With the Red, White and Blue safely through to the round of 16, no one seemed to notice that the Americans lost to Germany, 1-0, Thursday.
And that's a good thing.
At first glance, there's plenty of room for criticism. Germany had 13 shots (six on target) to the United States' four (and zero). Germany held 68 percent possession. Eight German players completed more passes than Michael Bradley, the Americans' leader in the category.
For all intents and purposes, Joachim Low dominated his mentor in nearly every way.
Despite the seemingly lopsided nature of the match, though, there were plenty of positive takeaways for Jurgen Klinsmann's squad ahead of a round of 16 battle with Belgium.
First, and foremost, the defense.
Germany's attack was relentless. They absolutely dominated the midfield, strung together passes, had good spacing and created lots of opportunities. A year or two ago, the Yanks would have conceded a handful of goals if all other conditions were the same.
But the defense hung tough. Kyle Beckerman and Jermaine Jones were once again fantastic shielding the back four. CBS Sports' Jerry Hinnen applauded the former:
That Beckerman was able to continue forcing even this most dangerous US opponent to attack down the wings rather the center -- again, after playing every minute of the Cup so far -- is a staggering accomplishment.
Behind them, Omar Gonzalez—in his World Cup debut, mind—played the match of his life at center back.
His partner at the back, Matt Besler, put it simply, via Goal.com's Ives Galarcep:
Omar did terrific. He had a huge game, especially in the first half. He had three or four clearances for us that were very, very big. He was always in the right spot and I think our communication was very good throughout the entire match.
Practically no one trusted Gonzalez pre-game, yet here we are, and it would be difficult to make an argument for anyone else as Man of the Match.
CBS Sports' Jeff Borzello put it simply:
The second positive was the United States' effort.
Facing the most difficult travel schedule of all 32 nations, the Americans spent the first 180 minutes of the World Cup in the dreadful heat and humidity of Natal and Manaus. As injuries swept through the roster like a hurricane, Beckerman, Jones, Bradley, DaMarcus Beasley and Fabian Johnson were forced to play all 180 minutes. Clint Dempsey left in the 87th minute of the Portugal match.
A matchup with a world-class German squad couldn't have come at a worse time, as Matthew Tomaszewicz pointed out:
And it showed. All of the aforementioned players again logged the full 90, and it looked like the Americans were playing with 50-pound ankle weights in the second half, while Germany pranced around the pitch like it was a brisk evening in Hannover.
Still, the United States, with the tank running dangerously close to "E," defended admirably, allowing just one goal—a wonderful strike from Thomas Mueller. They fought until the very final whistle, and DeAndre Yedlin—for the second match in a row—brought a late spark off the bench, keying a run down the flank that nearly resulted in a last-minute equalizer.
Grantland's Shane Ryan put it best:
Yes, there are still problems.
Among other things, Michael Bradley is playing out of position. His defense and work rate have been great, but his touches and passing in the final third have been dreadful.
Still, despite the loss Thursday, the Americans did nothing to suggest they won't provide a very stiff test for a talented Belgium side—or anyone else who they may meet in the knockout stages.
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