Carlos Bocanegra #5 and Jose Torres #8 of the United States reavts after their loss to Costa Rica, 1-0, during the friendly soccer match at The Home Depot Center in Carson, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Belgium Vs. United States, 2011 International Friendly: Belgium Win 1-0

The U.S. looked poor against Costa Rica on Friday, but they'll get to redeem themselves against a young and extremely talented Belgium side in Brussels

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Belgium Vs. USA, International Friendly: Another Frustrating Loss For U.S.

Three matches and a little more than a month into the Jurgen Klinsmann era of United States soccer, and you have to look pretty hard for positives. Tuesday's 1-0 loss to Belgium was far from disastrous, but it didn't exactly represent the step forward many were hoping to see and leaves the U.S. 0-2-1 in Klinsmann's matches.

It is worth noting that the U.S. did have a potential tying goal waved off . Maurice Edu was able to head the ball past the Belgium goalkeeper off a free kick, but the sideline referee's flag was raised, signaling an apparent off-side call even though no player involved in the play was anywhere near off-side.

Aside from Edu's chance, there wasn't much to speak of for the U.S. on the offensive side. Clint Dempsey created one good chance, but his shot was aimed directly at the keeper and lacked much pace. Brek Shea had some moments, but never put anything on frame. The U.S. did manage to take four shots in the second half after only taking one in the first half, but only one was on goal.

Defensively, the U.S. looked fine other than on Nicolas Lombaerts' 55th minute strike that came directly off a throw-in. Dempsey got to Lombaerts a little late, allowing the fullback to get a clean look at the goal from about 22 yards out, and he blasted it past a diving Tim Howard.

The best news for the Americans is probably that these games do not count for anything other than pride. As frustrating as the results -- and even general play -- may be, it is important to note that the U.S. does not play a meaningful match until next June.


USA Vs. Belgium, 2011 International Friendly: Lineups

Both Belgium and the United States have had to make some minor changes to their lineups from what they fielded on Friday, both both will play a strong squad that resembles a first choice team. The only certain first choice player missing for the United States is Landon Donovan, who was left in Los Angeles and allowed to play for the Galaxy this weekend. Belgium are without Romelu Lukaku, who picked up a slight knock, in their lineup, and Jan Vertonghen has been removed as well. Here are the lineups.

Belgium lineup: Mignolet; Kompany, Lombaerts, Ciman, Alderweireld; Simons, Fellaini, Witsel, Mertens; Hazard; De Camargo

USA lineup: Howard; Cherundolo, Goodson, Bocanegra, Chandler; Edu, Torres; Dempsey Rogers, Shea; Altidore

The game kicks off at 2:45 pm ET and can be seen on ESPN2 and in the USA. Due to rain delays in both NASCAR and the U.S. Open, ESPN has been forced to shift all of their coverage this afternoon. We'll be following along all game long in this StoryStream.


Belgium Vs. United States, 2011 International Friendly: Stop Asking For Our 'Jordan' Or 'Messi', Start Asking For 'Lukaku' Or 'Hazard'

Ask any casual soccer fan in the United States what the USMNT needs. Anyone who is not a regular viewer of MLS and footy from other parts of the world. They'll probably tell you that what U.S. soccer needs is their own Lionel Messi. The Michael Jordan of soccer. It's a repetitive mantra that's become a meme. Hell, it was a meme before 'meme' was a commonly used term. U.S. soccer will arrive and be able to compete with the big boys when we have our own Lionel Messi.

Of course, Lionel Messis don't grow on trees. Wayne Rooney, Mesut Özil, Franck Ribery and Andrea Pirlo are brilliant players, but none of England, Germany, France or Italy has a Messi. He's Lionel Messi. He's a once in a generation player whose skills had just as much to do with chance as they did with the youth systems of Newell's or Barcelona.

The United States may never have a Messi. They may never have anyone of the class of the other four above-listed players either. These are players that come from major European powers with world-class clubs and youth academies. The infrastructure, both in terms of clubs and culture, allows those talents to be cultivated. Until MLS or another professional league has been established in the United States for decades and soccer is a considerably more popular sport, competing with the likes of England or Germany is unlikely.

However, the United States' opponent on Tuesday is also killing them in player development. They're not a country that has one of the best leagues in the world, they don't have a massive population, and footballers are not worshiped like gods to the degree of Italy, England, Germany and the like. Belgium is, in theory, a country that the United States should parallel in talent. And they don't. In fact, it's not even close.

