Tim Howard's 16 save World Cup single-game record breaking perfromance against Belgium wasn't enough to propel the U.S. mens national team to the quarter finals, but the nation's team should be proud of their performance in this year's World Cup. Their World Cup campaign brought the United States fans together in rooting for their beloved underdogs and showed what soccer could become in the future.
For all the excitement and hype surrounding the USA's team, they still were unable to make it past the round of 16 for the second consecutive World Cup. There should, however, be great pride in being able to escape the "Group of Death" and being one near miss, by striker Chris Wondolowski in the 92nd minute, away from advancing to face Argentina in the quarterfinals.
There is much of which to be proud about the squad Jurgen Klinsmann has assembled. The German coach received heavy criticism for leaving American soccer legend Landon Donovan off the squad and took risks by purposely building his group of 23 players to be young, athletic and undaunted.
Looking back at the tournament we can see that many of Klinsmann's decisions were validated. Long-misunderstood "Klinsmann favorite" Jermaine Jones was America's outfield player of the tournament. The German-American contingent thrived in Brazil, putting paid to any doubts over their commitment, and scored three of the United States' five goals. Meanwhile, in DeAndre Yedlin, Fabian Johnson, Matt Besler, John Brooks and even Julian Green, a solid foundation has been set for the future.
This was a U.S. team in which heart, tenacity, and athletic conditioning skill compensated for a lack of skill and tactical decision-making. The U.S. team for years has demonstrated that they win on gritty heart felt team effort in order to grind out victories. If they are to take the next step the U.S. must develop players who not only rely on heart and toughness but who have the skill and ability to dominant the ball and take over a game.
The most promising sign of this tournament came in the furious final 15 minutes here Tuesday. Trailing 2-0, Klinsmann inserted 19-year-old Julian Green for his World Cup debut. Rather than be intimidated by the moment, the German-American scored almost immediately, on a beautiful finish, to keep the outcome in doubt.
That's the level of skill that has to be the future for the U.S. to finally break through. That's the presence. That's the seizing of opportunity. Only they need a bunch of those guys.
Soccer has arrived in the United States and is continuing to grow, slowly but surely. The national team is an enjoyable group to look and hard not to root for. There is no questioning the commitment of everyone involved.
There's a lot of promise with the Nation's team and it'll be up to Jurgen Klinsmann to see to it that it comes to fruition as he oversees all of America's soccer development.