They kept coming after all appeared lost, attacking and daring and risking as if it were the last match that they ever would play. “It is something that is ingrained in the American spirit,” said defender Omar Gonzalez. “We will never give up. We will never stop fighting.”
The US men’s soccer team, two goals down to Belgium with 15 minutes to play in overtime of Tuesday’s second-round World Cup duel, came within a bounce of drawing even and going to a penalty-kick shootout that could have put the Americans into the quarterfinals against two-time champion Argentina. But time ran out on them, just as it did four years ago when Ghana terminated them in South Africa.
“We’re close, but this is the second World Cup where we make it to the exact same place and it goes into overtime and we give up an early goal,” said defender Matt Besler. “That’s eerie.”
It’s also a pattern that has driven their star-spangled supporters daffy over the past dozen years. The Yanks don’t start playing all-in until they’re almost out. They rarely take the lead and when they do, they give it away. They can’t close out matches and they have no idea how to play for a draw. Until they can do those things against the global elite, they’ll be going home with the Nigerians and Algerians and Greeks.
“There is still a little too much respect on our end when it comes to the big stage,” coach Jurgen Klinsmann observed after the US had lost to a European rival for the 11th time in Cup play since 1990. “Why not really play? It is something that we have to go through. I don’t know how many years it takes.”
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