United States’ Julian Green, center, celebrates after scoring his side’s first goal during the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Belgium and the USA at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, Brazil, Tuesday, July 1, 2014.
AP Photo/Matt Dunham

The USA bowed out of the World Cup in a 2-1 loss to Belgium in Salvador, Brazil despite a Herculean defensive effort, led by goalkeeper Tim Howard. Howard set a World Cup record of 16 saves, the most in a World Cup, but that simply wasn’t enough for the U.S. Said Howard after the game, “We just couldn’t give anymore.”

After a fairly even first half, Belgium took control of the game and dominated the rest of the way. U.S. defenders rose to the occasion time after time; they played with much heart and never stopped defending, inspired by Howard’s effort. In the end, it was the inexperience in a crucial moment that would be remembered for sending the U.S. home.

With a minute left in regulation time, second half substitute Chris Wondolowski missed an open goal after Jermaine Jones nodded the ball down to the San Jose Earthquakes forward, six yards from the goal, who seemed rattled in front of the net. Wondolowski got the best chance of the game for either team, but it was his inexperience in such an occasion that failed the forward, who was in his first World Cup. A World Cup-experienced Eddie Johnson or Landon Donovan, most would argue, would have put smiles on many Americans faces on Tuesday. Unfortunately, USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann decided to leave the pair home.

The USA put up a gallant effort against Belgium, the entire defensive line was superb; substitute De Andre Yedlin did not skip a beat when he came on for the injured Fabian Johnson at right full back in the first half, and Da Marcus Beasley, Jeff Cameron and Omar Gonzalez put in a memorable performance. In midfield, Jermaine Jones, Alex Bodoya and Graham Zusi were all tireless in their work rate. For the second time, it was midfield Michael Bradley, whose loss of possession in midfield led to the U.S. defeat – led to Kevin De Bruyne’s goal to put Belgium ahead. Ramelu Lukaku, who helped to create De Bruyne’s goal, scored Belgium’s winner. Julian Green scored for the U.S.

Belgium, who will play Argentina, was the superior team, but soccer is a game of moments and the U.S. had the best moment to win the game despite Belgium’s dominance, but inexperience got the better in that crucial moment that will be talked about for years to come. What also will be unforgettable for ages is Howard’s astonishing record performance in the goal.

Costa Rica advances

Costa Rica continues to amaze at the World Cup and carry the COCACAF torch at the tournament. A 10-man Costa Rican team overcame a stressful regulation period; a heart-stopping 30-minute overtime period and a penalty kick shootout to defeat a determined Greece team, 5-3, on penalty kicks at the Arena Pernambuco in Recife, Brazil.

Michael Umana scored the winner for the Central American champion after Ticos goalkeeper Keylor Navas saved Theofanis Gekas on the fourth kick. The Ticos, also had to overcome poor refereeing by Benjamin Williams, whose calls made life extremely hard for Costa Rica.

Costa Rica will play the Netherlands in the quarterfinals on Saturday, its first appearance at this stage of a World Cup quarterfinal. Captain Bryan Ruiz put the Ticos ahead in the 66th minute and the Ticos soaked up much pressure the rest of the way, much of it caused by the sending off of Oscar Duarte in the 66th minute. The pressure eventually took its toll and Sokratis Papastathopolous equalized with about two minutes in regulation.

Red Bulls draw

Tim Cahill brought World Cup excitement to Red Bull Arena last Friday night: three minutes into stoppage time, Cahill climbed above two Toronto FC (6-4-2, 20 pts.) defender and headed on a long pass from Matt Miazga to Bradley Wright-Phillips, registered his 12th goal of the season to help the New York Red Bulls (4-5-7, 19pts.) salvage a 2-2 draw versus the visiting Canadians. The play delighted the crowd of 20,176 spectators, who had earlier welcomed Cahill back from the World Cup in Brazil, where he represented Australia. Cahill scored one o f the most talked-about goals of the tournament when he volleyed a long cross into the net in his country’s 3-2 loss to the Netherlands in a group stage match.

The Red Bulls took the lead in the 36th minute from a Peguy Luyindula goal, his fourth of the season, and led at the half, but Toronto’s equalizer came in the 55th minute when English international Jermaine De Foe scored his eighth goal this year when he whipped in a low cross past Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles; Toronto forged ahead, 2-1, in the 72nd minute when Gilberto hit a powerful shot that just slipped under the crossbar, then the Cahill-Wright-Phillips connection influenced the result.

Toronto would find an equalizer just 10 minutes into the second half when Jermaine Defoe netted his eighth goal of the season. Jonathan Osorio found himself out wide on the right side and played a low cross to the near post that Defoe ran onto and clipped home a right-footed shot past Robles.

The Red Bulls next play July 4 (8:30 p.m. NBC Sports) at the Houston Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium. The next contest at Red Bull Arena is against the Columbus Crew on Saturday, July 12 at 7:00 p.m.

United States’ Julian Green, left, scores his side’s first goal during the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Belgium and the USA at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, Brazil, Tuesday, July 1, 2014.
AP Photo/Matt Dunham

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