World Cup Brazil 2014: U.S. Soccer Comes Of Age
The heroic Tim Howard
A U.S. goalie almost single handedly wills his team over powerful Belgian squad
Even though the United States was knocked out from the tournament U.S. soccer may have come of age with the team's performance in this Brazil 2014 World Cup including against the Belgian squad.
Showing surging soccer popularity last Sunday's U.S. game against Portugal was seen by 18.2 million viewers. Yesterday's game against the Belgians was viewed by millions and at one outside gathering alone, Chicago's Soldier Field, 25,000 people watched the big screens.
The Belgians outplayed the U.S. offensively for most portions of the game, especially during extra-time when the fatigue took over and the team could not slow down the opposing forwards.
However to be truthful the game would have been long over during regular play had it not been for the heroics of U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard's 16 spectacular and fearless saves often during one-on-one situations. By withstanding Belgium's assaults at the goal, Howard, with occasional timely tackles by his defenders, almost single-handedly saw the U.S. through to the penalty shootout stage where it would have still been any one's game.
Howard was a man of steel in Brazil.
Howard couldn't be blamed for either of the Belgian goals, the first being a low ball by Kevin De Bruyne curving away from him and placed at a perfect angle that was unreachable. The second goal was when the Belgian forward Romelu Lukaku simply outran the U.S. defenders and blasted a through pass right by Howard.
So the U.S. went into the second half of extra-time play down by 2 goals and even the faithful fans fell quite. Then suddenly there was some hope when the American forward Julian Green scored one of the tournament's best goal, slicing a volley, with perfect spin on the ball, away from the Belgian goalie's reach towards the left part of the goal.
Once again U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann who a few minutes earlier had looked resigned to defeat was again running along the sideline urging his squad forward. The team responded and Clint Dempsey was denied a goal by the Belgian keeper.
There were several missed opportunities including the very well played set-play from a free kick outside the Belgian penalty box. One-two-three intricate and quick passing found the U.S. player in front of the goal facing the Belgian goalie with the ball at his feet. But that shot, as in a few one-one-one breaks the U.S. had, was saved.
The most painful miss was a header that bounced against the right goalpost and a rebound that rolled harmlessly out of bounds in the dying minutes of the game.Then it was all over and Belgium was through and the U.S. was on its way home.
The U.S. team won many admiring fans around the world.
The U.S. squad may lack a player of the caliber of Portugal's Renaldo, Brazil's Neymar, Argentina's Messi, or Uruguay's Suarez -- minus the biting -- but almost compensates for this with its reliable teamwork and passing.
The team had a hard-earned victory over Ghana, which in the past had knocked out the U.S. from tournament play and the Americans could have beaten Portugal had it not been for the spectacular cross from Renaldo during the last seconds of a first round game. The team more than held its own and could have even tied or beaten Germany, one of the tournament's favorites.
The U.S. is now a legitimate soccer power and the team's performance has inspired younger payers who will one day help take the team further into the World Cup Soccer tournament.
Job well done Team USA.