10 Biggest Mistakes USA Made at 2014 World Cup Finals

Tre' Atkinson@@TreAtkinsonFeatured ColumnistJuly 3, 2014

10 Biggest Mistakes USA Made at 2014 World Cup Finals

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    Matt Dunham/Associated Press

    The United States men's national soccer team had a brilliant run in the 2014 World Cup, escaping the group and standing face-to-face with some of the game's best teams. Regardless, the U.S. will wish that they didn't have to go home so early.

    Despite having a tremendous showing in Brazil and capturing the love of millions across the planet, there were several mistakes that shouldn't have been made. Hindsight is always perfect, and maybe now the U.S. can improve even more.

    In this article, we will take a look at the 10 biggest mistakes that the USMNT made at the 2014 World Cup. Be sure to tell us what you think about the list, and be sure to include what you believe was the the biggest mistake of all.

    * All statistics are courtesy of WhoScored.com

Not Giving DeAndre Yedlin More Minutes

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    Matt Dunham/Associated Press

    DeAndre Yedlin was a bit of a surprise addition to the squad for the U.S., but there was never any doubt over his ability. After not seeing the pitch in America's opening game against Ghana, the 20-year-old featured in every other match.

    Against Portugal and Germany it was quite clear that Yedlin was an exciting young talent. His pace and energy added a lot to the team, but his offensive contribution was even more spectacular.

    In the match against Belgium, Yedlin had to come on quite early after Fabian Johnson pulled up injured. It looked like the young right-back was being thrown into something he wasn't quite ready for, but he proved everyone wrong.

    Yedlin was able to use his speed to deal with Belgium's attack, as well as create several chances at the other end of the pitch. Simply put, when the 20-year-old came on, things immediately improved for America.

    Looking back, who knows what would have happened if Yedlin had been handed a start somewhere along the way. His energy gave the U.S. something they were really missing and it's safe to say that Yedlin has earned his place on Jurgen Klinsmann's team.

Asking Too Much of Clint Dempsey

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    Themba Hadebe/Associated Press

    Clint Dempsey was an absolute stud in this World Cup. The U.S. captain did it all and proved why he is one of the best Americans to ever play the game.

    However, the U.S. made a big mistake by asking Dempsey to do far too much.

    Not only was the 31-year-old forced to play as the lone striker, but he often had to create his own chances. Dempsey had little help up front and it really cost America when the team needed to score goals.

    Looking back, America really didn't have much help to offer Dempsey. Aron Johannsson and Chris Wondolowski did not look ready to play a major role in this World Cup, but fans should be filled with pride and gratitude over how hard Dempsey worked in Brazil.

Playing on the Counter

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    Petr David Josek/Associated Press

    America was always going to be a defensive side in this World Cup. The biggest strength of the U.S. was the defense and holding midfielders, so letting the game come to them was expected.

    However, the U.S. made the mistake of trying to play on the counter far too often.

    When they won the ball back, they struggled to keep possession. The players needed to slow down play more and look to create their own chances, yet they quickly began looking for the quick attack.

    The problem with that approach is that this U.S. team was not built for counter-attacking. The likes of Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Graham Zusi and Alejandro Bedoya are not necessarily fast players and asking them to counter was not taking advantage of their strengths.

    America did play much stronger opponents in Belgium and Germany, but allowing themselves to get into the habit of trying to counter took a lot of the strength out of the U.S. attack.

Waiting Until the Last Minute to Give Julian Green a Chance

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    Matt Dunham/Associated Press

    Julian Green scored with his very first shot in a World Cup match. That is a crazy statistic. Yet, Green only played for a few minutes in the last match and ended up with only 10 total touches in Brazil.

    It's easy to understand why Green didn't see much action. At 19, he is still a kid without much major experience. However, he was brought onto this team by Klinsmann who saw potential in him.

    Seeing what he was able to do against Belgium, Green should have played more. His pace and flair gave Belgium a lot of problems late and one has to wonder how things would have went if Green had played in other games as well.

    As stated earlier, the U.S. attack was not very good and Clint Dempsey was not given much help. Could Green have been that player to help Dempsey create and score up front? Possibly, but we will never know.

Not Bringing on Jozy Altidore Against Belgium

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    Matt Dunham/Associated Press

    The big issue going into the match against Belgium was what to do with Jozy Altidore. After pulling up injured against Ghana, the striker was cleared to play against the Europeans, but that didn't happen.

