Teams understand this, and that is what makes the rest of the world nervous about playing the US team. The US team is beatable, but they will never play like they expect to be beaten. You can score against the US team, but the US team will never play like your lead is insurmountable. You can run and press the US team, but chances are the US team will be running at full speed in the 90th minute at the same moment your lungs are burning.
And the US team will never, ever be intimidated.
Many fans and players from other countries laugh that the US is a country of baseball and basketball players who think football is some sport played with hands on a small, 100 yard field. But they make these jokes nervously as if they are trying to convince themselves it is true. Deep down, they know this is a team that knocked Spain out of competitive tournament last summer, was the best team in the second half in all their World Cup games, and won a tougher World Cup qualification bracket than any that a European team had to face. Those other countries know that there are holes in the US line-up, but those holes will get smaller over time. What will not get smaller is the way Americans compete.
The grit that the US team showed in South Africa is more than just a charming trait. It is actually a distinguishing characteristic of American soccer – one that will serve our national team’s character well in the years to come.