KYLE SCHNITZER - Thursday, July 3, 2014
Just like that, the ride is over.
For 107 minutes, the US looked terrified before the most controversial addition to the 23-man squad forever marked his way into the hearts of Americans. 19-year-old Julian Green, who has never played for the first-team at Bayern Munich, spear-kicked a floating volley from Michael Bradley to beat Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois' hand deflection. It was a goal that pumped life into the US and even if the end result did not match up with the expectations, it instilled a yearning and hunger for more, for more memories and most of all, more American soccer.
Tim Howard, G: Man of the Match. Man of the team. Goalie of the tournament. Howard saved 16 shots against the flying Belgians and none of them were cheap. It was a fitting way to go out. The most successful American keeper, now 35, stands atop the world for his heroic and masterful performance. 10.0
Fabian Johnson, D: Johnson was subbed for after 32 minutes with a hamstring problem, which forced Jurgen Klinsmann to use an early sub. He was arguably the most important field player going into this match because of his speed and ability to mark players, especially the fast wingers of Belgium. It was an early blow that was forgotten once DeAndre Yedlin replaced him, but still was not the way Johnson wanted to end his World Cup, especially after a sub-par performance against Germany. 5.0
Matt Besler, D: He is part to blame for the opening goal when he fell down against a streaking Lukaku. But for about 90 minutes, Besler showcased the same talent that was seen earlier in this World Cup. A definite staple as center back in 2018 World Cup. 6
Omar Gonzalez, D: If only Omar Gonzalez's leg could have extended a foot longer, we could be talking about a penalty kick shootout. His attempt to poke the ball away after a streaking Romelu Lukaku passed inside the US box to the would-be scorer Kevin De Bruyne broke the hearts of Americans. But the credit goes to De Bruyne who went far post to beat Howard. Gonzalez ends the World Cup as a player who answered all questions. He always had the potential to be a staple as a center back for the United States and proved that again against Belgium. His size helps him on balls in the air and he has become more conservative with his tackles. One of the rising stocks of this World Cup team. 7.5
DeMarcus Beasley, D: Like Howard, it's the end of a terrific run from DeMarcus Beasley. He showed much of the same that he has featured in this World Cup - holding down the left wing and key passes out of trouble. Surprisingly, Beasley featured more on offense against Belgium, which to go along with his superb defensive game, was icing on the cake. 7.0
Geoff Cameron, M: Cameron started in place of Kyle Beckerman, who's speed did not favor well against the Belgian attack. He played primarily in the center of the field and works well with space, but he was mostly ineffective on offense due to the logjam of Jones and Bradley. He's another versatile player on this roster and offers more as an all fields midfielder, even if this was not his best performance. 5.0
Michael Bradley, M: Was he the most disappointing player for the US? I understand what he brings every game: speed, hustle and grit. But at some point, these attributes must translate into something else, something more dangerous than someone who gives a steady performance without peaking above the average line. Bradley represents soccer in America, the physicality and determination to out stride your opponent. But he did not feature the necessary skill to change the game. But as a little reminder, he showed the world his creativity, a perfectly-placed lopped chip over the Belgian defense to a streaking Julian Green, who casually finished the play. 5.5
Jermaine Jones, M: All told, Jermaine Jones delivered a spectacular World Cup performance, in which is likely his last with the US. Against Belgium, he was not the same player that created havoc offensively and defensively. With Cameron starting, Jones floated higher up the field to feature on attack, and had his opportunities but failed to capitalize. But even on attack, he created small glimpses of promise. 6.0
Alejandro Bedoya, M: I think this is the very best we are going to see from Bedoya. He's a max-effort kind of player who does not show moments of brilliance or moments of disaster. In the World Cup, he played more in the defensive half when he should have been more on attack. He could be a nice sub off the bench, but there has to be someone more capable of contributing on both ends of the field. 4.5
Graham Zusi, M: It was not pretty from the get-go for Zusi, whose mistake in the midfield in the 20th minute almost hurt the US mightily. If Bradley was not your biggest disappointment, it has to be Zusi. He was consistently out run and looked lost at times, not offering enough on defense because of his pace while remaining ineffective on offense. He had opportunities in the box, but seemed flustered at every moment. 3.5
Clint Dempsey, F: His best opportunity came at the end of the game, on the crucial free kick where Courtois made a better play. All in all, Dempsey was hurt playing exclusively as the lone forward, but had an excellent World Cup. Do not forget he played against the best competition in the world with a broken nose. 5.5
[b]DeAndre Yedlin, D: Subbed on for Fabian Johnson early in the game, Yedlin again showed what he is capable of doing. Forget marking Eden Hazard for the moment, but Yedlin's ability to shoot up the right wing was crucial for any US attack. He is one of those players that has the US motor and also possesses skill, and at the age of 20, there is certainly a lot of be excited about. 7.0
Chris Wondolowski, F: Give Chris Wondolowski that opportunity inside the box ten times, he makes nine of them. That's just how soccer works. He should have finished, but didn't. 5.0
Julian Green, M: He made a gorgeous looping run to break away from the Belgian backs and a perfectly placed lob from Bradley created excitement for the 2018 World Cup. Did anyone really expect Green to make an impact in Brazil? His goal was excellent. Now with the right first-team action and development, he could be a pivotal piece in the 2018 starting eleven. 6.0
Jurgen Klinsmann: Klinsmann left certain players at home so Wondo could finish plays like that, but in the end, it does not work out. Some will question why Klinsmann used his final substitution so late, but that does not matter anymore. Belgium outplayed the United States for 115 minutes. But Klinsmann's substitutions all seemed to work in this World Cup and the vital playing time donated to the younger players (Brooks, Yedlin, Green) is tremendous. But where was Diskerud? Is a Round of 16 loss good enough? Not anymore. But at the same time, Klinsmann has created a yearn to dominate for the US.