. 30 years.

  5. Santiago 1314, July 1, 2014 at 11:50 p.m.

    Cisco, I think you made my point for me.. Reyna/Harkes or Bradley ??? Dempsey or Donovan/Perez??? McBride/Wynalda or Altidore??? Today's crop of players is No Better than 20 years ago.. I think overall level might be a little better, but Not the Key Players, at the Key Moments.. Maybe Bradley/Dempsey would have done Better if they weren't forced to play out of position.. And that's JKs fault for not Selecting a Sub for Altidore..

  6. Claudio Garcia chamorro, July 2, 2014 at 7:46 a.m.

    Before the WC I had serious doubts about JK, the way the Donovan issue was handled, the German influx, etc.
    TODAY after proudly exiting the WC, I have to say THANK YOU TEAM USA - you gave ALL - proudly the boys fought till the end !!!
    The German influx did do well - Jones, Green, and yes .... You too Klinnsman ....
    We can criticize all we want - for now and today - high fives to the team with perhaps many deficiencies BUT with the almighty heart of gold
    The underdog that outlasted the Spaniards, Italians and Britts !!!! NOT BAD hey!!
    Broken hearted we are but PROUD of you TEAM USA we remain !
    Let's look for a better tomorrow - continue to look for the ones that will make us more proud in 2018!
    GO USA !

  7. Mark Hardt, July 2, 2014 at 9:45 a.m.

    The biggest mistake was leaving Terrence boyd off the roster. He would have dropped right in to cover for Altidore.

  8. James Madison, July 2, 2014 at 1:31 p.m.

    Bottom line: we are still second tier and we manage that only because of top class goalkeeping. Except for Bradley(who had his best game of the tournament against Belgium), Dempsey and Beasley, the only field players who could earn spots on a top class team were the German-Americans Jones and Johnson. The rest were scraping by on effort for what they lack in skill. Green was fortunate not to have struck his volley squarely. For the moment at least, Yedlin is a one-trick pony.

  9. Walt Pericciuoli, July 2, 2014 at 5:04 p.m.

    No questioning the heart and effort of our boys. That has never been USA problem. When will we match that with talent?I agree with most of the sentiments expressed here. We accomplished probably more than we could expect with what we had. Klinsi did a great job. When will our USA system of player development produce the kind of young talented players like what we saw from Ghana, Portugal, Germany and Belgium?

  10. Santiago 1314, July 2, 2014 at 6:30 p.m.

    Fact is; we are no better off than we were under Lothar, Bob G., Steve, Bora, Bruce, Bob B., JK… Some years a little better, some years a little worse…..30 years and No Improvement to Show… A VERY Marginal rise across the board, but still NO Game Breaking Player… Good thing is; NFL Parity has set into World Soccer and the Rest of the World has COME DOWN to our Level, Except for a few Exceptional Game Breakers… Messi, Robben, Alexis, Ronaldo, James, Neymar, Lukaku, Muller,… The other 9 players on the Field could change Jerseys and YOU WOULDN’T NOTICE THE DIFFERENCE …!!!! All the US lacks is a Game Breaker…. As for JK, Let him Stay FOR NOW… After all, he finally got some “REAL GAME” coaching experience… Remember he had NONE, before taking over Germany in 94.. All his Games in Preparation for WC96(in Germany) were Friendlies(Confed Cup95??)… at WC96(as Home team) he beat those “BIG” Powers; Costa Rica, Poland, Ecuador, Sweden,… only Toughie was win vs ARG on PKs…Lost in Semi’s to Italy… as for Coaching Bayern Munich??? ++ 22-9-8 in UEFA/Bundesliga before being FIRED with 5 games to go in Season….

