Tim Howard set a career high and had the most saves in a World Cup match since 1966 with 16, but it wasn’t enough to keep the U.S. from falling to Belgium in extra time.
In a match that was dominated by Belgium from start to finish, the United States hung around as long as they could before losing 2-1 in extra time. This game was a great example of one team playing not to lose, and the other playing to win. For most of the first half, other than a few chances, the Americans were on their heels trying desperately to hold off the Belgium attack. The second half was not much different, and in the end the Americans were out shot 38-15.
With that said, the Americans continued to beat the odds and forced the game into extra time at an even score of 0 to 0. However, the tie didn’t last long; Belgium forward Kevin De Bruyne beat Howard’s far side for the game’s first goal (which was followed by another goal by Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku). At this point, most thought the game was over, but to the Americans’ credit, they kept pushing. Their effort finally paid off as a late sub Julian Green scored on a great pass from Michael Bradley in the 107th minute. Sadly, that was the only point the Americans could gather. After the 121st minute, the Belgium team was finally allowed to celebrate a hard fought win.
In a post-game interview Tim Howard called this loss “heartbreaking” for him and his team. Heartbreaking may be the term to describe the loss, but Howard played the game of his life. Playing goalie in any sport takes a special athlete; you have to be in peak physical shape, but also have to have the right mindset. Howard continued to have an upbeat attitude even though it seemed like he was under constant fire. His mindset was an obvious one. Each save continued to boost his confidence as he continued to stay focused and thrive under the pressure.
A positive attitude, staying focused, and having confidence are three crucial factors when it comes to mental toughness. They are attributes any athlete should strive for. Though his effort was not enough to get the Americans to advance to the next knockout round of 8, he did help prove most of the world wrong by making it out of the “Pool of Death.” The Americans’ success in these past few World Cups has done nothing but open up gates to endless possibilities for Americans of all ages in the world of soccer: a victory in and of itself. To the men in the red, white, and blue: Thank you for making us BELIEVE!