Sunday October 4th, 2015 1:03AM

Agony through the ecstasy: US crashes out despite impressive Cup run

By The Associated Press
SALVADOR, Brazil -- They captured the hearts of America - from coast to coast, big towns and small, all the way to the White House.<br /> <br /> Capturing the World Cup will have to wait.<br /> <br /> Belgium scored twice in extra time Tuesday and then held on for a 2-1 win over the United States.<br /> <br /> The Americans go home after the round of 16 - just like four years ago.<br /> <br /> "Thirty-one teams get their heart broken," goalkeeper Tim Howard said. "It has to end sometime. It ended a little bit early for us."<br /> <br /> Playing the finest game of his career, Howard stopped a dozen shots to keep the Americans even through regulation and force an additional 30 minutes. He wound up with 16 saves - the most in the World Cup since FIFA started keeping track in 2002.<br /> <br /> Before exiting, the U.S. showed the spunk that won America's attention. The Belgians built a two-goal lead when Kevin De Bruyne scored in the 93rd minute and Romelu Lukaku in the 105th.<br /> <br /> But then Julian Green, at 19 the third-youngest player in the tournament, stuck out his right foot to volley in Michael Bradley's pass over the defense in the 107th, two minutes after entering.<br /> <br /> "I was sure that we would make the second goal and we would go to the penalty shootout," Green said.<br /> <br /> The Americans nearly did. In the 114th, Clint Dempsey peeled away on a 30-yard free kick by Bradley, who passed ahead to Chris Wondolowski. He fed Dempsey, and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois bolted off his line to block the 6-yard shot.<br /> <br /> At the final whistle, the U.S. players fell to the field in their all-white uniforms like so many crumpled tissues.<br /> <br /> "They made their country proud with this performance and also with their entire performance in this World Cup," said Jurgen Klinsmann, the former German World Cup champion who took over as coach three years ago.<br /> <br /> The Americans advanced from a difficult first-round group to reach the knockout rounds of consecutive World Cups for the first time. Four years ago, they were eliminated by Ghana 2-1 on a goal in the third minute of extra time.<br /> <br /> "Getting to the round of 16, if we don't do that, we're very, very disappointed," U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati said. "We get here and it's kind of the swing game. We get beyond here, then it's generally viewed as very successful."<br /> <br /> The crowd of 51,227 at Arena Fonte Nova appeared to be about one third pro-U.S., with 10 percent backing the Belgians and the rest neutral. Back home, millions watched in offices, homes and public gatherings that included a huge crowd at Chicago's Soldier Field.<br /> <br /> President Barack Obama joined about 200 staffers in an Executive Office Building auditorium to watch the second half.<br /> <br /> "I believe!" he exclaimed as he walked in at the front of the hall. "I believe!"<br /> <br /> Belgium outshot the U.S. 38-14. The 35-year-old Howard kept the ball out with slides, with dives and with leaps. But he never felt it was his special night.<br /> <br /> "If this continues, then we're in trouble," he recalled thinking.<br /> <br /> With forward Jozy Altidore still not recovered from the strained hamstring that had sidelined him since the June 16 opener, Klinsmann inserted Wondolowski as a second striker in the 72nd minute. He appeared to have a chance to win it in stoppage time when Jermaine Jones flicked the ball to him at the top of the 6-yard box, but with Courtois coming out, Wondolowski put the ball over the crossbar. While the linesman put out his flag, it was unclear whether he was signaling goal kick or offside.<br /> <br /> In the third minute of extra time, Matt Besler tried to intercept a pass to Lukaku but fell down as the Belgian striker fought free. Lukaku sped in alone, crossed, and the ball rebounded off defender Omar Gonzalez. Kevin De Bruyne controlled it, took three touches as he spun and beat Howard just over his right foot.<br /> <br /> "I thought I could make a play on the ball. I took a shot and missed and lost my balance," Besler said.<br /> <br /> Twelve minutes later, with the U.S. pushing for an equalizer, Bradley's shot was blocked and De Bruyne burst ahead on a counter. He fed Lukaku, who sent the ball over the left shoulder of Howard, his Everton teammate, and seemingly put the game out of reach.<br /> <br /> But Green, among five German-Americans on the U.S. roster and a surprise pick, woke up the team and its fans with his first touch, setting off raucous chants of "U-S-A! U-S-A!"<br /> <br /> There would be no final comeback this time, though.<br /> <br /> Bradley said the Americans had told themselves that regardless of when their run ended, they wanted to abandon their defensive style of the past.<br /> <br /> "We wanted to go home going for it," he said.<br /> <br /> "And," he added with satisfaction, "we did."