    No one really expected Altidore to start. He was just returning from a injury and was likely not in a place to play a full match. However, everyone expected him to come on at some point.

    After the hour mark passed, Altidore was still on the bench. Full time was soon gone, but Altidore was not even warming up. 

    Surely the U.S. star striker was going to come on as a super sub in extra time? But he never even took off his warm-up shirt.

    Leaving Jozy Altidore on the bench in one of the biggest games in U.S. history can only be seen as a huge mistake. America needed goals, Altidore was supposedly healthy and ready to play, but it never happened.

Not Doing Something About Michael Bradley

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Michael Bradley had an awful World Cup. There is no way around it, the star midfielder just did not step up when the team needed him most.

    From misplaced passes to lapses in defending, Bradley just wasn't himself in Brazil. He did have one shining moment when he assisted Julian Green, but that will never make up for his mistakes.

    Game after game, Bradley struggled to find his comfort zone. The big mistake, however, was Jurgen Klinsmann failing to address the issue.

    Granted, there were not many options to step in for Bradley, but the U.S. needed to do something. Bradley's misplaced passing cost America two vital goals in the World Cup, and sadly that will be how his time in Brazil is remembered.

Failing to Properly Prepare for the Heat

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Everyone knew that it was going to be incredibly hot in Brazil. Players were going to be drained every match and teams had to keep an eye out for fatigue. Conditioning was the key to having a deep run, but it doesn't look like the U.S. prepared well enough.

    Throughout America's four World Cup games, over half of the starting lineup had moments of dealing with cramps. Had the cramps come late in matches, there wouldn't be much to talk about, but many came early in games.

    Players like Fabian Johnson and Matt Besler had ongoing problems with their legs cramping up and the heat certainly played a factor.

    It could have just been a case of poor luck, but it seems like the heat got to the U.S. more than many of the other teams in Brazil.

Conceding Portugal's Equalizer

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    Martin Mejia/Associated Press

    As the match against Portugal was coming to a close, chants of "USA" rained down from the stands. America was about to enjoy one of the biggest wins in the team's history.

    Just when the game looked finished, Cristiano Ronaldo whipped in a stunning cross which Silvestre Varela headed home in the last seconds to give Portugal the 2-2 draw. U.S. fans were completely stunned, but all hope was not lost.

    Though America could have won, getting a draw was still a good result and the U.S. eventually escaped the group.

    Looking back, if America had not given up that equalizer things could have been different. America could secured a spot in the next round and players could have gotten a bit of a rest against Germany.

    Beating Portugal also would have given America unrivaled confidence going into the knockout stages, though their confidence was already unbreakable. 

    Beating Portugal likely wouldn't have changed much for the U.S. in this World Cup, but letting that header ripple the net that late in the game was heartbreaking.

Expecting Tim Howard to Do It All

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    Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

    Tim Howard was unbelievable in Brazil, and the argument could even be made that he was the best keeper in the World Cup. He made 16 saves against Belgium on Tuesday, but it just wasn't enough.

    At times, it seemed as though the U.S. defense slacked off knowing that Howard had them covered. That was definitely the case against Belgium, as the American back line got more exposed as the game went on.

    Trusting Tim Howard was not a mistake by any means, but expecting him to cover for all of the defensive problems definitely was. 

    It was hard to watch Belgium put two goals past Howard after his incredible performance to that point, but honestly, it was miraculous that Belgium had not scored several times already.

    The U.S. defense was just not good enough to hold back opponents at times, and rather than trusting Howard to bail them out, changes needed to be made to shore up the back line.

    America's defense was spectacular at times in the group stage, but that wasn't the case against Belgium. Tim Howard needed help, but it just wasn't there.

Leaving Landon Donovan at Home

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    The jury is still out on the decision to leave Landon Donovan out of the U.S. squad. Though America played tremendously well without him, there were certainly times when Donovan would have been an improvement on the pitch.

    The U.S. struggled to keep possession in this World Cup and never caused much trouble in attack. Donovan would have helped both of those issues out, but he was not on the squad.

    Looking back, America had a wonderful run in Brazil without Donovan. The case can be made that he wasn't needed to get this far. Yet, the case can also be made that he would have helped in some moments.

    The world will never know what would have happened if Donovan had been in Brazil, but we can make numerous assumptions. Should he have come or was Klinsmann right to leave him home? 

    What were America's biggest mistakes in the World Cup? Should the USMNT have gone further in the tournament? Leave your thoughts and comments below!