U.S. Falls to Belgium. Cleveland Shines.

Matt Sullivan

There were some positives in Cleveland. It just wasn't on the field.

On the field, Belgium brought the silky quality that many expected with a team that starts Romelu Lukaku, Moussa Dembele, and Kevin Mirallis. The United States showed that trademark grit and work rate that may lack in flash, but usually makes them hard to break down.

Belgium would take a while to assert their dominance as they went into halftime tied at one with Mirallis and Geoff Cameron scoring, but they would break out in the second half with three goals, two from Christian Benteke and another from Marouane Fellaini. Clint Dempsey would pull one back with a late penalty to make it 4-2.

Jurgen Klinsmann's side remains very much a work in progress as he tries to figure out how to get goals out of an offense led by Clint Dempsey and solidify a defense that struggled with the excellent Belgium attack. Results will likely be better in June as the U.S. won't see that kind of fluidity out of Jamaica, Panama, and Honduras.

Off the field it was a different story. 27,720 were on hand to watch the team in transition in a friendly. The American Outlaw chapters in Akron and Cleveland build a raucous section that covered most of the east end of the stadium. They were loud and even got a couple of USA chants going throughout the stadium.

Very few of the fans left as the game got out of hand throughout the second half and even though the U.S. were essentially out of the game, the crowd roared after he converted an 80th minute penalty.

A good solid crowd wasn't enough for Frankie Hejduk, who just happened to show up in the press box at halftime. He was happy to see this many people show up and get loud for soccer, but the next time he wants to see the stadium sold out. I've heard from the true believers before, but for the first time, that didn't seem crazy to me. Fans from the middle of nowhere Ohio, the cities and towns that dot the Midwest and drove to see their team.

Soccer in America is past to the place where you have 24,000 come for U.S. v. Mexico. It's at the place where you could have 50,000 and it's still rabid for the red, white, and blue. The sport has grown where the National Team can go to Columbus, Kansas City, Salt Lake City, Portland, and Seattle and get the support they need when qualification is on the line.

73,000 to see soccer in Cleveland. That day hasn't arrived yet, but it's coming.

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