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USA soccer suffers familar exit from World Cup

The USA soccer team tried to take a big leap forward in the World Cup on July 1. With an upset over Belgium, the USA would be one of the last eight soccer nations at the World Cup for only the second time in its modern history. Yet for all the drama the Americans have been through at this tournament, it ended the exact same way it did for them four years ago, despite slightly different circumstances.

Belgium breaks through in extra time over U.S.
Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

Once again, the U.S. went to extra time in the second round, and once again succumbed. While Ghana needed just one goal in the extra 30 minutes to eliminate the Americans in 2010, Belgium ultimately needed two in its 2-1 victory. However, unlike four years ago, the USA could have been blown out by four goals in those first 90 minutes.

Like in its last first round match with Germany, the U.S. was on its heels for much of regulation. Of course, since this is the World Cup knockout round, a 1-0 loss wouldn't have a silver lining for America this time. Yet Tim Howard didn't give up anything in regulation, despite how Belgium's shots piled up to a record-setting extent.

By the end of the second half, Howard had stopped 12 shots, the second most in World Cup history over the last 50 years. But in the opening moments of extra time, one of Belgium's shots finally went into the net. Although Kevin De Bruyne scored in just the 93'rd minute -- like Ghana did in 2010 -- it already looked like Belgium salted away the game -- especially after Romelu Lukaku scored in the 105'th minute.

The USA soccer team started the World Cup with young substitute John Brooks scoring the late game winning goal over Ghana. Fittingly, it was even younger 19-year-old substitute Julian Green who scored America's last goal in the 107'th minute. Suddenly Belgium was on its heels in the next 10 minutes, as Clint Dempsey later had a point blank shot set up by a free kick, but it was stopped by much less busy goaltender Thibaut Courtois.

Howard set a modern World Cup record with 16 saves -- yet Belgium ultimately got 18 shots on net. As such, the USA soccer program is technically no better off now than it was four years ago, except for scoring one goal in knock out time this year.