© Copyright 2015 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
2014 Top 10: Looking back at the top sports stories of the year
It was another year for the record books in 2014, mostly for the right reasons -- state championships, new challenges and new stars taking their turn to shine. But there were also plenty of big stories that reminded us that sports -- like life -- isn
11:55PM ( 9 months ago )
NASCAR K&N Pro Series schedules set for 2015
DAYTONA BEACH, FL - NASCAR announced recently the 2015 schedules for its top developmental regional touring series, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and NASCAR K&N Pro Series West.
2:00PM ( 9 months ago )
Lanierland boys final: Johnson makes history with win over Red Elephants <b> (VIDEO) </b>
Ever the aggressor on the court, Johnson
8:55AM ( 9 months ago )
Pits will be tight as Chili Bowl entry count hits 316
TULSA, OK - The 29th annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Midget Nationals presented by General Tire is on track to be a record smashing event, with the entry count climbing over the 300 mark for the first time to 316 entries confirming 303 drivers for the indoor spectacular happening Tuesday, January 13 through Saturday, January 17 at the Tulsa Expo Center in Tulsa, OK.
9:59AM ( 9 months ago )
Falcons fire Mike Smith after 2nd straight losing season
Mike Smith's status as the winningest coach in Falcons history wasn't enough to save his job. Owner Arthur Blank said he fired Smith on Monday because in his "heart of hearts" he didn't believe Smith could take the Falcons to the Super Bowl.
7:58PM ( 9 months ago )
New promoters in place for 2015 at Senoia Raceway
SENOIA, GA - Lease papers have been signed and a team of new promoters is in place for the upcoming stock car racing season at Senoia Raceway in Senoia, GA.
6:00AM ( 9 months ago )
Professional Sports
Watson leads No. 22 Clemson over Notre Dame
Former Gainesville High standout Deshaun Watson threw for two touchdowns, ran for a third, and Clemson's defense stopped DeShone Kizer on a tying two-point conversion as the 12th-ranked Tigers held on to beat No. 6 Notre Dame 24-22 on Saturday night.
By The Associated Press
12:28AM ( 35 minutes ago )
Tide rolls over Dogs in a rout
Jake Coker ran the offense to perfection, the defense turned in a dominating performance, and No. 13 Alabama even got a touchdown from its special teams Saturday in a 38-10 rout of No. 8 Georgia that re-established the Crimson Tide as a force in the national race.
By The Associated Press
11:59PM ( 1 hour ago )
Williams leads North Carolina rally past Georgia Tech
Quinshad Davis threw a 37-yard touchdown pass to quarterback Marquise Williams, capping North Carolina's comeback from a three-touchdown deficit, and the Tar Heels beat Georgia Tech 38-31 on Saturday.
By The Associated Press
11:25PM ( 1 hour ago )
Bill Rogers and three top tennis players join Brenau University’s Athletics Hall of Fame
One of the most accomplished coaches in the history of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics is among the latest inductees in Brenau University’s Athletics Hall of Fame.
By AccessWDUN staff
6:55PM ( 6 hours ago )
Lambert, Coker could be keys to Alabama-Georgia showdown
They are viewed as nothing more than caretakers, a pair of quarterbacks who mainly need to get their teams in the right play, avoid big mistakes, and let all those talented players around them shine.
3:00PM ( 10 hours ago )