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US World Cup ends with 2-1 OT loss to Belgium



BY RONALD BLUM
AP SPORTS WRITER

SALVADOR, Brazil (AP) -- They captured the hearts of America - from coast to coast, big towns and small, all the way to the White House.

Capturing the World Cup will have to wait.

Belgium scored twice in extra time Tuesday and then held on for a 2-1 win over the United States.

The Americans go home after the round of 16 - just like four years ago.

"Thirty-one teams get their heart broken," goalkeeper Tim Howard said. "It has to end sometime. It ended a little bit early for us."

Playing the finest game of his career, Howard stopped a dozen shots to keep the Americans even through regulation and force an additional 30 minutes. He wound up with 16 saves - the most in the World Cup since FIFA started keeping track in 2002.

Before exiting, the U.S. showed the spunk that won America's attention. The Belgians built a two-goal lead when Kevin De Bruyne scored in the 93rd minute and Romelu Lukaku in the 105th.

But then Julian Green, at 19 the third-youngest player in the tournament, stuck out his right foot to volley in Michael Bradley's pass over the defense in the 107th, two minutes after entering.

"I was sure that we would make the second goal and we would go to the penalty shootout," Green said.

The Americans nearly did. In the 114th, Clint Dempsey peeled away on a 30-yard free kick by Bradley, who passed ahead to Chris Wondolowski. He fed Dempsey, and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois bolted off his line to block the 6-yard shot.

At the final whistle, the U.S. players fell to the field in their all-white uniforms like so many crumpled tissues.

"They made their country proud with this performance and also with their entire performance in this World Cup," said Jurgen Klinsmann, the former German World Cup champion who took over as coach three years ago.

The Americans advanced from a difficult first-round group to reach the knockout rounds of consecutive World Cups for the first time. Four years ago, they were eliminated by Ghana 2-1 on a goal in the third minute of extra time.

"Getting to the round of 16, if we don't do that, we're very, very disappointed," U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati said. "We get here and it's kind of the swing game. We get beyond here, then it's generally viewed as very successful."

The crowd of 51,227 at Arena Fonte Nova appeared to be about one third pro-U.S., with 10 percent backing the Belgians and the rest neutral. Back home, millions watched in offices, homes and public gatherings that included a huge crowd at Chicago's Soldier Field.

President Barack Obama joined about 200 staffers in an Executive Office Building auditorium to watch the second half.

"I believe!" he exclaimed as he walked in at the front of the hall. "I believe!"

Belgium outshot the U.S. 38-14. The 35-year-old Howard kept the ball out with slides, with dives and with leaps. But he never felt it was his special night.

"If this continues, then we're in trouble," he recalled thinking.

With forward Jozy Altidore still not recovered from the strained hamstring that had sidelined him since the June 16 opener, Klinsmann inserted Wondolowski as a second striker in the 72nd minute. He appeared to have a chance to win it in stoppage time when Jermaine Jones flicked the ball to him at the top of the 6-yard box, but with Courtois coming out, Wondolowski put the ball over the crossbar. While the linesman put out his flag, it was unclear whether he was signaling goal kick or offside.

In the third minute of extra time, Matt Besler tried to intercept a pass to Lukaku but fell down as the Belgian striker fought free. Lukaku sped in alone, crossed, and the ball rebounded off defender Omar Gonzalez. Kevin De Bruyne controlled it, took three touches as he spun and beat Howard just over his right foot.

"I thought I could make a play on the ball. I took a shot and missed and lost my balance," Besler said.

Twelve minutes later, with the U.S. pushing for an equalizer, Bradley's shot was blocked and De Bruyne burst ahead on a counter. He fed Lukaku, who sent the ball over the left shoulder of Howard, his Everton teammate, and seemingly put the game out of reach.

But Green, among five German-Americans on the U.S. roster and a surprise pick, woke up the team and its fans with his first touch, setting off raucous chants of "U-S-A! U-S-A!"

There would be no final comeback this time, though.

Bradley said the Americans had told themselves that regardless of when their run ended, they wanted to abandon their defensive style of the past.

"We wanted to go home going for it," he said.

"And," he added with satisfaction, "we did."

