By: Taylor Wilson – KCOU Sports
It was a loss, but it was also a win.
In a game that pitted Germans against Germans and knowledge that a draw would be enough, it was a loss that clinched a trip to the last 16 for the Americans, something that is becoming a bit of a trend for a team that has spent the past couple of decades defying odds and has now reached the knockout stages in three of the past four world cups.
When the World Cup Draw was released, I was in the process of driving 5 mph on I-57 in rural Illinois as my Honda Fit ice skated across the highway and KCOU’s own Happy Hour with Joe Northern relayed what was happening through my iPhone. I didn’t like what I heard.
Ghana. Portugal. Germany.
Doesn’t get much worse than that. A team that had knocked the U.S. out of the cup in consecutive tournaments, a squad with the best player in the world, and a side with three World cup titles to their name. I’ll be the first to admit that upon taking off my American goggles, I didn’t like what I saw. I predicted one point, a draw versus Portugal, as the Americans’ only claim to fame in 2014.
I have never been so happy to be so terribly, terribly wrong. The Ghana game gave the U.S. some lucky breaks, the Portugal game, some unlucky ones, and the Germany game was just mediocre enough to get it done. But make no mistake about it, what the Americans just did was absolutely epic. Against Ghana and Portugal, they looked their best when chasing the game. After a late Ghanaian equalizer and an early strike from Nani, the Americans strangely grew in confidence and propelled themselves forward through moments of brilliance. I’ll never forget the winner from die Berliner John Brooks or the magical strike from Jermaine Jones.
Why did they move on? We can look at a few reasons. One is speed. Fabian Johnson’s work moving up and down the flank at right back has been commendable if not heroic. The other is patience. While not always outstanding at the back, the American midfield has shined. With a holding pair of Jermaine Jones and Kyle Beckerman setting the tempo, the American attack at its best is deadly, finding interlocking wingers Graham Zusi and Alejandro Bedoya before ultimately closing in on the most important tandem on the U.S. national team, Michael Bradley setting up Clint Dempsey. But ultimately, it’s the resilience of this team that is the most impressive. Seemingly never out of it, Jürgen Klinsmann always has the right sub lined up to help ignite another memorable American second half. They are believers and they’re making believers out of us all.
Next up for the United States: Belgium. They’re fun to watch but young and unproven. Many favor them greatly. Still, there’s something brewin’ for these Americans. They’ve turned a doubter into a believer. In fact, I BELIEVE THAT WE WILL WIN.