JOHN KRETLOW - Thursday, May 30, 2013
Goals from Clint Dempsey and Geoff Cameron were not enough as the US Men's National Team went down to a strong Belgium squad in an international friendly from Cleveland. Substitute Christian Benteke highlighted the road team's dominance with two second-half goals that helped Belgium grab an easy 4-2 victory.
The first half was an even affair, with Belgium scoring an early goal but the US responding strong with a set-piece tally.
A storyline going into Wednesday's game was how the US backline would deal with Belgium's attacking talent. In just the fifth minute of the game, Belgium made its first strong attack of the game and found the back of the net.
Steven Defour split the US backline with a through ball to Romelu Lukaku who struck the ball towards goal but Tim Howard's sliding save knocked the ball into space. Kevin Mirallas then lofted the ball into the empty net and gave the road team the lead.
In the 22nd minute, the US leveled the game when a corner kick was headed by Dempsey towards the front of the goal and Cameron headed the ball home.
The second half was dominated by Belgium however, as they scored three goals quickly to put the game out of reach for the Americans.
In the 56th minute Belgium notched their second goal of the game when Omar Gonzalez' heavy touch in the US box resulted in a giveaway to Defour who squared the ball to an open Benteke. The Aston Villa striker scored from close range to give Belgium the lead.
Just nine minutes later, Marouane Fellaini got into the action for Belgium, as he headed home a goal from a corner kick situation that the US was unable to clear from danger.
Belgium then made it 4-1 when Benteke received a through-ball from Defour and then flicked the ball over Brad Guzan for the goal in the 71st minute.
The US was able to get one back in the 80th minute, however, when it converted from the penalty spot.
Eddie Johnson stormed into Belgium's final third and attempted a cross, but Toby Alderweireld stopped the ball with his hand and was called for the penalty. Dempsey stepped up to the line and buried the ensuing spot kick for the US.
Just a minute later, the US was close to cutting Belgium's lead to just a goal, but Johnson's cross was too far for Brad Evans to get good contact on goal.
With just minutes left in the game though, the US fans got something to cheer about when Stuart Holden made his return to the national team. The Bolton midfielder had not played for the US since 2010 because of a series of serious knee injuries. Holden was hardly enough to make up for his side's two-goal deficit, unsurprisingly, with the game ending at the same 4-2 scoreline.
The US will get a chance to continue to prepare for its June qualifiers with another friendly game on Sunday against Germany.