International Football

Complete A-Z of USA's 2014 World Cup Campaign

Joe TanseyFeatured ColumnistJuly 9, 2014

Complete A-Z of USA's 2014 World Cup Campaign

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Just over a week ago, the American dream in Brazil came to an end with a loss in the round of 16 to Belgium. 

    Now that reality has set in with the American fanbase, it is time to take one final look back at the four-game adventure that the national team took us on. 

    From hamstrings to dreadlocks, and everywhere in between, here is a complete A to Z list of the Yanks' time at the 2014 World Cup. 

Adjustments

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    Themba Hadebe/Associated Press

    Only 23 minutes into the World Cup campaign of the Yanks, manager Jurgen Klinsmann was forced to make adjustments to his lineup due to the injury to Jozy Altidore.

    With Altidore unable to participate in any further games, Klinsmann had to adjust his squad for the following matches, which meant Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley had to be moved into advanced roles. 

    That adjustment may not have worked out so great, but Klinsmann's substitution decisions paid off on numerous occasions, including John Brooks against Ghana and DeAndre Yedlin in the final three games. 

Besler

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Matt Besler made his presence known at center-back in each of the four games played by the Yanks in Brazil. 

    The Sporting Kansas City star proved that he could deal with the pressure of the tournament, which was something people doubted after his shaky showings in the send-off series games on home soil against Azerbaijan, Turkey and Nigeria. 

    Besler also gave us one of the images of the tournament in the Portugal game, when he stood over Cristiano Ronaldo after a challenge. 

Corner Kicks

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Corner kicks were a major of topic of discussion for plenty of reasons throughout the Yanks' venture into Brazil.

    A corner by Graham Zusi set up the game-winning goal by Brooks against Ghana, but other than that moment, Zusi was unable to deliver brilliance from the corner.

    Of the 15 corners taken by the Stars and Stripes in Brazil, only Zusi's 86th-minute delivery against the Black Stars created a goal. 

Dreadlocks

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    Kim Raff/Associated Press

    Alongside Jermaine Jones in the defensive part of the midfield, the dreadlocked wonder of the world, Kyle Beckerman, delivered a stellar set of games.

    Throughout the group stage, the Real Salt Lake player commanded respect on the pitch with his strong tackling ability against three dangerous attacking sides. 

    Unfortunately for the 32-year-old, he did not play in the Belgium game, as Klinsmann opted to bring in Geoff Cameron to play with Jones in the midfield. 

Extra Time

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    Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

    For the second consecutive World Cup, the Yanks were done in by extra time in the round of 16. 

    In South Africa, it was Asamoah Gyan and Ghana that eliminated the Yanks, and in 2014, Belgium's Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne had the pleasure of sealing the fate of the Americans. 

Fitness

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    Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

    One of the things that Klinsmann harped about during the buildup to the World Cup was his team's fitness. 

    The Yanks were one of the fittest teams in Brazil, but a few injuries, and the letdown early in extra time against Belgium cost that from being a positive thing in the eyes of the fans. 

Group of Death

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    Michael Steele/Getty Images

    From the draw in December up until the time play in Group G began, the American public was concerned about the Group of Death.

    After three games, and a ton of travel, against some of the world's best teams, the Yanks were able to get out of the group stage for the second straight tournament. 

    Hopefully next time the World Cup rolls around, the Yanks will not have to fight so hard to make it to the round of 16. 

Hamstrings

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    Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

    Never has a collective of hamstrings seen the spotlight more at the World Cup than in the United States camp. 

    Altidore, Besler and Fabian Johnson all had to leave games with hamstring injuries, which caused a surge of criticism about Klinsmann's fitness rhetoric. 

    Altidore's injury left the biggest hole in the American side, but there were a few positives to come out of the early exits, as Brooks and Yedlin starred after entering for Besler and Johnson against Ghana and Belgium respectively. 

I Believe That We Will Win

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    Scott Olson/Getty Images

    The rallying cry from the American supporters was a simple, yet powerful, message that was chanted across Brazil, and back at home at viewing parties. 

    While this has been one of the trademark chants of the American Outlaws supporters group for quite some time, the phrase picked up a ton of steam on social media on days when the United States played. 

Jermaine Jones

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Entering the World Cup, Jermaine Jones' role in the team was questioned because of his propensity to pick up yellow cards. 

    Exiting Brazil, Jones was met with a completely different perspective due to his terrific play in the four games against top-notch opposition. 

    Not only did he contribute a ton on the defensive side of the ball, he struck a beauty of a goal against Portugal to tie the game at a goal apiece. 

Klinsmann

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    Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

    The United States manager had to prove himself in Brazil, especially after being handed a contract extension before the tournament that lasts until 2018. 

    Klinsmann exceeded expectations with his decision-making in the group stage, but many were left to question his abilities against Belgium, when he didn't use his third substitution until the 105th minute.

    Overall, the German had a solid tournament in charge of the Yanks, and he was also vindicated for the controversial roster decisions he made before the tournament thanks to showings by Yedlin, Brooks and Julian Green. 

Lukaku

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The entrance of Romelu Lukaku into the round-of-16 clash in Salvador changed how the game was played. 

    The Chelsea forward came into the match at the start of extra time after Divock Origi tired out the American back four throughout regulation.

    Lukaku's fresh legs and pace proved to be too much for the Americans, who conceded twice in 12 minutes with the 21-year-old on the pitch. 

Mentality

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    Themba Hadebe/Associated Press

    The mentality brought into Brazil by the Yanks was something that no American side had seen in the past. 

    Klinsmann instilled confidence in his side by setting high expectations, and showing belief in his side when talking to the media.

    There is no doubt that the attitude that Klinsmann brought to the national team helped them overcome plenty of adversity during Group G play. 

