Simply put, the better team won. Belgium eliminated the United States 2-1 in overtime on Tuesday in the round of 16 at the World Cup in Brazil.
Belgium scored two quick goals in extra time to take a 2-0 lead and seal the Americans’ fate. (Tim Howard’s amazing goaltending could last for only so long.)
But in typical American fashion, the United States soccer team made it a game, getting a goal from Julian Green. After that, the US had a few more chances, but couldn’t convert, bowing out in extra time for the second consecutive World Cup.
Here’s three reasons the US couldn’t beat Belgium.
1. Missing in attack
The United States’ attack went missing in action. Part of that belongs right at the feet of coach Jurgen Klinsmann. The US coach started five defenders, disguising one (Geoff Cameron) as a midfielder. That immediately put the US in a defensive position, similar to the game against Germany.
Klinsmann could’ve kept Kyle Beckerman in that same role that Cameron played and with more success.
The U.S. struggled to get out of its end again, though not as bad as against Germany. As the game evolved, Belgium adapted and pushed up higher to regain possession quicker and it worked, forcing the US to defend throughout the game.
When the US did get forward, especially down the wings, they looked threatening. But there wasn’t a consistent enough attack to make the Belgians worry.
2. Where’s my sub(stitutions)?
Why didn’t Klinsmann bring on his third substitution earlier?
Klinsmann waited until the US was down 2-0 and heading into the second extra time to make his sub, bringing on Julian Green, the man chosen over Landon Donovan.
The move proved the right choice when Green pulled a goal back on a great finish, so why did the substitution come so late?
Klinsmann should have brought him on sooner; get the speedy teenager involved earlier, infuse some excitement in the US side.
Players like Clint Dempsey were dragging late in the game, exhausted. But Green’s goal sparked the offense. It gave the squad new hope and new life. The US had a pair of chances to put in the equalizer too.
Green should’ve been brought on when the first extra time started, which brings us to our third point.
3. Romelu Lukaku
This isn’t something the US could’ve done differently, this was just a talented player coming on in the 91st minute and making the difference.
Lukaku beat Matt Besler on a free ball and broke to goal. He laid it off to Kevin De Bruyne who scored in the 93rd to put Belgium up 1-0.
Then Lukaku scored one himself 12 minutes later to secure the win. The US couldn’t handle the big, fast Lukaku and he turned out to be the difference.
Belgium coach Marc Wilmots made the move to start extra time, and the fresh legs of Lukaku killed the US defense.
And sent the US squad home.