When a team enters into a tournament format like the World Cup knockout stage, you always know that the next game very well may be your last.
But that doesn’t mean it is any easier when the end finally comes.
Such is the case for the United States Men’s National team, which saw its World Cup run end on Tuesday in a 2-1 loss to Belgium.
“Thirty-one teams get their heart broken, and it has to end sometime,” goal keeper Tim Howard said after the match. “It ended a little bit early for us. We felt like it was a good Belgium team. Sometimes you give everything you have and do your absolute best, and it doesn’t stack up.”
This loss is particularly hard to take because it signals the likely end (or at least brings us very close to the end) of the international careers of players like Howard, Clint Dempsey, DeMarcus Beasley and Jermaine Jones. While they may not have been part of a “Golden Generation” in U.S. soccer, they were among a group of core players that made the national team relevant on the world stage. The day is coming soon when Dempsey will no longer be on the attack, nor will Howard be in the goal, and that is going to take some time getting used to.
While it is difficult to accept that we may never see several of the current players wear the jersey again in a significant international match (although it sounds like many of them will be there for next summer’s Gold Cup), there is plenty to be excited about with the next generation of players.
Despite not always playing at his best in this World Cup, Michael Bradley is in his prime and should continue to anchor the midfield during the next four years. The same can be said of forward Jozy Altidore, whose injury put a strain on the team’s offense.
While many questioned the inclusion of DeAndre Yedlin, Julian Green and John Brooks, among others on the roster, all three put up solid performances when called on. Green and Brooks both found the back of the net with important goals, and Yedlin’s nonstop energy (plus his cross that led to Dempsey’s goal against Portugal) certainly leaves fans wanting to see what this group (along with Mix Diskerud and Aron Johannsson) can do as they continue to grow together.