Tim Howard is amazing. A 15 save game might seem like a day off for a hockey netminder but for a soccer goalie, it is an incredibly busy night.
Yes, Howard did get beat twice in the USMNT loss to Belgium but the highlight reel saves he made throughout regulation and into extra time cannot be overlooked. Howard was a wall in the net tonight and clearly showed himself to be one of the world’s best keepers. Howard’s 15 saves are the most in a World Cup game in 50 years. Howard truly deserves to be applauded for his performance.
Unfortunately, the US forwards missed too many chances. The defense allowed too many shots. Ultimately, Belgium proved to be a little better (and I will only admit to a little better).
The difference was Belgium’s chances went on goal and forced Howard to make a stop, whereas, the US chances were too often off target and the Belgium keeper, Thibaut Courtois, was not under the same pressure. The Belgian goal scorers, Kevin De Bruyen and Romelu Lukaku, are world class but it was not as if the US squad were unable to hold their own.
The US had several remarkable chances, from Chris Wondolowski slipping in behind the defense in the 92nd minute to the very crafty free kick late in extra time that saw Clint Dempsey break free for a 1-on-1 with Courtois. Jermaine Jones had several strikes or headers that appeared dangerous but fell off target.
It was only young Julian Green who would find the back of the net with a beautiful first touch strike off a Michael Bradley pass. But without an equalizer, Green’s goal became little more than a glimpse into the future.
The USMNT played their hearts out in this World Cup and shocked many by advancing beyond the group stage. For a few weeks the USMNT united a nation behind them and gave us all a thrilling ride. I think the disappointment I and many other fans feel is a testament to this team. Often in past World Cups the US exit seemed to be anticipated, but not this year. This year the team gave the fans reason to hope and believe. I am saddened but still very proud.