Natal

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    Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

    Natal will be a city that Americans will always bring up in the future in regards to American World Cup history thanks to the victory over Ghana at the Arena das Dunas. 

    The 2-1 win over Ghana handed the Yanks a crucial three points, and it turned out to be the only victory the team recorded in Brazil. 

Old Man Beasley

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    Christopher Lee/Getty Images

    No one thought that DaMarcus Beasley would be able to keep up with the speed of Ghana, Portugal and Germany in the group stage, but that is exactly what he did.

    The 32-year-old veteran of four World Cups was a defensive rock at left-back, a position that created many questions entering Brazil.

    Beasley was also able to provide the Yanks with a few runs down the left wing, which showed that the old man of the team still has something left in the tank from his past as a winger. 

Pocket

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    For the entire match in Natal, Geoff Cameron had Asamoah Gyan in his back pocket. 

    Cameron kept the 28-year-old's influence on the game to a minimum, which was a big task given how much possession the Black Stars had after the Altidore injury. 

    The play from Cameron eventually earned him two more starts in Brazil, one of which produced a solid showing against Belgium in the defensive midfield. 

Questions Remain

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Despite all of the excitement created by the national team at home during the tournament, there are still plenty of questions circling the squad about the next World Cup cycle.

    Among them is how long Tim Howard stays in goal before handing the reins over to Brad Guzan, which will happen at some point over the next four years. 

    The next question is about Klinsmann, and his selection for the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup, a tournament that would be useful to hand young players some international experience before qualifying heats up.

    Another question to ask is about the future of Landon Donovan, who may be able to make an impact at the 2016 Copa America Centenario against the likes of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Colombia on home soil. 

Ratings

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The ratings for each of the four United States games were something networks hadn't seen before.

    The big number of the tournament came from the Portugal match, which was played on a Sunday night, with 24.7 million viewers tuning in on ESPN and Univision, per the New York Times. 

    For the game against Germany, ESPN drew 6.7 million viewers for a match that was played at noon on the East Coast. 

    The knockout round matchup with Belgium brought in 16.5 million viewers for ESPN, and 5.1 million for Univision, which are massive numbers for soccer in America.

    With the numbers being as high as they were, the debate whether soccer has made it in the country was finally extinguished. 

Saves

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Tim Howard turned in the performance of his life against Belgium with 16 saves at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador.

    Howard gained the respect of fans around the world with the display that saw him make the most saves in the tournament since 1966. 

    When he left the tournament, Howard had made 28 saves, which was the highest number of any keeper at that time. 

Tackling

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    One thing the Americans did a lot of in Brazil was tackle. 

    The defensive midfield pairing of Jones and Beckerman received a ton of praise for their tackling ability, but others like Besler and Cameron were also efficient in that department. 

    The Yanks averaged 21 tackles per game, per WhoScored.com, a number that is extremely high because of the lack of possession the team had after the Altidore injury. 

    The most tackles in a single game were 32 against Belgium, while the lowest was 11 versus Portugal. 

    Klinsmann's side also had 22 tackles in the first game against Ghana, and 19 in Recife when they faced Germany. 

Underdogs

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Whether Klinsmann liked it or not, the United States were underdogs in all of their games in South America. 

    The United States is still a growing soccer nation, and because of results in the past, they were handed the label of underdog. 

    Ghana brought a ton of promise to the table, Portugal contained Cristiano Ronaldo on their roster and Germany are set for a date in Sunday's final. 

    Although Belgium may not have a long history in the World Cup, they started 11 players that all play in the top leagues in Europe, which is something the Americans are not close to possessing yet. 

Varela

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Ronaldo may be remembered more for Portugal's second goal in Manaus, but it was Silvestre Varela who dealt a deflating blow to the Yanks with his header in the final minute of the game.

    Varela found plenty of space when he made his run into the box, and by the time Johnson and Cameron could track him down, it was too late. 

    Had the United States held on to that lead, they would've been in the driver's seat for first place in the group. 

Wondolowski's Miss

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Chris Wondolowski could've gained hero status in America if he had put away his shot in the 93rd minute against Belgium.

    The San Jose Earthquakes forward has gained a reputation as a poacher during his time in Major League Soccer, but he could not play that role to perfection in the round of 16. 

    Shortly after the miss, regulation ended and the journey of the Yanks in Brazil came to an end in extra time. 

X-Factor for the Future

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    Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

    While many questions may linger about the future of the national team, one player is almost guaranteed to make an impact in the squad over the next four years.

    DeAndre Yedlin proved that he could not only play his natural right-back position well, but that he could also move forward on the right wing to tire out opposing defenders. 

    The 20-year-old's biggest impact in Brazil came on Dempsey's goal against Portugal, which was made possible by the darting run down the wing by Yedlin.

    Yedlin's role will only grow as the march to Russia moves on, which is nothing but a good thing for the United States. 

Youth

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    One of the biggest storylines when the 23-man roster was first announced for the tournament was how much youth Klinsmann would be taking with him to Brazil. 

    The three biggest question marks were Brooks, Green and Yedlin, who all made an immediate impact on the squad to hand American fans a look into the bright future.

    The most surprising impact came from Green, who handed the Yanks a lifeline against Belgium with a goal in the 107th minute. 

Zusi's Disappointing Showing

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    Martin Rose/Getty Images

    Graham Zusi was supposed to hand the Americans plenty of production in attack off the left wing, but when the tournament ended for the Yanks, many were left wanting more from the winger. 

    Zusi's tournament got off to a bright start with his assist on the Brooks goal against Ghana, but it was all downhill from there for the Sporting Kansas City player.

    As luck would have it, in his first game back from the World Cup Sunday, he provided an instant spark off the bench for the defending MLS Cup champion. 

     

    Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90. 

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