Despite Tim Howard’s World Cup record 16 saves, the United States fell to Belgium 2-1 in extra time. Howard’s heroics held Belgium scoreless in regulation, but Belgium’s relentless pressure eventually paid off.
The United States defense were under constant pressure from the 1st minute as Divock Origi forced Howard into a leg save. The Belgian attack peppered the United States goal, and Kevin Mirallas -- Howard’s Everton FC teammate -- had a chance to put Belgium up in the 76th minute. Origi placed a perfect pass which sent Mirallas through on goal. Mirallas tried to beat Howard far post, but Howard was able to stick his foot out and push Mirallas’ shot wide.
For the game, Belgium took 38 shots, and 27 of those were on goal. That stat alone tells you the magnitude of Howard’s performance between the sticks.
Even though the Belgians took the majority of the shots, the United States had chances of their own. In stoppage time, Chris Wondolowski had the perfect opportunity to put the Americans ahead and missed. Geoff Cameron floated the ball into the box, then Jermaine Jones flicked it to Wondolowski, who’s shot flew over the bar.
The breakthrough for Belgium finally came in the 93rd minute as Romelu Lukaku was able to set up Kevin De Bruyne for the first goal. De Bruyne received the pass from Lukaku, created space, and fired a low shot past Howard.
Belgium doubled their lead in the 105th minute as De Bruyne returned the favor to Lukaku. De Bruyne provided the pass which sent Lukaku through on goal, and despite having a defender close to him, Lukaku was able to fire his shot past Howard.
Lukaku and Howard often had their battles in practice as teammates at Everton FC, but Lukaku was able to get the best of Howard on the biggest stage.
Julian Green was able to pull one back for the United States with a beautiful volleyed goal in the 107th minute. Michael Bradley provided a wonderful lob pass to Green over the Belgian defense. That goal was Green’s first touch in the World Cup.
After Green’s goal, the United States had an opportunity to tie the game. On a free kick, Bradley slipped the ball to Wondolowski, who put Clint Dempsey through on goal, but Belgian keeper Thibaut Courtois smothered Dempsey’s shot.
The game was a heartbreaker, but the US Soccer team can leave Brazil with their heads held high. Many predicted that they wouldn’t make it out of the “Group of Death” and they did. Not only that, they were able to hang in there with some of the world’s best. US Soccer still has a way to go to be on par with top nations, but they’re definitely on the right track.
Tim Howard’s performance in goal has been great in the World Cup, and he’s been able to keep the United States in every game. He is the United States’ World Cup MVP.