All eyes in Seattle and around the U.S. shifted to Salvador, Brazil, on Tuesday afternoon as Clint Dempsey, DeAndre Yedlin and the U.S. National Team fought a valiant fight in the Round of 16 match against Belgium.
Dempsey was again an offensive catalyst with a team-high four shots on goal and Yedlin was an early substitute when Fabian Johnson was downed with a hamstring strain in the 32nd minute, putting both Sounders FC players in the middle of the U.S. attack. However, despite Tim Howard finishing the match with 16 saves, the U.S. ended its run in the 2014 FIFA World Cup just as it did in 2010 with a 2-1 extra time defeat.
Yedlin had just 24 minutes of World Cup experience entering the match after two substitute appearances in the Group Stage, but was the natural replacement at right back for Johnson and almost immediately provided a new dimension in a U.S. attack that had been stagnant to that point.
The 20-year-old Seattle native bombed up the right side with abandon, creating two chances before the halftime whistle. His speed proved a valuable resource to the U.S. throughout the 120 minutes of play, even while it didn’t end in a goal.
In the second half, two of his crosses found Dempsey only to have Dempsey’s efforts thwarted by Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
Despite being outplayed by Belgium, who went unbeaten in World Cup qualifying and the Group Stage, the U.S. had a chance to put the game away just before the end of regulation.
In second-half stoppage time, Jermaine Jones headed the ball to Chris Wondolowski behind the Belgium defense. With just the goalkeeper to beat and the whole goal in front of him, Wondolowski skied his shot over the crossbar and the match went to a 30-minute extra time period.
Just like 2010 against Ghana in the Round of 16, the U.S. allowed an early goal in overtime and was never able to draw even again.
Romelu Lukaku subbed into the match for Belgium at the start of extra time and was a veritable force against a U.S. defense worn down from chasing Eden Hazard, Divock Origi and Kevin De Bruyne. In the 93rd minute, Lukaku got away on a break and got the ball to De Bruyne, who finally put one past Howard for a 1-0 lead.
With the Americans pressing for an equalizer, Lukaku added another to the board just before the end of the first extra time period, taking a pass from De Bruyne and smashing it near post to put the U.S. in a 2-0 hole.
With just 15 minutes remaining, U.S. Head Coach opted to give Julian Green his World Cup debut and the 19-year-old made it memorable by scoring on his first touch.
Michael Bradley lofted a ball behind the Belgium defense and Green raced under it, hitting it on the volley to put it past Courtois to pull the score back to 2-1. And while the U.S. would keep that spirit alive, the equalizer never came.
On a free kick in the 114th minute, the U.S. played short, quick and on the ground to sneak Dempsey into the box alone with Courtois, but the keeper slid out to stop his shot. The U.S. had three more chances but couldn’t put them on frame and the match ended with a 2-1 final.
Belgium advances to face Argentina, who also needed extra time to defeat Switzerland on Tuesday. That quarterfinal match will be on Saturday, while the American players will return to the States, where they will soon disperse back to their home clubs. Yedlin and Dempsey are scheduled to be back in Seattle before the end of the week, with their status unclear for Saturday’s match against Vancouver Whitecaps FC.