The United States run in Brazil is over after losing 2-1 to Belgium in the round of 16. After not being expected to make it out of the group stage, the U.S. Men’s National Team has nothing to be ashamed of.
After fighting for 120 minutes in Salvador Tuesday evening, the United States could not mount a comeback versus Belgium. Belgium simply had more gas in the tank as extra time proved to be the breaking point for the men in Red, White, and Blue. Goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku were the difference makers in a fight to the very death.
In a game where Belgium was able to impose themselves on the United States for most of regulation, it showed that the U.S. still has a few steps to take to reach the next level. Throughout the tournament this summer, the U.S. consistently had trouble controlling the ball. Too often passes were misplaced, either in front or behind their target, or were easily turned over when pressure was applied. That was no different tonight as Belgium’s Axel Witsel and Marouane Fellaini were consistently disrupting the U.S. attack. The depth of Belgium’s midfield is phenomenal, with six players starting weekly in the English Premier League.
Once again, the United States was playing out of a formation they were not quite used to. Playing out of a 4-3-3 formation, the U.S. was never able to quite gel on the field. Using this formation in hopes of creating some offensive spark, it didn’t quite live up to that. Using Graham Zusi, Clint Dempsey, and Alejandro Bedoya, up top did not provide Dempsey the kind of play he is used to enjoying. Too often up top and in the midfield, players were congested, taking away key passing lanes. It has to be frustrating for coach Jurgen Klinsmann knowing that a U.S. attack with Jozy Altidore probably wins this game today.
The lone goal scored today by the United States was pure excellence by Julian Green. With about as much pressure on him as it takes to make a diamond, Green shined under the magnifying glass. After entering the game in the 105th minute for Alejandro Bedoya, Green shot up the field, connecting with a Michael Bradley pass, using the outside of his foot to place it into the side netting. It took nerves of steel to remain calm in those waning moments. If the U.S. had not been minutes away from elimination, this goal would have surely been more in the spotlight.
Looking at this team four years from now, we could see many faces that contributed to the teams run this year. Look forward to seeing the “questionable” picks John Brooks, DeAndre Yedlin, and Julian Green to be key parts in Russia. Also, while not playing during this tournament, Mix Diskerud will be looked upon to possibly replace Bradley as an attacking midfielder, as Bradley will more than likely return to his preferred defensive midfield spot. It should be a great four years for Jozy Alitdore as well, as he will be entering the prime of his career in 2018 along with Aron Johannsson.
Even with faults throughout their run, the U.S. National Team should still realize the impact they have made on the world. No longer is the United States considered soft team or an easy game. The talent level on this squad was equal throughout. There was no major drop off from one player to the next. There was no star that would fuss about not getting his way. This was truly a team. Something that kids and adults across this country can be proud of. Looking forward to the future there is no reason why the United States of America cannot go to Russia and fight for a title.