American goalkeeper Tim Howard played the game of his life Tuesday but it wasn’t enough to keep the Americans in the World Cup.
After 120 minutes of play, the Belgians walked off the pitch with a 2-1 victory and a date with Argentina in the quarterfinals. Throughout the game Belgium was in dominant form, as it got 39 total shots. But Howard was phenomenal as he saved shot after shot, ending the match with the most saves in a World Cup game since 1966 with 16.
“That’s my job,” Howard said. “That’s what I signed up to do.”
Despite being under constant duress, the U.S. was able to push the game into extra time. But the Belgians were able to breakthrough in 93rd minute on a Kevin De Bruyne goal. Romelu Lukaku extended Belgium’s lead to 2-0 with a beautiful goal in the 105th minute.
But the Americans refused to go away. Julian Green pulled the U.S. to within one with a fantastic volley that Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois couldn't get enough of. Green is the youngest player to ever score for the U.S. in the World Cup.
The Americans gave it one more shot on a set piece. The U.S. was able to sneak the ball behind the Belgian defense but Courtois blocked a shot from forward Clint Dempsey. There were more opportunities as the game came to an end but the U.S. was unable to score the equalizer.
“We’re probably unlucky to get the equalizer there at the end,” midfielder Michael Bradley said. “You get to this point and everybody’s a good team. Every game is gonna be a hard game and you know that it’s gonna be a play here or play there [that’s] gonna make a difference.”
Belgium moves on to play the Argentines who scored a late extra time goal against Switzerland to move on. For the Americans, this is their second consecutive loss in the Round of 16. The U.S.’s last appearance in the quarterfinals was in 2002 after it defeated Mexico. The Americans followed up that victory with a 1-0 loss to Germany.
While the loss stings for a team that “believed” it could win against anyone it faced, the Americans showed improvement under the direction of German born coach Jurgen Klinsmann. Klinsmann plans to be back for the 2018 World Cup in Russia and looks to continue pushing the U.S. name into the ranks of world’s best teams.
“We take a lot, a tremendous amount away from this experience,” Klinsmann said. “I think we grew a lot. We know now that we can play eye-to-eye with the big nations.”