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Three things we learned in US loss to Belgium

Jul 1, 2014, 7:01 PM EDT

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Following the USA’s 2-1 defeat to Belgium on Tuesday, the U.S. gave every ounce of effort they had to try and make the World Cup quarterfinals.

Jurgen Klinsmann’s men came up short, but they certainly didn’t disgrace themselves against a stacked Belgium team. Having got out of the “Group of Death” unexpectedly, this match was a bonus. What a game it was.

[ RECAP: Belgium 2-1 US, after extra time ]
[ Player Ratings: How U.S. fared vs. Belgium ]

We learned plenty of things from the USA’s entire World Cup campaign, but here are three things from the devastating defeat to Belgium.

The U.S. has a bright future as Yedlin, Green shine

In the biggest game in decades for the U.S. national team, perhaps the biggest ever, a 19 and 20-year-old gave fans of U.S. soccer plenty of hope for the future. Yedlin came on to replace Fabian Johnson after 30 minutes and shone at right back with several marauding runs proving his is ready to step up to the international level. As for Green, well, what can you say? He comes onto the pitch as the youngest U.S. player in World Cup history and within moments he scored with his first touch off a stunning volley. Now we see what all the hype is about when it comes to Bayern Munich youngster. These two are sure to start in Russia the next time the World Cup rolls around. Hope, in the midst of defeat, for the USA.

Giveaways continue to hurt the U.S. 

Midway through the second half on TV screens across the world the caption bar popped up at the bottom of the screen and showed that the U.S. had 49 percent of the possession. Really? No way. Time and time again the U.S. gave the ball away and invited pressure from the talented Belgian side. Tim Howard made save after save (more on him shortly) but in the end the dam broke and Belgium powered through. Throughout this World Cup the U.S. failed to keep hold of the ball and struggled to out-possess their opponents. In midfield the likes of Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley failed to keep possession and hopeful balls up to Clint Dempsey just weren’t getting the job done. Possession has to be better for the U.S. in the future, as their battling spirit and organization is second to none.

[ MORE: Tim Howard’s heroics not enough ]
[ MORE: Klinsmann: U.S. gave everything they had ]

Howard stakes his claim as world’s best ‘keeper

16 saves. The most recorded in a World Cup game since 1966. Howard stood on his head and didn’t deserve to be on the losing team. Speaking after the game he was emotional and said he and his teammates gave “everything they had.” In Howard’s case it was everything, and then some. This goalkeeping display will go down as one of the finest in World Cup history, as the USA’s shot-stopper kept the Belgians at bay for 93 minutes. His defense tried their best but were exposed by the ruthless pace of Belgium’s attack but Howard looked unstoppable. He will go down as the best goalkeeper in U.S. soccer history after this performance and is easily one of the top three goalkeepers in the world. This performance proved that.

Could the U.S. have done anything differently?

  1. handsomerob86 - Jul 1, 2014 at 7:10 PM

    Howard was left out to dry especially on his right the whole game. I really don’t like our backfield besides Beasley. They all were getting flanked to Howards right the entire OT. Great game Howard, and good job US. I still don’t think you play to develop when you only get a shot every 4 years tho….

    • simonkulberg - Jul 1, 2014 at 8:44 PM

      That`s more on the winger there not running back to defend so they doubled up on Damarcus Beasley I think. Both fullbacks were ace for the most part, and Gonzalez in particular was very impressive.

    • braxtonrob - Jul 2, 2014 at 1:10 AM

      @handsome, The fact that you refer to it as “OT” speaks volumes. The entire backline played fantastically the entire tournament. No team’s backline doesn’t make a mistake or two over four games, and ours, overall, was absolutely courageous and brilliant, often.

      However, I agree with you completely about “develop(ment)”. I say play the best you have NOW, and worry about developing when the tourny is over. (Yedlin didn’t seem to be intimidated, ever, and I don’t think he’ll be THAT much better 4 years from now, simply because he played this go ’round.)
      ‘Development’ is just a BS excuse to exclude veteran’s rightful spot on the roster.
      All that being said, this year’s youth ALL looked great (to me).

  2. ayevarviva - Jul 1, 2014 at 7:13 PM

    USA USA USA USA USA USA USA USA USA USA USA USA USA

  3. jucam1 - Jul 1, 2014 at 7:13 PM

    Easy!… Howard was amazing tonight, I though he kept a VERY overmatched team in the game. However, he isn’t the best in the world. He might be in the top 5 for sure. The US will do better in Russia if they follow JK’s formula of obtaining international talent and nationalizing it, and send all their players to play in legit global leagues and not the MLS. The MLS is ok and all but lets be serious here, the difference in competition level was shocking in watching this match today, where the Belgians all play for good clubs in Europe and all the “stars” for the US play in MLS. The focus has to be on catching up and no better way than by playing against world class comp

  4. jlewsey15 - Jul 1, 2014 at 7:21 PM

    USA were excellent but the quality of the Belgium team showed.
    Howard is good but there are better GKs in the premiership let alone the world (Szczesny, Courtois, Begovic to name 3).