Here's the starting lineup that Belgium played against Azerbaijan on Friday. They disappointed in this game, but these players are immensely talented and Azerbaijan were lucky to win. The result is beside the point.

Mignolet, Kompany, Lombaerts, Vertonghen, Alderweireld, Simons, Fellaini, Witsel, Mertens, Hazard, Lukaku

Now, here's that group of players with their names replaced with their ages.

23, 25, 26, 24, 22, 34, 23, 22, 24, 20, 18

Only one of those players, 34-year-old Timmy Simons, will not be in or near the prime of his career during Belgium's next major cycle, World Cup 2014 qualifying. Now, here's those players again, with their names replaced by the clubs that they play for.

Sunderland, Manchester City, Zenit St. Petersburg, Ajax, Ajax, Nürnburg, Everton, Benfica, PSV Eindhoven, Lille, Chelsea

Every single one of those teams is expected to contend for a place in Europe this season. Every single one of those players plays regularly for those clubs. These players originally came from teams in Belgium, which is the 13th ranked league in Europe.

From the 13th ranked league in Europe and a country of 11 million people, Belgium has produced one of the best collections of young talent in the world. This is in a country where Phillippe Gilbert, Tom Boonen, and Kim Cljisters are bigger stars than footballers. This is not Spain, England, Italy, or Germany. This is not an unattainable goal.

Finding the next Lionel Messi in the United States is going to be extremely difficult. So is becoming one of the world powers of football. But becoming Belgium? It's not an unattainable goal at all, and it's fitting that the United States has scheduled a friendly against a team they should strive to emulate. We can't have our Messi, but our Lukaku or our Hazard? Well, that shouldn't be impossible.


Belgium Vs. United States, 2011 International Friendly: Improvement Is Needed Over Costa Rica Match

For the opening 30 minutes of their friendly match against Costa Rica on Friday, the United States looked like a solid team that was working towards something. It was obvious that, through Jurgan Klinsmann's ideas or some other means, the team looked more fluid and had a different idea of how to play. They kept their passes short and they kept the ball well. While this was partially the result of Costa Rica giving them too much space, the play was encouraging.

At some point around the half hour mark, things began to go downhill a bit and the team looked a little less sharp. After halftime, Costa Rica - a half strength Ticos side - was the demonstrably better team. They deserved their goal, and based on their superiority in the second half, they probably deserved their win.

Of course, the objective in international friendlies is never to win the match above all else. Implementing new ideas and coming closer to playing as a team is much more important. So is seeing what you do or do not have in certain players. While Klinsmann probably got some useful information out of that game, I'm not sure we learned anything.

The vast majority of hardcore USMNT fans already knew that Edgar Castillo, Robbie Rogers and Michael Orozco Fiscal are decent players, but not good enough for this level. They already knew that Jozy Altidore is ineffective as a lone striker. They already knew that Brek Shea and Timothy Chandler are promising young players with athleticism coming out of their ears. 

There's good news, though. It was only Jurgen Klinsmann's second game in charge, and things could change a lot between now and the United States' first competitive international fixture under his reign. That's another piece of good news, that World Cup qualification doesn't start until next summer. If the United States gets out of their first stage - which a USA B team should be able to do - there's still more time until the dreaded Hexagonal starts. Klinsmann has plenty of time to learn on the job and mold his team.

However, while Friday was not a disaster, it was not encouraging. We didn't learn anything about any up and coming talents, the team lost to inferior opposition, and Klinsmann was almost certainly out-coached when it came to halftime adjustments. It was just a friendly, but it was a bad friendly. No one's even close to pushing the panic button yet, but it got a few people thinking "Hmm...I'm not so sure about this guy."

Against Belgium, Klinsmann and co. can erase any doubts that anyone has. Yes, they were disappointing in their draw against Azerbaijan on Friday, but a quick look at the roster tells you all you need to know. Belgium have more raw talent than the United States across the board. Every single one of their players has played regularly for a team in contention for a UEFA Champions League or Europa League spot in the last year. Only veteran Timmy Simons is on the wrong side of 30. Putting in a good performance against this team, on the road, would be extremely impressive.

This is exactly the type of game that the United States should be playing at this time. Belgium is young and talented enough to beat the USMNT on a neutral site, but they aren't so good that Klinsmann's youngsters are going to be completely out of their depth, and therefore, learn nothing. This is a serious challenge, but a challenge that is not impossible to overcome. The United States need to rise to that challenge and prove that they're not a team that is stagnating or regressing, as recent friendlies and the Gold Cup suggest.

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