By Jesse Wood
July 1, 2014. USA Goalkeeper Tim Howard: Throw the man roses – even if he was on the losing end of the 2014 World Cup match between USA and Belgium.
He was sensational, exceptional. No one, in the past 50 years of playing, goaltending in the World Cup, has made more saves in one game than Howard’s 16 stops on Tuesday.
Belgium’s attack was relentless, while the Americans played a less than stellar game with control in the midfield that wasn’t up to par with its effort that it showed in a heartbreaking tie with Portugal in the prior round of the tournament.
Howard, though, was a beast, which is ironic because that is how he pre-match described Belgium’s Romelu Lakaku, who was a substitute towards the end of Tuesday’s match that went into extra time. Lakaku set up Belgium’s first goal and scored its second.
Still, even as impressive as Lakaku’s fresh legs were, Howard was named FIFA’s “Man of the Match” – a considerable feat in light of Howard being on a losing team.
Howard is 34, so with the World Cup being every four years, this could very well be his last match on the USA squad.
That is very unfortunate for Howard, who likely is the main reason that the USA squad made it to the elimination round of the tournament. But on the bright side for the future of the USA men’s national team was Julian Green.
Green – or perhaps more succinctly, the USA head coach Jurgen Klinsmann – took criticism for his selection on the 2014 men’s squad because Landon Donovan, an aging USA legend with an undeniable quality of finish, was left off of the team in the final selections before the event.
But the Bayern Munich prospect, who is only 19 years old, gives USA hope in 2018. Green was a substitute in extra time of the Belgium match and scored a phenomenal goal on his first touch on the ball – a volley that hit that the upper the right corner of the net.
The shot also gave USA real-time hope, which then led to a Belgium lead of only 2-1 in the elimination match. That goal, though, wasn’t enough to thwart Belgium, which dominated the match and deserved the win in the end.