    • sabatimus - Jul 1, 2014 at 7:45 PM

      USA was outplayed nearly the whole game until they scored in extra time. However, I can’t believe the match was extended only 1 minute. You could hear Klinsmann swearing about it.

    • eorlin1964 - Jul 1, 2014 at 8:13 PM

      Laughable (and Courtois isn’t even in the premiership!)

    • kellybeck15 - Jul 1, 2014 at 8:39 PM

      I’m one of the biggest Arsenal rubes you’ll ever come across and I’ve got news for you: Szczesny isn’t even in the same conversation as Tim Howard right now. Some days they are barely playing the same sport.

      And Courtois has been loaned out to Athletico. And Begovic is average in BPL.

      Who else ya got?

      • jlewsey15 - Jul 2, 2014 at 6:12 AM

        One match does not a goalkeeper make.
        I have a lot of time for Howard, I think he is woefully underrated and you could make an argument that he is a top 20 possibly even top 10 in the world but with keepers like Neuer, Handanovic, Diego Lopez, Adler, Courtois I don’t think he can be a top 3 in the world.

        De Gea, Mignolet are also better IMO than Howard. Howard used to be the same when he was young hence why he never nailed down the Man Utd No.1 spot, he was too inconsistent. As he has gotten older he has improved his consistency but overall I still think that Szczesny, Courtois, De Gea, Begovic, Mignolet are better than Howard. Not by a lot mind you and he was excellent last season for Everton.

        Don’t bitch at me just for an opinion uk2ndbestinthestate, that’s the whole point of a comment section. I am simply giving an opinion, don’t like then feel free to disagree and thumb me down that’s why they are there. To try and verbally abuse me holds no point and just makes you look a tad uneducated.

        Oh and pretty sure Courtois loan at Atletico ended a few weeks after the Champion’s League final and now that the transfer window is open again he is technically back at Chelsea and therefore technically back in the Premiership, hence why I said a premiership GK.

  5. uk2ndbestinthestate - Jul 1, 2014 at 7:29 PM

    You English homer…Go home wanker

  6. schlom - Jul 1, 2014 at 7:35 PM

    I think we can all agree that playing Michael Bradley in an advanced position was a huge mistake – his first touch was so awful in the tournament that it was nearly impossible to pass the ball with any pace. He probably would have been fine as a midfield destroyer but just wasn’t reliable at all with the ball. In fact his awful first touch led directly to Belgium’s first goal (not that they probably wouldn’t have scored eventually anyway) and his blocked shot led to the second goal (although of course that probably wasn’t his fault).

    The loss of Altidore really hurt the team as it not only deprived them of his services but pushed people into roles that they weren’t as suited for – Dempsey would have been dropped deeper into the Bradley role while Bradley would have been dropped into the more defensive role he was better suited for in this tourney.

  7. egb234 - Jul 1, 2014 at 7:40 PM

    Great play by Howard. I think Keller’s game vs Brazil was similar, but I was a kid so I might be wrong.

    We have bright spots, but unless we get more depth we’ll be a scrappy team who struggles with so many games over a short period of time.

  8. midtec2005 - Jul 1, 2014 at 7:41 PM

    6 yards away and an (nearly) open goal. I’ll be replaying that in my head for years. whhyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy! I love Wondolowski too.

    Other thoughts: Our midfield had trouble holding the ball, in the previous game our midfielder that held the ball best was Kyle Beckerman. This was the only personnel decision that Klinnsman got wrong. We missed Kyle Beckerman.

    And Deandre Yedlin… Holy crap! I think he just won himself a lot of money… I assume there had to be a lot of big people impressed with him. He torched Vertongen (I think) time after time after time, and totally shut down Hazard… even when Hazard had a big head start.

  9. heynyc61 - Jul 1, 2014 at 7:43 PM

    He is a very good goalie. The rest of the team let him down

  10. midtec2005 - Jul 1, 2014 at 7:46 PM

    I’m so excited for the future of this team too. I don’t think many people have seen many of the young kids coming from the MLS academies already. The LA Galaxy alone have produced 3 really good looking teenagers. The next cycle should be really exciting.

  11. nottinghamforest12 - Jul 1, 2014 at 8:20 PM

    Not winning the World Cup proves that Bob Bradley is a better coach and that Donovan should have started.

