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USA soccer team comes up short in 2-1 extra time loss to Belgium

Published on July 1, 2014, by

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At the end, the Americans fell to grass because they had nothing left. They somehow had made it this far, to the Round of 16.

Spent after a 2-1 loss to Belgium, after 120 minutes, the U.S. players finally got up and exchanged jerseys. This was a game to remember, in so many imperfect ways.

When Julian Green scored in the 107th minute, the Americans had hope, but simply ran out of time. Once again they were eliminated in extra time of the World Cup.

From the start, it was clear. If the Americans were to beat Belgium and its galaxy of young stars, Tim Howard would have to be the best player on the field. Through 90 minutes, he was just that as the Americans forced Belgium into extra time after a scoreless tie.

“It’s heartbreaking,” said an emotional Howard after the game. “I don’t think we could give anymore. It’s heartbreaking. It hurts.”

After all those shots, “levee is going to break at some point,” he said.

“Obviously, it’s a bummer,” U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. “We were so close. I think we can all be very proud of this team. What they’ve done the past couple of weeks has been unbelievable, outstanding. They pushed Belgium to the limit…it could have gone either way and this is how these knockout games are.

“At the end you need a little bit of luck, that it’s going your way,” he said. “Today we didn’t have that.”

At the end of the game after 16 saves, Howard was named Man of the Match, in a performance that will be remembered as one of the best by a U.S. keeper. Belgium had 38 attempts on goal, the U.S. had 15.

In Salvador, the city of salvation, Howard almost single-handedly saved the day for the Americans. With 104 international appearances and 55 wins, both U.S. records for his position, Howard’s legacy is secure. A trip to the quarterfinals would have boosted it considerably. But his 16 saves and impossible leaps and tips over the post, did the same.

“We know how important Tim is to us,” Klinsmann said. “He’s done a tremendous job keeping us in that game on many occasions. He was just doing his job. Everybody on the field gave everything they had. You just need a little bit of luck and we didn’t have that today. But I think everybody can be proud of their team.”

Howard praised the Belgians, saying they were “fantastic.”

“The dream falls short, but this is an incredible group,” Howard, 35, said of his teammates. “I will never forget this night.”

In the opening minute, Howard made his first save of the day on challenge from Divock Origi. And so it went during a frenetic game which was riveting until the final second.

Finally, in the 93rd minute, Belgium broke through as Kevin DeBruyne found a pocket, past Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez, and squeezed it inside Howard’s right-hand post for the goal.

Belgium then poured in on in the 106th minute when Romelu Lukaku, still fuming for not getting the start, took out his frustration on the ball with a close-range goal. Belgium went ahead 2-0, and the Americans’ hopes dimmed.

The Americans had hoped to reach the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time since 2002, but on this day, the better team won. Belgium, considered a dark horse at the start of the tournament, will play Argentina, and Lionel Messi, on Saturday in Brasilia.

Though the Americans will leave Brazil disappointed, failing to capitalize on the enormous interest back home, few expected the Americans to get this far, to still be alive after the Group of Death.

To his credit, coach Jurgen Klinsmann seemingly pushed the right buttons. When he brought Green onto the roster, and kept Landon Donovan home, he was widely criticized. But in extra time, he looked like a genius.

Klinsmann never met a line-up he didn’t want to jumble and Tuesday’s was no exception. Geoff Cameron and Gonzalez were both in the starting line-up, and defensive specialist Kyle Beckerman sat his first game. Jozy Altidore, and his strained left hamstring, was deemed fit to play but did not see action.

In the first half, the Americans lost their best fullback Fabian Johnson, who went out with a strained hamstring. DeAndre Yedlin, all of 20 and once a long shot to make the roster, found himself battling against mega-star Eden Hazard.

The Red Devils are full of stars from big clubs around the world, from Atletico Madrid to Manchester City to Bayern Munich to Chelsea. The U.S. has a decidedly lower profile. The team’s best field players Tuesday: One is in between contracts and last played for Puebla in Mexico (DaMarcus Beasley). Another plays for Sporting Kansas City (Matt Besler).

On paper, and in the number of zeros on their paychecks, the Americans were overmatched. According to Transfermarkt — a site that estimates what players’ values would be on transfer market — Belgium’s roster was the sixth-highest in the World Cup, the U.S. just 26th. Consider that Yedlin, with the Seattle Sounders, earns $92,000, which is about what Manchester United’s Marouane Fellaini probably spends yearly on hair products alone.

