Despite what an ESPN commentator called one of the greatest goalkeeper performances in World Cup history, goalkeeper Tim Howard probably wishes he made two more stops to prevent Belgium from sending the United States Men’s National Team back home.
Surviving the Group of Death is about the only recorded accomplishment summarizing the United States berth in the 2014 World Cup, as the Americans lost a 2-1 heartbreaker to Belgium at Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, Brazil, on July 1. With the loss, the United States is officially eliminated from World Cup play.
“He does not deserve to be on the losing side,” Ian Darke, the lead commentator on the match’s ESPN feed said of Howard’s performance.
Howard made 16 saves in the match, the most made by a goalkeeper in about 50 years. But it was the two goals that managed to get by him in the first half of extra time on July 1 that probably aches the most and dampens an otherwise historic performance by the United States goalkeeper.
A furious comeback attempt by the United States in the second half of extra time fell short.
Julian Green started that comeback attempt when he found the back of the net in the 107th minute to cut the Belgium lead in half. Just moments later, Michael Bradley fired a shot toward the Belgium goal but missed just wide right.
Green, 19, was the youngest player to score a goal in the World Cup since 2006.
The United States was unable to score the equalizer in the match’s final 14 minutes.
Interestingly enough, the 2-1 final score did not accurately reflect how much Belgium dominated the United States in the Round of 16 match. Howard’s stubborn protection of the goal behind him allowed the United States several chances to defeat Belgium.
One of those chances came in the waning moments of stoppage time during regulation.
Jermaine Jones had a chance to win it for the United States in the 93rd minute with a point blank shot in front of Belgium goalkeeper Thibout Courtois. But Jones overshot the goal as the ball went sailing over the top crossbar. Had Jones found the back of the net, the goal would have been late enough to preserve a victory for the United States in regulation time.
It was Howard who allowed Jones to have that opportunity to win in regulation, as the goalkeeper made in impressive – perhaps impossible save just moments earlier on a shot on goal by Belgium defender Vincent Kompany in the 90th minute.
Of course, Belgium had its opportunities to end the match significantly earlier, as well, though Howard’s timely defensive stops prevented Belgium from scoring any goals during regulation.
But Belgium finally found the back of the net when defender Kevin De Bruyne broke the scoreless tie in the 93rd minute with a rifled shot passed Howard. The Belgium goal came on its 31st shot. Coincidentally, the United States attempted 32 shots for the entire tournament through the moment when the first Belgium goal.
It became 2-0 in the 105th minute when forward Romelu Lukaku scored from the left side of the box.
According to initial ratings, the U.S.-Belgium match drew a 9.6 rating, about five percent higher than the United States appearance in the Round of 16 match versus Ghana in 2010.
In its Group play, the United States was 1-1-1, defeating Ghana in its opener before tying with Portugal and losing to Germany.