The United States men's national team's 2014 World Cup run seemed interminable until its frenetic, then sudden end.
All three of the Americans' group-stage matches were tightly contested. Their encounter with Belgium was as lopsided as any match that finished scoreless through regulation time could be, but American goalkeeper Tim Howard's historic performance extended the American supporters' ability to dream.
Even the extra time against Belgium kept American world football fans in rapt attention to the final whistle. The Americans were one more moment of quality from Jermaine Jones or Clint Dempsey taking the Belgians to penalty kicks—and would you have bet against Howard in that scenario?
And now it's over.
Wounds are still closing for the American players and supporters alike. But the time is already right to look back at the lessons the USMNT learned from this World Cup campaign with an eye to 2018.