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USMNT eliminated from World Cup by Belgium after extra-time rally falls short

Jermaine Jones and DaMarcus Beasley of USA show a look of dejection at full time after being eliminated from the World Cup

Photo by Kieran McManus/


SALVADOR, Brazil — The U.S. Men’s National Team’s latest attempt at a World Cup rally fell short, and its run at the World Cup is over as a result.

The U.S. were eliminated from the World Cup on Tuesday night at Arena Fonte Nova, suffering a 2-1 extra time loss to Belgium in their Round of 16 match. The Americans found themselves down two goals at the start of the second half of extra time, but a quick strike from substitute Julian Green gave Jurgen Klinsmann’s side a shot at finding an equalizer.

It never came despite the Americans having a few quality chances, and they were knocked out for the second straight World Cup in the first round of the knockout stage.

That the Americans even made it to extra time without conceding was largely down to the spectacular play of Tim Howard, who made 16 saves en route to delivering one of the best performances of his career in front of 51,227 fans. The total was the most a goalkeeper has made in a World Cup match since 1966 and saw Howard named the official Man of the Match.

“Obviously, it’s a bummer for us ending on the losing side after a game of 120 minutes that gave everything to the fans, to the crowd, a real drama, a thriller,” said Klinsmann. “We had enough possibilities to equalize that game and we meant to put it away earlier. But big compliment to Belgium and congratulations to them to move on into the quarterfinals.”

Howard was peppered with shots and came up big time and again before Kevin De Bruyne struck a low shot to the far post in the 93rd minute. Substitute Romelu Lukaku helped make that play happen and he made it 2-0 just before the end of the first half of extra time.

Trying inject some life into his team after it struggled to keep possession and create chances, Klinsmann inserted Green with the U.S.’s final substitution. The move paid off rather quickly, as Green wonderfully volleyed home a gorgeous ball from Michael Bradley in the 107th minute to score his first international goal.

The Americans had chances afterwards to pull level, but Jermaine Jones sent an acrobatic effort wide right and Clint Dempsey was denied from close range by Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

“I thought I had a great touch on it,” said Dempsey. “It was one of those situations that he was aggressive on the play. He came out and made it difficult, made the goal small with his reaction. It was one of those where you try your best and no regrets.”

Belgium was the better team for much of the 120 minutes in Salvador, and it did not win the match in regulation because of the heroic performance from Howard and some poor finishing.

Howard was called immediately into action, denying Divock Origi after the Belgian forward raced past Omar Gonzalez and fired a low shot from the right in the first minute. Howard also negated De Bruyne in the 24th minute and late in the first half.

“This was definitely an amazing goalkeeper performance,” said Klinsmann. “There is no doubt about it. He should be very proud of himself and we are proud to have him with us.”

The U.S.’s only real chance in a first half that saw it lose Fabian Johnson to a hamstring injury in the 32nd minute came through Dempsey, whose 21st-minute effort was too weak to trouble Courtois.

Belgium went right back to work in the second half, but Howard continued to make impressive stops to keep the game scoreless. He smacked away a Dries Mertens header in the 48th minute, denied substitute Kevin Mirallas on a one-on-one opportunity after the hour-mark and stoned Origi on a great look in the 72nd minute.

“It was incredible, the amount of saves that he had,” said centerback Matt Besler. “Sometimes it’s hard to realize what’s going on because it’s Tim Howard and that’s what we expect of him. He’s one of the best goalkeepers in the world and it’s comforting as a defender knowing you have a guy like that behind you. He played incredible tonight.”

While the Belgians were frustrated by their inability to beat Howard, they also wasted some opportunities. Mertens hit a back heel from close range wide after receiving a pass from the left flank and Vincent Kompany failed to cleanly connect on an open shot inside the penalty area that Howard parried.

U.S. substitute Chris Wondolowski could have been a hero in the dying seconds of the game, but he sent a shot from close range over the crossbar despite being unmarked. The linesman on the near side incorrectly had raised his flag for offside, so a goal likely would not have counted even if Wondolowski had found the back of the net.

The match went into extra time, and Belgium finally beat Howard through a well-hit shot from De Bruyne. The play started when Dempsey was stripped of the ball in Belgium’s half and continued when substitute Romelul Lukaku mustered off a challenge from Besler before sending in the ball that wound up at De Bruyne’s feet.

Lukaku then put the Belgians up by two goals by hitting a hard shot past Howard from the left of the penalty area.

“Don’t give up. They scored two goals, we can score two goals,” said Besler on what the U.S. players were telling each other when it was 2-0. “At that point in the game, it’s tough to manage because everyone’s running on tired legs. We’re obviously down a goal so we want to put numbers forward, but they have fresh legs up top and credit to them they were able to find him out on the break and it was a tough assignment once he came on.”

The Americans looked gassed and all but finished, but Green gave them a lifeline two minutes after entering the match. Dempsey could have equalized a few minutes later after getting on the end of a drawn-up free kick that saw the U.S. pass instead of shoot, but his effort from eight yards out was blocked by Courtois in one of the final plays of the tournament for the Americans.

The U.S. finished 1-2-1 in Brazil.

“It was a game that just went to the extreme,” said Klinsmann. “We all are very, very, very proud of our team, of every player stepping on the field today, gave everything they had. I think they made their country proud with this performance and also with their entire performance in this World Cup and you have to swallow this for a second but after a little bit of a break you have to move on.”

Belgium will now move onto the quarterfinals, and will face Argentina in Brasilia on Saturday.