    • lunasceiling - Jul 1, 2014 at 8:30 PM

      Enjoying the Championship? LOL

    • kellybeck15 - Jul 1, 2014 at 8:34 PM

      I think he was going with the sarcasm here…

  12. reformed2012 - Jul 1, 2014 at 8:46 PM

    Should have park the bus in extra time but whatever. We would have won if this went to PKs.

  13. sonsoflombardi - Jul 1, 2014 at 9:15 PM

    I blame Fellaini’s fro/eyebrow combo for the loss. Quite intimidating. Guys gotta be on PEDs.

  14. heelfans - Jul 1, 2014 at 10:01 PM

    What we should have learned is that we still need technically gifted and CREATIVE midfielders. I’m not a Bradley hater (yes he had a poor WC) but he is not a creative mid. However, at this moment, he was the best we had, especially given that we knew that we were going to be doing a lot of defending in this group. We needed MB, KB, and JJ in defense plus one of them had to be the “general”. Hopefully by 2018, we will have that general, plus a mature, experienced back line that will then allow the outside mids to roam forward.
    One final happy thought — despite a majority of people disagreeing, I firmly believe that our style of play has evolved and is continuing to improve. We are actually trying to play a possession game. Obviously, our success rate is low, but, we are trying and as we continue in our efforts, the players will improve their technique or they will be replaced. Being an OF, I find it quite disconcerting that my youthful brethren are so quick to give up on our technical development/growth. We have, to me, made great strides over the past 3 years in improving how we want to play (the level of opponent does have an impact) and in where our players are coming from (much improved outreach to the Hispanic community). The next 4 years will be a wild ride!!!

    • andyoursistertoo - Jul 2, 2014 at 12:12 AM

      I did expect more from Bradley, however there is a bight future in the midfield for the US. There is a ton of talent being developed all over the world. Luis Gil is going to be a special player for the USMNT he trained with river plate (Argentina Superpower) when he was young, and has had chances to play in Spain and Europe. He will bolster the midfield, Darlington Nagabe for Portland timbers will be eligible for the USMNT in 2015, he will definitely change things for the USMNT. You have Mix who you saw can compete at the world level. And count your lucky stars if Gedion Zelalem (who just got his US citizenship ) from Arsenal will take over kyle beckermens spot. The future is really bright for the men’s team. So much talent is being developed right now , we will start seeing huge rewards from 2018 WC and on. So we lost today , but the world is on notice (especially after watching the rookies Green,Brooks, Yedlin ).

  15. npr772013 - Jul 1, 2014 at 10:59 PM

    The USA needed more offense…we could have used some Landon Donovan…Klinsmann is a good coach but I do not see why he left Donovan out…maybe he wanted the one of the germanamericans to be a hero and Donovan would have prevented that? How could he leave out Donovan out if the guys is the USA’s old time leading goal scorer, arguably the greatest soccer player in US history and still 32? The germanamericans are good but there was no way that all 5 were better than Donovan…

  16. cutelittleguy02 - Jul 1, 2014 at 11:39 PM

    They have to learn from Costa Rica!

  17. jelliot1978 - Jul 1, 2014 at 11:42 PM

    I disagree about Donovan, he didn’t earn the spot. He left for a large part of the qualifying which was his right but he then had to earn back the spot he abandoned. Up until just after the roster was announced his form in MLS was unimpressive but has started to come around. Could he have made a difference today? Maybe, but a healthy Jozy probably would have meant more.

  18. rupp246 - Jul 2, 2014 at 5:43 AM

    4th thing we learned is we are still very far away to beating the top teams in the world. If it wasn’t for Howard, Belgium would have won by at least 4 goals.

  19. andreboy1 - Jul 2, 2014 at 8:51 AM

    How about real Americans play for the American team?

    We’re just poaching guys who know nothing about American but have a legal right to play for us even though they’re not really Americans.

  20. chocopoppy - Jul 2, 2014 at 9:11 AM

    Talk all you want about future talent and improving prospects but the performance of this team seems eerily similar to 2010, 2006, 2002, 1998, etc. We are always the “scrappy” team with a good goalkeeper but lack top level talent. Is anything really changing?

  21. mfmaxpower - Jul 2, 2014 at 11:43 AM

    Howard was great. I love him and fear the day he’s not in net for us. But just to play devil’s advocate, how many of those saves he made were all that difficult?

    It’d be interesting to review them individually, but watching live my impression was that Belgium were fairly wasteful with their opportunities and many of their shots on target weren’t especially dangerous.

    Howard is a warrior, a fine keeper. But is he really top three? I’m not so sure if I’m building a fantasy team that he’d be in my top three choices.

  22. gvera7 - Jul 2, 2014 at 10:18 PM

    Most brutal thing I’ve ever seen..thank god for Howard

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