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.
teams get their heart broken," goalkeeper Tim Howard said. "It has to
end sometime. It ended a little bit early for us."
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
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.
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.
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.
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
"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."
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!"
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
"If this continues, then we're in trouble," he recalled thinking.
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.
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.
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
There would be no final comeback this time, though.
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."