Even in defeat, Tim Howard was the man of the match for US

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Tim Howard set a World Cup record for saves vs. Belgium. (Getty Images)

More WC: USA player ratings: Perfect 10 for Howard | Belgium bounces US 2-1

The US's heart-wrenching 2-1 extra time loss to Belgium on Tuesday never would have gone to overtime had it not been for the magnificent play of Tim Howard. He made a World Cup record 16 saves, few of which were of the routine variety. Low driven shots. Curling, angled attempts. Close-range headers. Everything. He stopped everything, and it kept the US's hopes alive.

"That's my job. That's what I signed up to do," he told ESPN after the game. 

It began in the opening minute when he stood tall and stuffed Divock Origi's opening blast with his leg and it extended throughout all of regulation as he locked down all angles against Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Jan Vertongen. His keeping was the only reason the US wasn't two or three goals down by halftime. 

"I feel sick to my stomach for Tim," former US keeper Kasey Keller said after the game. "He kept the team in it throughout the 90 minutes. They had the opportunity at the end, Chris Wondolowski, had the opportunity to make those 12 saves count for something, and to count for something absolutely spectacular, and in the end, it was just too many.

Similar to the Ghana game, the US couldn't maintain any possession in the midfield and it resulted in a relentless assault on Howard's net. Time and time again he was up for the challenge. The US's beleaguered defense was solid, for the most part, but you can't expect a team to defend incessantly for 90 minutes. And yet it did. 

Howard withstood a 10-minute flurry from the Belgian side around the 75-minute mark and it culminated in yet another incredible save against Divock Origi, the Belgian forward whose touch and angled runs caused havoc for the US backline. Howard, it must be said, was saved by huge blocks from Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler, but the lion's share of the 90-minute shut out falls on his burly shoulders. 

Whether it was limiting short post angles or tipping dangerous headers to safety, Howard was there. 

The first goal from Kevin De Bruyne was the result of brilliant work from Romelu Lukakau, who barreled his way along the right flank and found De Bruyne in front of a scrambling US defense a few minutes into extra time. De Bruyne buried the right-footed chance with almost no angle -- a shot similar to what Howard had stopped earlier, although this one was from just outside the six. 

The other goal caught the US defense on the counter attack as Romelu Lukaku buried his one-time chance ahead of Matt Besler from close range. Neither could be blamed on Howard, and had the US capitalized on one of the many chances it had in the second extra period, Howard would have no doubt carried supreme confidence heading into penalty kicks. As it was though, Howard put on an incredible performance, which former US men's national team player Taylor Twellman remarked would be lauded for years to come. 

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