CLEVELAND -- The first game on U.S. soil since Jan. 29 did not turn out the way the U.S. men’s national soccer team had planned, as the Americans fell, 4-2, to Belgium in an international friendly match at FirstEnergy Stadium Wednesday night.
After playing even throughout the first half of play, the Belgians scored three second-half goals in front of 27,720 fans, and left the pitch with their fourth win over the Americans and first-ever on U.S. soil.
Team U.S.A. now heads to the nation’s capital, where it will play Germany in its last international friendly before a second round of World Cup qualifying beginning on June 7 against Jamaica in Kingston, Jamaica.
“It’s a negative result, but I think it’s an important game because it shows where our players are, and we have to jump-start this three-and-a-half week period now,” said Team U.S.A. coach Jurgen Klinsmann. “We saw a lot of things that we wanted to see and we’ll take it the way it is.
“This is why you want to play teams like Belgium, Germany, Russia or Italy. There’s so much you can see and, obviously, you want to win them. I’d rather play Belgium 10 more times than El Salvador 100 times, because that’s the way you learn.”
The game against Germany is Team U.S.A.’s centennial celebration match in honor of the organization’s 100th anniversary, and it comes against a team Klinsmann both played for and coached during his soccer career. The former two-time German National Player of the Year helped win the World Cup in 1990, and was the head coach of the national team from 2004-06.
“You want to do him proud; you want to do your country proud as well,” said U.S.A. captain Clint Dempsey. “That’s a game you want to win. That’s a game you want to go out there and fight for him and show that you want to be one of those players that is playing in the first game come World Cup qualifying.
“Everybody’s trying to fight for a spot. We’re trying to figure out what our best team’s going to be, and if you’re not performing in these games, you’re not going to get selected for the World Cup qualifying games.”
Belgium took its second, and final, lead of the game in the 56th minute when substitute forward Christian Benteke took a pass from Kevin De Bruyne and sent it past reserve goalkeeper Brad Guzan.
Eight minutes later, the Belgians built on their advantage when midfielder Marouane Fellaini headed home a crossing pass from De Bruyne.
Belgium tallied its fourth goal of the game in the 71st minute when Benteke scored for a second time. Midfielder Steven Defour earned the assist on Benteke’s second goal.
“We want to see how all of the goals basically developed and what mistakes were made,” Klinsmann said. “There’s always a series of mistakes that lead to goals. We’re going to analyze that.”
Team U.S.A. got its lone tally of the second half when Belgium was whistled for a hand ball inside the box and the Americans were awarded a penalty kick. Dempsey took the kick and rifled the right-footed attempt past Belgium goalkeeper Simon Mignolet into the bottom left corner of the net.
Down 1-0 six minutes into the first half after Kevin Mirallas turned a U.S.A. scoring chance into an unassisted goal for the Belgians, Team U.S.A. struck for its first goal of the game.
Team U.S.A.’s Graham Zusi took a corner kick, and instead of sending it directly into the box, he kicked it to midfielder Brad Davis. Davis took the short kick and delivered the ball right back to Zusi, who then, sent it toward the net. Dempsey received the pass and headed it to Geoff Cameron.
Cameron headed the ball past Mignolet for the goal.
CELEBRATING 100 CAPS
U.S. left back DeMarcus Beasley was recognized prior to Wednesday’s game for reaching 100 caps, which signifies that he has played in 100 international competitions for the Americans since joining the team.
Beasley, a native of Fort Wayne, Ind., was honored in front of 16 family members who made the trip to see him become the 13th American to reach the milestone.
“He had a good game,” Klinsmann said. “He’s just so simple in focusing in on his job. He knows, ‘What my role is and to keep my side clean and go forward and have an opportunity to help the guys where I can.’
“His energy and positive approach to it, no matter if we’re down 4-1, he’s still going. He’s still confident and he still wants to make things happen. Even though it’s in a defeat, I think he played a very good 100th cap.”