Tuesday, in Salvador, Brazil, Tim Howard played the game of his life and kept the USA in a tough match with Belgium through the first 90 minutes and into extra time, the 93rd minute, when Kevin De Bruyne finally converted. The Belgians would go on to win 2-1, with all goals scored in extra time.
Belgium scored first and then scored again at the 105th minute, courtesy of Romelu Lukaku. The USA came back with a score at the 107th, a brilliant assist by Michael Bradley was followed by a miss hit by Julian Green that threw Thibaut Courtois’ timing and slipped by him for the crucial hope-generating goal. But the USA then missed point blank chances, several well-earned opportunities, and lost 2-1 to a young, talented, and resilient European side.
The USA played as well as they know how today and for 90 minutes their defensive miscues were erased by the stellar performance of Howard. But it was their attacking mistakes that cost them a chance to advance in the tournament.
The two clearest chances came toward the latter stages of the contest. The first came at the very end of the match when at the 92:02 mark of a game that ended at the 93:02, with stoppage time added, substitute Chris Wondolowski misplayed a wonderful through ball from Jermaine Jones with a shot that went well over the crossbar, when he had the goal and Courtois at his mercy, from very close range.
Then, when it seemed possible to tie the game, and the USA was pressing their adrenaline-induced advantage following Green’s goal, a free-kick opportunity at the 113th minute materialized. Bradley took it and in what seemed a prepared play he fed Clint Dempsey perfectly, in the box, close-in, facing Courtois and with space to place the ball ahead of the goalkeeper’s frantic charge. But Dempsey two-touched the one-touch opportunity and Courtois won that battle.
A game that hinged on the American team’s composure, turned on a few moments of miscalculation two on defense, and two on attack, and those are the moments that matter at the highest level of football competition. When Lukaku and de Bruyne had their moments, and those came off USA’s defensive frailties, the Belgians converted. When Wondolowski and Dempsey had theirs, which came off created opportunities by the midfield, the strikers missed. That was the match.
The USA played well for most of the match and did themselves proud. They got further than most expected and saved their best match for last. Tim Howard may have closed his international career on a historically high note, he now has the record for most saves by a single player, in a single match, in World Cup history.
FIFA.com said “The Americans head home following a World Cup campaign they can be immensely proud of.” The Guardian (UK) has as its Sports section front page subhead on the game: “Belgium needed extra time and the introduction of Romelu Lukaku to win a thrilling match by the skin of their teeth.” Belgian daily Het Laatste Nieuws said: “Red Devils, after heroic duel against USA, can now prepare for Messi.”
The match’s result was a fair indication of both the best this version of the USA team is currently capable of doing, and clearly of the long road still ahead toward World Cup 2026.