The U.S. men’s soccer team survived the “Group of Death,” but after traveling nearly 10,000 miles across Brazil, their run in the 2014 World Cup is over. And it ended in extra time. Again.
In the opening minutes of the overtime period on Tuesday, Kevin De Bruyne finally got a shot past Tim Howard — the U.S. goalie who had stonewalled red wave upon red wave of Belgium players throughout the match to set a World Cup record with 16 saves in a performance for the ages — to give Belgium a 1-0 lead. Lukaku, the star striker who came on late from the bench, ran through Matt Besler to set up the goal.
After the enigmatic Lukaku gave Belgium a 2-0 lead, Julian Green, the 19-year-old and youngest American ever to ever play in the World Cup who controversially replaced star Landon Donovan on the roster, scored in the 107th minute to keep the U.S. alive.
In the final ten minutes of the match, the U.S. had Belgium on its heels, and Clint Dempsey was denied a change right in front of off of a free kick that could have tied the match when Belgium goalie Thibaut Courtois, who is one of the world’s best, blocked his shot on a crafty free-kick play in which Dempsey snuck off the line and received the pass.
The United States was inches away from winning the game before it even got to the overtime period. In the 90th minute, Chris Wondolowski missed what could have been the game-winning goal from point-blank range.
Belgium has a bevy of talented individuals that had trouble playing as a unit before Tuesday’s game. But Divock Origi, Marouane Fellaini, Kevin De Bruyne, Dries Mertens, Eden Hazard, Daniel Van Buyten, and Axel Witsel had the United States on its heels for most of the game.
A valiant and injured United States squad bent but did not break for much of the game. Dempsey and Jermaine Jones were playing with broken noses. Fabian Johnson sustained a strained hamstring, which is what has kept Jozy Altidore off of the field.
This is the second straight World Cup in which the United States has been eliminated in the Round of 16 in extra time. In 2010, the United States, just like they did on Tuesday, surrendered a goal to Ghana in the opening minutes of extra time and could not come back. In 2002, the U.S. defeated Mexico in the Round of 16 battle in South Korea before losing to Germany in the quarterfinals on a controversial non-call on a hand ball. The U.S. was trying to replicate that effort from 12 years ago.
Belgium will now face Argentina in the quarterfinals. Argentina struggled mightily until an 118th-minute goal by Angel Di Maria from a pass from All-World superstar Lionel Messi put them past Switzerland. And Argentina’s midfielders and defensive backs have looked shaky for long stretches during the tournament.
Tim Howard makes one of his many world-class saves against Origi in the opening minutes of the game.
Clint Dempsey Battles Vincent Kompany.
Photo: USA Today
Fabian Johnson leaves the game with a hamstring injury.
Nearly 28,000 fans watched the game at Soldier Field.