  11. G O, July 3, 2014 at 3:17 a.m.

    The contention that I make in other posts is that the World Cup has been diluted. Not just because FIFA has gone with 32 starting teams, it is now more diluted because the players coming are truly drained. Just having 3 or 4 fast weeks from ending Cup finals, national leagues, UEFA Europa League, and the CL finals is not sufficient time to rehab for a World Cup. Look at the Real Madrid players. Athletico Madrid, FC Sevilla, FC Chelsea, FC Liverpool, Juventus, FC Bayern Munich players. All of them look like only 60 - 65% of capacity at best. Maybe only Angel Di Maria and Lionel Messi still have some gas in the tank. So I say this: This 2014 USMNT crop is worse than the names of the past World Cups that Santiago 1314 provides above from the US efforts in 1990, 1994, 2002 and maybe even 2006. Surely 2010. So: There is no improvement. None. Despite far more resources and much, much more money spent for the Klinsmann era. The sad thing is that I bet I could find in California and Texas alone 20 aged 21 - 32 field players who aren't paid a dime to play the sport of soccer yet would outperform the 20 field players selected for this edition of the USMNT. Yes, I am sure I could. Someone want to test this assertion? An assertion that I think is beyond questioning: What Bora Milutnovic (spelling?) put together in his time of coaching is far superior to what Juergen Klinsmann has shown in these past 18 - 20 months.

  12. G O, July 3, 2014 at 3:35 a.m.

    Mr. Madison, I have to wholeheartedly disagree. Young Mr. Yedlin as just a one trick pony? Are you serious? The guy comes on relatively early in the second half agaist Belgium. He's only 20 young years old, surely not at all reconing with a sub in at that point. Yet, once on the pitch, he's then the most poised US player with the ball at his feet, squarely landing very fine crosses in front of T. Courtois's goal and once perfectly placed at the far post beyond Courtois' reach, only for a US teammate to muff it. Not sure what cereal Yedlin eats or just how he had more energy at the end, but when others like Cameron were stumbling around and happy to not have the ball and wishing to swiftly dish it off (countless examples of Bradley doing this in the first 90 minutes) so as to avoid any responsibility, Yedlin was relishing the chance to have the ball again. All of that when going up against the likes of Witsel, Van Buyten (at times) but mostly Alderweird of Belgium, a very accomplished player at both Ajax Amsterdam and now Spanish champions Athletico Madrid. Yedlin's play from the moment he first touched the ball was the ONLY THING that gave me any hope that the US might prevail. I've watched some of the worlds best touted midfielders never land three picture perfect, perfect pace crosses back to back the way Yedlin did. Give that boy just a bit of polish and some pointers and he'd have not just been the man of the match but also now staring at 12 - 14 of Europe's top clubs climbing over one another to sign him. Wasn't it the same when he came on versus Portugal in the second half? Yes, it was so. Bedoya looked stupid and wholly ineffectual on the right flank. Yedlin comes in and breathes new life into the contest. That's not a "one trick pony."

  13. G O, July 3, 2014 at 3:38 a.m.

    Correction: DeAndre Yedlin comes on in the first half for Johnson against Belgium in the 32nd minute. I am sorry for the obvious error/typo. Note that this was only his 7th national team game. My compliments to him. Keep it up, lad!

  14. charles davenport, July 4, 2014 at 9:28 a.m.

    Hugo Perez, Tab Ramos, Klopas, Harkes, Vermes, Balboa,. Dooley, Wynalda, Lalas, Reyna, Stewart, Kobi Jones,.. please review which clubs they played for outside USA and for how long.

  15. Gak Foodsource, July 5, 2014 at 6:36 a.m.

    I'm taking anyone on today's roster over Alexi Lalas.

  16. G O, July 5, 2014 at 2:50 p.m.

    But, hey, Gak, Alexi's comment years ago about missing 7-Eleven Big Gulp Slurpies when once doing an interview in Vicenza, Italy did indeed help boost 7-Eleven Slurpie sales.... ;) Call it red beard marketing ;)

  17. John DiFiore, July 6, 2014 at 2:20 a.m.

    So who are Italy's "game changers"? Mario?? Pirlo?? nah.. Englands?? Sturrige??hahaha. Portugal has 1... Mr. Pretty Boy.
    Brazil? Neymar? unfortunately we really wont see how 'GREAT' he is on the world stage.. Hulk?? where has he been?? I think the point is that if you take 2-3 "game changers" out of each squad, it's all fairly even now. Even the 94's could hang back in the day.
    BTW - we have Howard. TH1=game changer.

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