U.S. loses to Germany but goes through to Round of 16
RECIFE, Brazil -- Crazy game, this soccer, which produced some mixed emotions from the U.S. national team Thursday.
Perhaps center back Omar Gonzalez summed it up best after the USA booked a spot in the Round of 16 in the World Cup despite losing to Germany, 1-0, at Arena Pernambuco.
"Last game's draw felt like a loss and today's loss felt like a win," he said, referring to the USA allowing a last-second goal in a 2-2 draw with Portugal Sunday night. "It's pretty weird. But our mission from the beginning was to get to the next round, and job well done."
While it was hardly pretty, the Americans (1-1-1, four points) did accomplish their mission in Group G -- the "Group of Death" -- finishing second to Germany (2-0-1, seven) and reaching the knockout round in consecutive Cups for the first time. They edged past Portugal (1-1-1, four) on goal differential, zero to minus three.
In a match played at the same time, the Portuguese got a 2-1 win over Ghana (0-2-1, one).
"It's huge for us getting out of this group that everybody said, 'You have no chance,' USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. "We really want to prove a point.
"Once the group is done, another tournament starts. Whoever it is, we'll be prepared."
That would be Group H winner Belgium (3-0-0), which defeated Algeria, 1-0, on Thursday, and will meet the United States in Salvador on Tuesday.
Thursday's game, before 41,876 in rainy and sometimes sloppy conditions, won't be among the most memorable in U.S. history. The Germans enjoyed a sizable time of possession, having the ball 63 percent of the time and outshooting the USA 13-4.
The Americans had only one shot on goal, by Alejandro Bedoya in the second half. But they persevered behind some usual and unlikely heroes.
Jermaine Jones, who feared that he broke his nose in a second-half collision with Bedoya, played his usual hard-edged game at both ends. Goalkeeper Tim Howard was a rock, making eight saves, although he could not stop Thomas Mueller from scoring his fourth goal of the Cup in the 54th minute.
Mueller converted a rebound of a shot off a two-handed save by Howard, firing a precise right-footed ball between defenders from 20 yards into the lower right corner.
"As I was closing down Mueller, I decided not to slide," Matt Besler said. "I tried to stand up and make myself big. He hit to a spot where no one could get to it."
Then there was Gonzalez, a surprise starter in place of Geoff Cameron, whose blunder led to Portugal's first goal Sunday night. Gonzalez, who has been hampered by a left knee injury, acquitted himself well, heading at least three dangerous balls out of harm's way, including a left-wing cross that was targeted for the head of Mesut Ozil in the 15th minute.
"Omar absolutely did terrific," Besler said.
After four minutes of injury time, the match was ended. The Americans had to wait a minute before the Portugal result became official and the scoreboard flashed the final score.
The fans cheered, the American supporters chanted "USA! USA!" and the players hugged each other.
Said Besler, "We're proud of what we've accomplished. We're still hungry."