The United States took Belgium to added extra time, but Belgium finally got past a phenomenon performance by Tim Howard to squeeze out a 2-1 victory. LA Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez played all 120 minutes, with some key defensive stops to keep the US at a clean sheet through the first ninety minutes.
It was a match full of extremes, mostly by way of the US weathering Belgium's attack. Tim Howard had to make 16 saves, the most ever by a goalkeeper in the World Cup. The US had to make 70 defensive clearances, the most of any team in the 2014 World Cup.
Looking at the Belgium shot chart isn't an attack, it's an onslaught that the US somehow withstood for 90+ minutes. Omar Gonzalez was all over every inch of the penalty area with clearances, blocks, and interceptions. If the Galaxy get back the Gonzalez who played these past two matches for the US, they're getting back one of the best defenders out there.
Sub Julian Green was able to get the lone goal for the US, giving fans hope going into the final half of the extra time period. The US was able to drum up a training ground play for a free kick that almost netted the equalizer save for a great save on Dempsey's attempt by Belgium's young Thibaut Courtois.
The US lost in extra time to Ghana in 2010, under very similar circumstances. In that one, Ghana found the early goal three minutes in and the US couldn't find a way to equalize in added extra time. The US had a bigger mountain to come back from here against Belgium, and were able to let go enough to go forward and get one back. There just wasn't enough to completely turn things around.
In many ways, the US showed two completely different approaches this World Cup. Behind they were loose and pushed forward. Ahead or drawn and they sat back completely letting other teams take the match to them. Against Belgium, they let in a second goal before they were able to change up a gear.
It was a World Cup performance that captured many imaginations, and certainly helped grow the sport to another level over the time the US was in it. Overall it's been a great World Cup for parity. Not only did we get a team like Costa Rica winning a group with two European teams in it, we had all eight group winners win their octofinal match.
More than anything, it's been fun. Jurgen Klinsmann is contracted through 2018, and the current collective bargaining agreement extends through then as well. It's been fun to see what Klinsmann has done with a mix of players brought up by Bob Bradley (and even one or two by Bruce Arena) and the players he's chosen to bring up. 2018 will be entirely his doing. Let's hope the momentum continues, and the US has arrived as a threat every tournament.