Beasley, at 32, proved that he is indeed ageless. At left back, he saved the day on a probable goal in the first half and ran tirelessly as if it was 2002 all over again.   He became the first American to play in four World Cups and through four games he played every minute.

original article via: USA TODAY

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FIFA World Cup Has First Water Break Ever (USA vs Portugal game)

Published on June 23, 2014, by

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The FIFA World Cup had a first, as the referee called a time out for players to take the first ever water break in the history of the World Cup. This occurred during the USA-Portugal game. Fans and announcers were confused and surprised with the call, but the players were not complaining. In the scorching heat that some of these games are taking place in, it is not only necessary for the players to have water breaks for their health and performance, but it is also now a court law.

On Friday, a court in Brazil made the order for FIFA to include mandatory breaks for the players during World Cup games when playing in extreme temperatures. The court issued a saying that required breaks to take place at or around the 30 minute mark of playing time during the FIFA World Cup matches. These breaks should last about 30 seconds and there should be one break per half. The court reiterated several times how vital it is for the players to stay hydrated while playing in these games.

These water breaks become required as soon as temperatures are at or about 89.6 degrees Fahrenheit, 32 degrees Celsius. This rule takes into account the time of day, cloudiness, wind, rain, humidity, and location. The ruling was finally agreed upon after two hours of negotiating took place which involved FIFA prosecutors as well as local prosecutors.

FIFA’s organization stated how it had previously issued the recommendation for water breaks in extreme weather conditions and how the labor court had simply established the existing procedures. However, the labor court claims that FIFA never had any intention to impose the water breaks during the World Cup games. The lack of water breaks made it necessary for the court to intervene. FIFA has also stated how there has not been a single match in the World Cup so far with temperatures reaching above 82.4 degrees Fahrenheit, 28 degrees Celsius, according to the heat stress index. Due to the temperatures of today’s game of USA vs. Portugal, it was required for FIFA to have its first water break ever in World Cup history.

Labor court prosecutors wanted the rule to be that water breaks would be required once temperatures reached 86 degrees Fahrenheit, 30 degrees Celsius, however the judge went with the FIFA’s request as there was no proof showing the difference would affect the health of the players. FIFA World Cup was pleased with the judge’s decision to favor with the organization’s rule. Labor court enforcers are taking this new ruling so seriously that an issue of $90 thousand must be paid by FIFA for every match in which the rule is not imposed. The federal court also insisted how the world governing body of soccer is in charge of checking the temperature during games by using equipment that has been pre-certified. FIFA has agreed to respect the court’s decision in its entirety.

The players’ union of Brazil initially requested that FIFA change game times for all matches that were scheduled to begin at 1 pm, as this was subjecting athletes to the risk of playing in extreme heat. FIFA stated prior to the court’s ruling that it would not alter the game times or enforce water breaks it had spent approximately two years working to create the tournament’s schedule. The lack of water breaks in the FIFA World Cup were partly due to the desire to adhere to the tournament’s strict schedule. FIFA stated that while creating the schedule, the health of the players was always considered.

The water break during the USA-Portugal match was an easy decision. Reporters covering the game even said that the break should have been taken earlier, as it was not called until close to the 40 minute mark. The break, lasting maybe no more than 30 seconds, was a call that everyone on the field agreed with. Today marked the FIFA World Cup having its first water break ever in World Cup history, and it will not be the last if temperatures continue the way they have in Brazil.

original article via: GUARDIANLV

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World Cup 2014: Portugal Ties United States With Goal in Stoppage Time

Published on June 23, 2014, by

A stoppage-time goal by Silvestre Varela gave Portugal a 2-2 tie in Manaus, Brazil, on Sunday. Credit Elsa/Getty Images

The ball was barely past United States goalkeeper Tim Howard, and already he had put his hands to his head. On the bench, Jurgen Klinsmann spun away as if he had seen a ghost. Up the field, not far from where he lost the ball, Michael Bradley could only stare.

The celebration had been epic after Clint Dempsey, the captain, the man with the black eye and the broken nose and the swollen cheek, scored just nine minutes from the end to put the Americans in front and surely — surely — into the knockout round of the World Cup. It was bedlam. It was overwhelming. It was historic.

