One week has passed since the U.S. bowed out of the World Cup, a furious rally coming just short in a 2-1 loss to Belgium. And now, we’re left with questions.
Yes, the U.S. survived the Group of Death, and yes, the U.S. played a rising European nation to extra time in the Round of 16. But was this World Cup a success?
“That’s a tough question,” U.S. defender Matt Besler said on The Doug Gottlieb Show, “and (it’s) probably not up to me to decide that. That’s up to the fans, and that’s up to the people that cover our sport. But for me, I’m torn. I would probably say no, it wasn’t a success – because we as players, we set the bar pretty high going into this World Cup. We really felt like going into that Belgium game that we had the team to win. I know that every guy on the team expected to win that match and to advance on to the quarterfinals. Everyone knows we came up a little short. So I would say it was a success in a lot of areas, but overall – for me as a player – it wasn’t.”
The U.S. was outplayed for much of regulation against Belgium but nevertheless took a scoreless draw into extra time. It didn’t take long, however, for Belgium to score – not once, but twice in the extra session.
And then the U.S. got aggressive, scoring one goal and coming tantalizingly close to another.
“Well, that always happens in sports,” Besler said. “You see a team that goes on a run or you see a team up by 10 in a basketball game and all of a sudden the other team makes a run. They always make a run. The team that has its back against the wall always comes out fighting for that last stretch. I think that’s exactly what we did. I guess the frustrating part for us – maybe it’s a little bit of a regret – is having seen that last 10 minutes of the second overtime and how we dominated the game, you just ask the question why didn’t we do that earlier in the game? Why didn’t we come out like that? That’s the one question that I know we’ll be looking at.”
Well, let’s answer it. Was the spotty game plan on the players or the coaches?
“Our game plan was to go out and win the game – go out and attack them,” Besler said. “I think we did that for the majority of the first half. If anybody watched the Germany game, we didn’t do that. We completely sat back and let Germany have control of the game. In my opinion, the first half of the Belgium game was back and forth. I think in the second half, they had all of the possession and all of the chances and I think Belgium dominated the second half – for whatever reason. It wasn’t our game plan, but I think you have to give credit to Belgium. They’re a very, very good team and they had a lot of talented players. They played really well that night.”
The U.S, of course, might have fared better against Belgium had Jozy Altidore not been hurt in the opening match against Ghana. Without its top forward, the U.S. scored just one goal in its final two games of the World Cup, losing both.
That begs the question: Did the U.S. miss Landon Donovan?
“You know what?” Besler said. “I think we did fine without him. I’m not in the position to answer whether we needed him or not. That’s still up to the coach. But I think a lot of guys stepped up. A lot of guys that didn’t have experience – young players – really answered the bell.”
Those young players include John Brooks, 21, and Julian Green, 19, who each found the back of the net in Brazil.
“It’s really looking good moving forward,” Besler said.
As for the rest of the World Cup, Besler is predicting a Germany/Argentina final.
“For me, Germany is the best team left,” he said. “I’d be surprised if Germany didn’t win.”