Insta-analysis from the United States' 2-1 loss (in extra time) to Belgium in the round of 16 ...

U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard was the best player on the field, with a performance for the ages. But the 12 next-best all played for Belgium — that includes wonder-sub Lukaku -- and they dominated the match from start to the 107th minute.

At that point, Julian Green's superb one-touch finish gave the U.S. a glimmer of hope and changed the momentum.

The final 13 minutes was a reverse of the first 107, with the United States pressing the action and Belgium on its heels.

But keeper Thibaut Courtois was as good as Howard when he needed to be, stopping a masterfully played U.S. set piece that was oh-so-close to tying the match.

Only one team in World Cup history scored two goals in extra time to tie a match — West Germany in 1982 (thanks ESPN) — and the USMNT wasn't the second.

*** The U.S. lost Fabian Johnson to a hamstring injury in the first half, which limited coach Jurgen Klinsmann's options.

He inserted Danville's Chris Wondolowski late, but Wondo missed a point-blank shot in injury time that would have won the game.

If not for Howard's brilliance, it would have been 4-0 ... or worse.

The United States had only a few quality chances through 107 minutes and was thoroughly outplayed in the midfield.

*** My stars of the game:

Vincent Kompany

Kevin De Bruyne

Howard


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What Guillermo Ochoa was for Mexico against Brazil, Howard was -- and perhaps a bit more -- for the U.S. against Belgium

*** It was easy to see why Belgium has been a trendy dark horse in this tournament: It is loaded with talent and depth.

The USMNT has nobody like Lukaku off the bench. Not even close.

*** Having watched Belgium and Argentina, it's clear that Belgium is better ... except for one player, and Messi can make all the difference — as he did against Switzerland.

*** Looking at the four games in Brazil for the United States ...

It survived the Group of Death and had a chance, albeit slim, to advance to the quarterfinals. But here's the bottom line:

Gritty as they were ... as well coached as they were ... the fightin' Klinsmanns were outplayed by a substantial margin by Ghana, Germany and Belgium (for 90+ minutes).

The USMNT simply wasn't good enough in the midfield. Whether that's because Michael Bradley played poorly, or because Michael Bradley was playing out of position and played poorly, or because there is only one world class player on the roster -- Howard -- it doesn't really matter.

What matters now is finding answers in the midfield before the summer of 2018.