But then, suddenly, the lead was gone. This United States team will not be the first to advance to the Round of 16 after just two group-stage games. It will not get to skate in its final Group G game, against Germany. It will not get to relax.

Instead, it will live on the precipice between success and failure for another day. That was the cost of two lapses on Sunday — one at the beginning of the game and one, brutally, at the end — that allowed Portugal to salvage a 2-2 tie at the Arena da Amazônia. Half a minute more, and the United States would have had a victory that guaranteed advancement. Now, the math is suddenly murkier.

“Football is cruel sometimes,” Howard said.

It is. Yet despite the collective gut punch that the United States endured here, the situation is not dire. A victory against Germany on Thursday in Recife would be ideal, allowing the United States to top the group. A loss would leave the Americans possibly needing to win a tiebreaker with Portugal or Ghana. A tie would also put them through, in second place behind Germany.

Given that reality, as well as Klinsmann’s heritage and connection to the German national team, questions were immediately raised as to whether he and Germany Coach Joachim Löw, Klinsmann’s former assistant, would conspire to play out a mutually beneficial tie on Thursday in much the same fashion that West Germany and Austria seemed to have manipulated a game at the 1982 World Cup that allowed both teams to advance.

Klinsmann quickly shot down the notion, saying, “That is only part of German history, not the United States.” He added: “We have that fighting spirit. We have that energy and that determination to do well in every single game. We are going to go into Recife very ambitious.”

Sunil Gulati, the president of the United States Soccer Federation, was even more forceful. “We’re going to that game trying to win the game, full stop,” he said.

Of course, the Americans thought they had won Sunday. Things started poorly for the United States, as a bad miscue from defender Geoff Cameron allowed Nani to give Portugal an early lead. The mistake did not cause the Americans to crumble, though, and they largely had the better of play before Jermaine Jones finally leveled the score in the 64th minute with a whistling shot from nearly 30 yards out that left Beto, the Portuguese goalkeeper, flat-footed.

It was a thunderous strike, the ball whizzing over Dempsey — who wisely ducked — and curling devilishly in a way that even the Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo would have to admire. Jones sprinted to the sideline as the ball nestled into the side netting, pounding the U.S. Soccer crest on his jersey as his teammates erupted.

“I heard Beas behind me,” Jones said, referring to fullback DaMarcus Beasley. “He said, ‘Shoot, shoot, shoot.’ So I shot.”

That goal had the United States in position for a tie, but the Americans wanted more, and, about 20 minutes later, Graham Zusi crossed the ball off a broken play. Dempsey, who scored in the opening seconds of the first match against Ghana, was lurking in front of the net, and when he turned the ball over the line, he looked to have completed the perfect bookend to a miraculous opening two games.

After watching Dempsey finish with his stomach — the captain could certainly be forgiven for not dropping his battered face for a header — Klinsmann exploded, running up and down the sideline and even pulling Zusi in for a hug and a kiss on the head. The outcome seemed almost unbelievable: The United States, which had been roundly expected to crash out of the so-called Group of Death, was on the verge of being the first team to advance.

But it was not to be. Deep into added time, Ronaldo — who had largely been neutralized by a crowded midfield strategy that Klinsmann orchestrated and the players executed — finally found a bit of space. Bradley lost the ball near the sideline, and Ronaldo seized upon the opening, swinging in a perfect cross that Silvestre Varela, a Portugal forward, barreled past Howard with a powerful header.

Portugal, which really needed a win to have any significant chance of advancing, barely celebrated. The Americans, collectively, all but collapsed.

They had run so hard for so long on a night that was so hot. The conditions were staggering, the Amazonian climate suffocating. Temperatures were in the high 80s, and humidity levels nearly 70 percent, making it feel as if the entire game were being played in a bathroom where the shower had been left on. Through it all, victory had been theirs. Then, suddenly, it was gone.

The Americans tried to be pragmatic. Klinsmann quickly preached turning the focus forward, to Germany, and the fast turnaround that would be required. They are still in control of their fate, the players said afterward. Still in command of what will happen.

It was all true, but it did not dull the pain. Dempsey let loose a monstrous roar after he scored that goal — joined, presumably, by most of the soccer-watching public in the United States — but there was only silence after Varela’s header. That came with shock, too.

“We could all taste it,” defender Matt Besler said. “We could all taste the second round.”

Then he shrugged. “I think we like to do things the hard way,” he said. “It’s the American way.”

original article via: NYTIMES