The United States had the game. After the first 45 minutes of play, the United States was up 2-0 over the most storied soccer nation in the world. Clint Dempsey scored in the tenth minute for the United States, and then Landon Donovan scored for Team USA in the 26th.
Then, the sky started falling—Luis Fabiano of Brazil scored in the 46th minute straight out of halftime, and again in the 76th to tie the match at two goals apiece. Then, the Team Brazil captain Lucio scored in the 83rd, all but sealing the game.
Dempsey, the man who had fought so valiantly to keep the United States alive in the Egypt, Spain, and Brazil matches, sobbed as he received his second-place medal, trying to mask the anguish, disappointment, and pain of the match that got away.
But Clint Dempsey should be proud.
One week ago, I had the United States written off after a 3-1 loss to Italy, and a 3-0 loss to Brazil. I even wrote an article, wondering if the United States would be out early in the 2010 World Cup.
But the United States defied all odds and defeated Egypt 3-0, and watched as Brazil beat Italy 3-0 to move the United States to the semifinals.
The US then ended up beating the No. 1 team in the world, Spain, by a score of 2-0. Spain hadn't lost since 2006, and was then on a 15-match win streak.
This may be the single most important tournament in Team USA's soccer history. In every other international tournament that Team USA had participated in, they had never made it to the finals.
They almost won this one.
Brazil's a good team. The Brazilians are, have been, and forever will be good at soccer. Team USA should take pride in the fact that they led them for 76 minutes.
But it's the last 14 that are the minutes that count, and Brazil unleashed its "Beautiful Game", leaving Team USA and their keeper Tim Howard at Beautiful Game's mercy.
Howard overcame Tourette's Syndrome to become an excellent keeper for the MLS' New York/New Jersey MetroStars, and the Barclay's Premier League's Manchester United and Everton, as well as becoming the starting keeper for Team USA.
Tim Howard should be proud of putting up a clean sheet against Spain and Egypt.
But Brazil's Beautiful Game resulted in three goals, and Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, Landon Donovan, Jonathan Spector, Jay DeMerit, Jozy Altidore, Ricardo Clark, Benny Feilhaber, Carlos Bocanegra, Oguchi Onyewu, Charlie Davies, Brad Guzan, Luis Robles, Marvell Wynne, Jonathan Bornstein, Heath Pearce, DaMarcus Beasley, Conor Casey, Freddy Adu, Michael Bradley, Jose Francisco Torres, and Sacha Kljestan should all be proud, as they are the ones who pulled off what the experts thought were impossible.
They should all be proud, as they may be second to Brazil, but first in the United States' hearts.