Tim Howard gave everything he had against Belgium tonight, but the team still lost in extra time and were denied a berth in the quarterfinals. The score of 2-1 in favor of the Belgians does not do justice to what happened on the pitch, however.
In all honesty, the score should have been 5-1 or worse. Howard had a record-setting 16-save game against some of the most prolific players in Europe. Indeed, we are lucky to have him in goal.
What went wrong? That's not he right question. Belgium was better than the US from the start. The possession was theirs, the chances were theirs, the style and ability were also theirs.
Team USA played as a unit, as a never-give-up squadron of warriors. It's not enough at a World Cup. This is the reason why they have not gone past the round of 16. Except in 2002, but that was against Mexico and it really doesn't count in the grand scheme because they are a known foe.
Was Landon Donovan missed? Yes and no. At times you could say that he might have succeeded in some plays or he might have injected extra pressure in others. But DeAndre Yedlin came up big with his speed and Julian Green showed us why he was called in by Klinsmann.
We can claim that Wondolowski could have scored at the end of the match and won the game for us. True. But Belgians might say the same about the numerous chances they had thwarted by Howard.
It's time to look forward now, to see what Costa Rica did right, which was to win the group and enter the knockout round in a position to play a weaker team. Had the US had to play Greece or Switzerland, then the chances to reach the quarterfinals may have been greater.
The USMNT erased major specters in this tournament: we have no fear of Ghana, of mid-level European teams with marquee players (Portugal), and we had style when we wanted to play the game.
There won't be Clint Dempsey next time, or Jermaine Jones or Kyle Beckermann. A new spine will need to develop. The American game is growing and MLS teams and US Soccer is getting more involved at a younger age with soccer-aspiring youths. Klinsmann also has a knack for recruiting youngsters with an American passport. Between now and the time Russia 2018 starts, don't be surprised if there are one or two more Julian Greens.