Donovan: We Need to Continue Developing

Join the discussion

1000|Char. 1000  Char.
blo2thehead July 01 2014 at 11:56 PM

Along with many people of our tribe ( NFL) I'm offended that you call yourself the game of futbol. Change your name or I'll see that the patent office does not protect that name anymore.

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10 replies
lgvxl42 July 02 2014 at 12:20 AM

Howard definitely kept the score to a respectable loss. He was very good. Its too bad that the majority of the other players chose today for a layoff. They were out played, plain & simple. Fortunately, Cost Rica is still in it as well as a few other teams from the America's. I will be watching.

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1 reply
Paddy lgvxl42 July 02 2014 at 12:28 AM

I am going for Holland, they were out played today but Howard WOW, one of the best in the world.

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Robert Goetz July 02 2014 at 12:20 AM

The goalie made sixteen saves and that shows the weakness of the US team.

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2 replies
DANTHALER Robert Goetz July 02 2014 at 1:40 AM

Agreed, team USA is not very good this time around, no argument. It's your logic I think i that I find troublesome. Isn't being able to put 16 shots on goal pretty good? Appparently Belgium had a red hot goalie that game as well. "The game of his life" I believe was printed. I just don't know if how many shots you had blocked on goal is a clear indicator of anything except a sure handed goalie. I didn't see the game so I can only say so much.

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zhubin_zarindast Robert Goetz July 02 2014 at 1:55 AM

Or the weakness in the US "defense" to be more specific.

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rtmsluci July 02 2014 at 7:58 AM

"The Americans go home after the round of 16 - just like four years ago."

Thank God. Now we can go back to ignoring Kickball, just like four years ago. It makes baseball look like it moves at the speed of NASCAR by comparison. But, but the whole world loves Kickball. Well, the whole world is wrong. It only gained popularity because European refugee kids could afford nothing else as they played amidst the post-WWII rubble. Can't wait for the NFL season to start so we can forget this drivel entirely.

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3 replies
mvnup July 02 2014 at 10:50 AM

Good I’m sick of hearing about this crap.

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1 reply
jdsept mvnup July 02 2014 at 11:14 AM

Don't want to hear about it? Why click on the story? You thought it was about gardening? Damn are you not intelligent.

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Jay July 02 2014 at 3:19 AM

Rather than all the heroic crap in the article one question comes to mind.......where was the US offense? Belgium held the ball at will and made us look like we did not know what we were doing......which we didnt. We had no business playing in this game.

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5 replies
pty014372 July 02 2014 at 8:18 AM

Thank goodness. Now we can get to real Football. At least we can now ignore soccer for another four years!

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3 replies
GO53 July 02 2014 at 7:04 AM

Now maybe mainstream media can stop trying to shove the world cup down my throat and convince me that I like soccer.

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2 replies
maqita GO53 July 02 2014 at 10:59 AM

No one is trying to convince you to like soccer, and you don't have to. There are over a billion people who do. Go away!

Flag Reply 0 rate up
madcap.1 GO53 July 02 2014 at 11:16 AM

i absolutely agree. there isnt another sport in this country that they try and force down our throats like they do this girls sport of soccer

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mqats July 02 2014 at 12:35 AM

They were outplayed by a generally stronger and more skilled team, but they gave it a great effort... Howard kept them in spectacularly... Bradley played an excellent game (for the 1st time in this tournament)... Jones was excellent but couldn't focus and finish... Beesley was very good... Gonzalez helped a lot... but top to bottom, Belgium was better, and is a strong threat to go all the way. Against any other keeper, they score 3, 4, or 5.

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1 reply
maqita mqats July 02 2014 at 11:15 AM

Good assessment of the game, I would however, add that one has to consider that the World Cup started long before the official kick-off date; and what that means to certain teams.

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fairfaxeagle July 02 2014 at 4:55 AM

Two teams and two different strategies ..Belgium played offense and USA defense .Howard was good but also VERY LUCKY..Belgium had at least 5 good opportunities to score ever higher.while the US defense could not believe what was going on..I watched all the games and that one was the most fascinating to watch ..I cannot believe that USA team would be eliminated by such a great marging of mistakes and passivity .

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