  1. Gaining soccer sense starts as a small child. This country will not have a sold base for greatness until kids are at it from early on. The best athletes are going into other sports where all the moves they make depend on what the coach tells them. It’s the difference between folk dancing and ballroom dancing. In soccer the players need to use their own imagination. Physicality is not going to win possession. It only gets people hurt.

  2. If a game is so dependent on the goalie and has so little possession, one should not blame anyone except the team for losing. Howard did great, but what does that say about the team. It’s sad that Howard had to break a record in how many saves he had to make, and that Wondolowski is sort of being made into a scape-goat. The camera angle made his chance into much more than it really was. Everyone played to the best of their abilities. It does not exactly show that the US has arrived at the top of the ranking. I found the game very riveting anyway, and there is no real loser here other than the people who do not see the pleasure in watching the beautiful game win or lose.

  3. USA played really well throughout the tournament but in knockout game against Belgium they were little bit unlucky because in the first half of extra time they lost their momentum when Belgium scored two quick goals.

  4. What you guys think about this for the future………… 2018
    4-2-3-1 can opt out for 4-1-3-2 w/ johansson under jozy
    Altidore (Boyd,Agudelo)

    Green Gil(Corona,Johannson) Fabian


    Farrell Brooks Gonzalez Yedlin


    Watch List: Klute, Villareal, Joya, Shea, Gatt, Arriola……..etc
    Wishlist/Buy Know: Fagundez, Zelalem

    • I think Fabian is a defender not a midfield player long term. wouldnt mnd seeing him get a shot at LB with Yedlin on the right which would make both of our backs really dangerous going forward. Also there is a kid on FC Dallas n who is a right back, he played on the U-20 world cup team and was starting for Dallas before an injury. He is a unnoticed but very legit player who I see as being on the National team at some point in the next 2 cycles for sure.

    • Future can get bright if we fill the void left by Beckerman. We need some pinpoint passers with speed. How about add this guy to the watch list: Emerson Hyndman at Fulham, or “Emo” as his friends call him, has arguably the best scope for the game out of the entire YNT pool, which is a big claim that he continues to validate at the club level. His ability to survey and spray pinpoint passes is relatively uncommon at such a consistent clip, and his technical ability has him climbing the rungs at his EPL side.

  5. Funny how we were all worried about our right back just a month ago — worry about that position getting ripped to shreds by CR7, who was going to be good enough, and then, Johnson and Yedlin ended up looking like two of the strongest players out there.

  6. I don’t think what Klinsmann will have in 3 years will differ much from what we have now. This is it. He will continue to bring in new players and try them out. But I’m not blaming him. Maybe he could have been more attacking or used different tactics. Maybe we could have done better. But the team had plenty, if small, opportunities to score, and we just didn’t convert or finish those plays. Same as in previous years, our players had chances and we just didn’t finish them.

    I do think I preferred watching the Bruce Arena and Bradley coached teams.

  7. WTF am I missing here? Most stats say we were the WORST attacking team in this World Cup. We played 30 minutes more than we did in 2010. You need to peak in this tournament regardless of the opponents. We started with a win. then tied. then lost and lost again. Progress? This has to be said. If you know you’re going to be traveling 9,000 miles, wouldn’t it be wise to move your camp to a location that makes more sense? Apparently not. I thought this team looked a smidge better than we did in 2010 but a LOT more desperate in each of the games. Is JK’s idea of the future just to sit back, play d all game, take shot after shot and hope for a good counter? Tell me how that’s different than the past. Frustrated but proud of the effort.

    • Look at the teams we played this cup in comparison to 2010. It’s a different kind of football (mediocre vs elite). And we don’t have the kind of technically sound players that other nations have yet to control games. Consider the injuries we had and weather conditions, too. And give Klinsmann time. It’s only been 3 years.

    • Of course we’re one of the worst attacking teams in the World Cup – look at our players versus who we are playing against. Let’s suppose for a second that transfer price is a relatively good predictor of how skilled a player is –

      The site “thescore” put together a list of all the WC teams, ordered by the sum of the estimated current transfer value of all their players. USMNT came in #28 out of the 32 teams, with a total value of $77.4M (Clint Dempsey, who many would say was forced to play out of position due to injury, makes up $9.5M of that). Belgium’s team has a total value of $468M. Hazard alone has a value north of $60M (and it shows – he is a total stud).

      What kind of results are you expecting? We were 30 seconds away from getting 2 wins in a group where our team comprised only 6% of the total player value. We’re never going to regularly get wins when we play teams that have the likes of Boateng, Goetz, and Lukaku sitting on their BENCH until we get legitimate star players (not just goalkeepers – the US will always be a goalkeeper factory, IMO).

      There’s a serious talent gap between us and the teams that we play, and I don’t think people on this site take that seriously when you see lots of people making condescending remarks about Switzerland, Mexico, etc. Newsflash – those teams have players playing for Bayern Munich, Manchester United, etc. Our star player is from the Seattle Sounders. And we have great goalkeepers, but how much of an impact can you have as a goalkeeper?

      Costa Rica and arguably Algeria are the only similarly-talented teams that outperformed our meagerly talented squad.

  8. No matter how you look at it, it was a successful World Cup. The one element we’re missing in our game are world class players with serious technical and gm experience. We’re not there yet in that regard, so losing to an elite young team like Belgium, it’s understandable. We gave everything we had on the field, and still came up short. There’s a huge difference between a 70 million team and a 800 million clearly… I had Belgium winning this 3-1.. Thank gawd for Timmy!


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