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Where to begin? Let's start from the beginning. December 6, 2013. Drawing day. Jurgen Klinsmann's United States Men's soccer team seemed poised for a big World Cup. Unfortunately, they were drew into a group with Germany, Portugal, and Ghana, and all hopes and optimism about the 2014 World Cup was quickly subdued. Now, let's jump to the present day and the US are still recovering from a Round of Sixteen loss to Belgium. That sense of optimism has been renewed. So, what changed?
For starters, they made it out of "The Group of Death." This alone was an accomplishment for US soccer. It marked the first time that the United States has made it out of the group stage in consecutive World Cups. But it wasn't just doing it, it was how they did it. They thrilled us with remarkable moments. Moments that perfectly exemplify the passion and determination of American soccer. Let's take a look back at some of those moments:
Clint Dempsey's Opening Goal vs Ghana
Clint Dempsey scored 29 seconds into their opening match against Ghana, exciting the country and his team. It was the fifth-fastest goal in World Cup history and the fastest goal in US World Cup history. It was an exciting and remarkable way to kick off this World Cup for the US and this fan video, shot live at the game, is pretty neat. Only downside of scoring a goal this quickly is that people are still filing into their seats!
John Brook's Game-Winning Header
The Americans held a lead against Ghana for 81 minutes until André Ayew of Ghana decided to tie the game up. At that point, a draw is where this game seemed like it was heading. John Brooks, who was subbed in after halftime for an injured Matt Besler, headed in a corner and gave the US a dramatic 2-1 win. What a creative finish on the header from the defender. Forever chills.
Clint Dempsey's Goal vs Portugal
Oh, what could have been! If only Cristiano Ronaldo didn't touch the ball one last time, Dempsey's goal could have given the US their first ever win in the World Cup when conceding the first goal. However, a draw was a good result against a dangerous Portugal side. Also, it gave us this mashup of Dempsey's goal and "Turn Down For What." Thank you, Houston Dynamo. We also got this great reaction from Kansas City. Sports can be great.
Tim Howard In Beast Mode
A game for the ages. Here is a video of all 16 saves:
What an incredible performance. He deserved a better fate than a 2-1 loss, considering those 16 saves were the most seen in a World Cup game in over 50 years. Even the Belgian players had respect for Howard's performance. How could you not?
Julian Green's Debut
Julian Green became the youngest player to ever suit up for the Americans in the World Cup, as he turned 19 just last month. Then he promptly became the youngest US player to ever score a goal for the US in the World Cup. The quality of his finish on that goal is stupendous. I'm all in on this kid. All in. Can't wait to see what he does in the Red, White, and Blue moving forward.
Eyes on 2018
It was fitting to have the Julian Green moment as the final memorable moment for the US in the 2014 World Cup. It gave us another batch of great crowd reaction videos, but most importantly, it gave the US fans a glimpse into the future. Green scored his incredible goal right after being subbed in. Talk about nerves of steel.
We also got to see the blazing speed of DeAndre Yedlin, who is only 20 by the way, and John Brooks, who is 21, make significant impacts for the US in this World Cup. Against Belgium, Yedlin came in for injured Fabian Johnson, 26, and used his speed to bring the ball up and created some dangerous crosses and we all know what Brooks did in the first game. Yedlin and Brooks may be younger than Johnson, but if Fabian's speed is still there at 30, then he will surely get a good look for 2018, as he played well for the US this year.
Omar Gonzalez, 25, and Matt Besler, 27, also had strong World Cups on the back line for the US. Gonzalez is not the fleetest of foot, but his positioning was outstanding and combine that with his size at 6'5" and he is a vital piece for the US going forward. Matt Besler had an even better World Cup. He did stumble to the ground and allow Romelu Lukaku a run to the net, but that was one of his only miscues of the tournament. At 27, he may not be there in 2018, but if this World Cup was any indication of his skills, then he very well could be a factor. Both Besler and Gonzalez are center backs, so it is more about positioning than speed anyway.
Then there are the two Scandanavian-Americans, Mix Diskerud, 23, and Aron Jóhannsson, 23. Jóhannsson's only playing time was when Altidore went down in the first game. He didn't play great, but he didn't make a mistake, which you'll take from a young player. Diskerud, unfortunately, did not get onto the pitch for this World Cup, but that is no slight on his ability. He is a creative midfielder who has proven he can score as well. Both Diskerud and Jóhannsson are 23 and are primed for developing into better players for 2018.
Lastly, we come to Jozy Altidore. Unfortunately, his World Cup was cut short due to injury, which has been a problem for the 24 year-old striker. But he is a one-of-a-kind player for the US, and his combination of skills make him a tough opposition. He has the size and skill to maneuver in the middle of the pitch, but he also has the speed to take the ball outside and beat defenders to 50/50 balls. Losing him for the World Cup after only a few minutes was a huge blow to the US. He'll be 28 in 2018, what is considered a player's prime.
There are also young players who did not make the squad who will certainly be factors in 2018, like Joe Gyau and Juan Agudelo, but if the 2014 World Cup was any indication of where USA soccer is, then we're on the right path. Success won't come overnight, but we could be in store for another exciting US squad and World Cup in 4 years.
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