As always, match data from Stats Zone.
There are a fair few of unbelievable statistics in here.
• 39: The most shots in a single match at this World Cup. 25 of those 39 were inside the penalty box.
• 15: The most saves in a World Cup match, by Tim Howard. FIFA has tracked the statistic since 1966, and the previous high was 13.
• 67: The most clearances in a single World Cup match. FIFA has tracked the statistic since 1966.
While Howard's 15 saves were the most impressive statistic, and the main and pretty much only reason this match went to extra time, Belgium's 39 shots seems the most egregious. That's one shot every 3 minutes and 5 seconds. That's indescribably bonkers.
Every single Belgian player except Nacer Chadli – who came on with nine minutes to play, with the USA in search off an unlikely equalizer, after which Belgium didn't take a single shot – took at least two shots and created at least one chance. I've never seen that before. Kevin De Bruyne alone created 10 chances, only five fewer than the Americans took in total. Ten! I've never seen that before either.
The USA didn't allow Belgium the possession that Germany had, but they allowed vastly more shots. Belgium are a very good attacking side, even if they haven't scored prior to the 70th minute in any of their matches. Or, at the least, Belgium have some very, very good attacking players: both as starters and subs. For the fourth consecutive match, Wilmots' changes made the difference: Mirallas contributing much more than Mertens, then Lukaku's pace and strength blowing away tired legs in extra time.
There's more than just one factor involved in Belgium taking so many shots, but my suspicion is Beckerman's absence played a key part. Klinsmann clearly wanted to bring in Cameron for height, to combat Fellaini – who was comparatively quiet for long stretches – but I doubt Kevin De Bruyne has that much space, is allowed to do that much, with Beckerman patrolling in from of the back four.
Or, a change in systems might have helped. If you look at the average position diagrams, it's concerning that Jones, Yedlin, and Zusi were that high up the pitch even though the majority of Belgium's attacking third passes and the vast majority of chances created – mainly through De Bruyne, Hazard, and Vertonghen – came on that side of the pitch, especially the inside left channel. You'd have expected one of the midfielders – probably Jones, but if not, Bradley – to help Cameron in this regard, and you'd expect Yedlin to do more defensive work, even if he (like Fabian Johnson in previous matches) was the main American out-ball in attack. See also: the paucity of tackles on that flank compared to those on the USA left. I may also just be annoyed with Jones (who, yes, had been one of the USA's two best players, along with Howard, in the group stage) for missing the target with all seven (!!!) of his shots: five off-target, two blocked, including three off-target in the danger zone.
As against Germany, as against Ghana, the USA defense mainly sat deep, but this time, allowed that insane amount of shots. And you will eventually get punished from that many shots. Portugal and Ghana each took 21, no small amount, but they were from vastly inferior positions compared to Belgium's. Germany, the side who had the most possession against the USA, took the fewest – which was a credit to the USA defense and tactics in that match (and the fact that Germany needed no more than a draw) – but they also put the highest percentage on target.
The Americans had the worst Total Shot Ratio of any side at the World Cup, by some distance. Nota Bene: TSR = Shots For / (Shots For + Shots Against). The USA took 44 shots, but allowed 94, and somehow only conceded six goals. That's a 6.5% conversion ratio. That's miniscule.
Which leads directly to praising Tim Howard, American Hero. I truly hope he got all that out of his system before rejoining Everton next season. 33 of the 94 shots that the USA allowed were on-target: 35.1%. Which is almost exactly average; the group stage average for all teams was 34.9% of all shots put on target. If not for Howard, the USA don't make it out of the GROUP OF DEATH!!!!1!, let alone nearly hold on against Belgium. Tim Howard is also 35 years old, and is by no means certain to be involved in the next World Cup, no matter the longer tenure for goalkeepers.
But despite the frightening statistics, there has been improvement from the USA under Klinsmann. Klinsmann has done well, if not necessarily as a coach, then at least as the technical director, vastly expending the USA's talent pool. Matching the result from the last World Cup, despite a much harder group and less experienced squad, is at least slightly impressive. The majority of this side should still be involved in four years' time.
It seems we've said similar following each of the last three World Cups (except maybe 2006), but there's something to build on here, and the future still looks fairly bright, no matter yesterday's disappointment.