It wasn’t the way we wanted it to end. Watching the clock wind down was heartbreaking for us all to say the least. But the U.S. Men’s National Team should not hang their head about the outcome against Belgium in the knockout round. In fact, they shouldn’t hang their head about their performance in this year’s World Cup at all.
U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said his team was not done, but on a mission to win. That they would not play simply to survive, but to make a statement to the world about whom they are. And the U.S. did just that. They proved that they belonged.
The U.S. seemed overmatched for much of the Round of 16 match-up with Belgium. They conceded possession and were never able to truly counter the pressure of the Belgian defense. Yet they played until the end. They showed quality and integrity. They showed defiance to the odds of being beaten. Julian Green brought them back in it. Clint Dempsey nearly tied it. And in end, even with goalkeeper Tim Howard having the most masterful night the World Cup has seen in 50 years, the U.S. just didn’t have enough to overcome the 2-1 deficit they faced. They did, however, put to rest the notion that soccer was not alive and well in the U.S.
Emerging from the “group of death”, no one predicted the Americans would get this far. How could a team from a country where “football ” is played on the gridiron survive the likes of a Ghana team its never beaten, a Portugal team that’s home to arguably the best player in the world, and a German team that had been crowned World Cup Champions three times? To many, it seemed impossible. But to the rest of us, we believed. We believed that we would win. We believed that we would give Belgium everything they could handle. We believed our country was good enough to handle any adversary on any stage, even the stage we were most unfamiliar.
This year gave us hope. We know what we need to improve on for the upcoming stages of this game and how we can advance our team. The U.S. must find players capable of possessing the ball better in midfield. The absence of Jozy Altidore played a role in those struggles. Klinsmann must also continue the development of the younger players like Yedlin, Green, Johnson, and Timmy Chandler. But ultimately, there is nothing to be ashamed of. This exit from Brazil surely came a lot later than most anticipated. The U.S has shown itself to be a country worth believing in for years to come, and thanks to this year’s efforts, it won’t take until the 2018 World Cup in Russia for the rest of the world to believe it too.