2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

U.S. Soccer: Initial thoughts from Belgium 2, U.S. 1

Published: July 1, 2014, 5:40 pm, by Paul Klee

The U.S. men’s national team will be celebrated for its display in this World Cup. And that’s great. But when you nudge aside the patriotism and think clearly, this fact remains: The U.S. won one of four games. 

There’s a long, long way to go for U.S. soccer.

Belgium 2, U.S. 1. The better team won, and that’s pretty much that. The support from all corners of our country truly was a sight to behold. The scarves were out, the bars were packed, and ESPN’s Brazilian theme song has a permanent place in our memories.

But the games themselves were quite telling, too. This World Cup supports a theory a I’ve held for a long time: Without its long history of great goalkeepers, U.S. soccer is shockingly mediocre. Belgium appeared to be the superior team at every position except one: Tim Howard’s position. Like Kasey Keller and Brad Friedel before him, Howard gave the U.S. a chance where it didn’t deserve one.

Howard had 16 saves against Belgium. He was spectacular, overwhelming, a soccer savior. If the U.S. had stolen a win against Belgium today, Howard should have been the frontrunner for S.I. Sportsman of the Year, or whichever national honor fits best. Maybe he should win those awards, anyway.

At the very least, let’s shove Tim Howard into the U.S. government. He saved everything else.

The guts of Jurgen Klinsmann, John Brooks’ goal against Ghana and Howard’s performance against Belgium will be my lasting takeaways from this World Cup. That, and the sizable gap that still exists between the U.S. and the heavyweights of international soccer.

Twitter: @Klee_Gazette