Tim Howard Deserved Better And America's Hope-Filled Roller Coaster Ride Is Over

Round of 16 - Belgium vs USA

It was the only word I could utter when Belgium sent Romelo Lukaku onto the pitch in extra time.

I knew what was about to happen, even if I really didn't. And when it did happen, I couldn't do anything but wallow in my misery. When Lukaku setup the goal for Kevin De Bruyne to score in the 93rd minute, the same minute that Asamoah Gyan scored on the United States just four years ago in the Round of 16, I thought the same thing that millions of Americans around the world thought: Tim Howard deserved better.

When De Bruyne subsequently setup Lukaku in the 105th minute to put Belgium up 2-0, I felt crushed. The soccer gods had officially put me out of my misery, and I could go home thinking that the USA had given it their best. Yes, the inevitability of Belgium's relentless pressure and the United States' inability to string together anything consistently offensively, but I knew this is how it had to end. Losing 2-0 felt fair and just, even if the best damn goalie in the world was in between the pipes for America.

Then this happened.

Then this happened shortly afterwards.

Hope is a dangerous thing. When Julian Green entered the game, I literally thought nothing of it. Oh, that's nice, he'll get a few minutes of time on the world's stage, and we'll see him progress over four years to become a player worth a damn for the USA. But no, this dude had the nerve to come in and think he could make a difference and, sure enough, Michael Bradley finally decided to do something positive on the pitch by laying a perfect pass in the box right to the foot of Green. First touch, boom. Goal. What in the hell just happened?

The next 15 minutes of my life might as well been on life support. With Belgium playing the ultimate prevent defense, and the United States playing guns-a-blazing, I watched our team go out with the chamber empty and almost pull off the impossible. I believed...that we...would win.

When the singular minute of stoppage time came to an end and America was eliminated from the World Cup, all I felt was numb. All of the emotion and energy that I'd poured into this squad was knocked over and spilled right into the drain of despair and agony. Nothing else mattered in that moment. I wanted nothing more than to be miserable. It felt like 2-2 versus Portugal, but was the air of finality on top of it.

I have a feeling that we'll remember this time we spent together with the 2014 US Men's National Team. The brilliance of Clint Dempsey. The woes of Michael Bradley. The guile and cunning of Jermaine Jones. The misses of Chris Wondolowski. The legend of Tim Howard.

I haven't had this fun rooting for America in my entire life, and I never would've thought that America's soccer team would be the one to bring it out of me. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm getting myself fitted for a DeAndre Yedlin #2 kit to rock for the next four years.

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