How many times can you flirt with fire before getting burned? How many times can you cheat death without losing your life? The United States found out on Tuesday when they used up all of their nine lives in Salvador.

Tim Howard was Superman between the pipes as he made a World Cup record, 16 saves in the match. But even Superman has his kryptonite, and his name was Romelu Lukaku.

Lukaku came off the bench in extra time and got a goal and an assist within ten minutes to send Belgium to the quarterfinals and break the hearts of the United States.

Hope for the United States both now and for the future came in the form of 19 year old phenom Julian Green who came off the bench to become the youngest player to ever score a goal for team USA at the World Cup. It would not be enough however, as Belgium hung on to win 2-1.

Before the match began, there was a question on whether or not Jozy Altidore would be fit enough to start the match. Klinsmann announced about an hour before the game that Alitdore would not start and would only be available “in an emergency.”

In a surprise move, maligned defenseman, Geoff Campbell whose mistakes cost the U.S. two goals against Portugal, started the match against Belgium. Perhaps his goal scored against Belgium last May was a factor in the decision for Klinsmann.

After the opening whistle, it was all Belgium as they continually found space in the United States zone. They almost scored right out of the gate as Divok Origi had a great shot on target to start the game but Howard denied the Belgian with a beautiful kick save.

Perhaps the only excitement for the United States in the first half was when a fan ran onto the field at the 15-minute mark. The fan was doing donuts on the pitch for a good three minutes before security was finally able to escort him off.

Fan A fan is ascertained after running onto the field Reuters

The United States had a chance in the 21st minute when a give and go between Bradley and Dempsey lead to a shot for Dempsey, but Courtois made a diving save. Thibault Courtois is one of the best goalies in the world and it was evident early on. If the United States wanted to score a goal, they would have to do better to get it past the Belgian keeper.

DeMarcus Beasley saved a goal for the United States in the 26th minute with a diving save into the net to block a cross by Belgium’s Eden Hazard that would have been another sure goal. Half way through the first half, you could feel the pressure mounting on the United States and we knew it was only a matter of time before Belgium got on the board.

The United States was dealt another brutal blow in the 30th minute when Fabian Johnson pulled up grabbing his hamstring. A huge blow for the United States as Fabian Johnson was needed to have a huge game for the United States if they wanted to advance. It would prove to be a tough break for the U.S.

At halftime, the United States was lucky to be going into the locker room at a scoreless tie. The game could have easily been 2-0 Belgium going into the break. However, team USA had to be proud as it took courage, guts, perseverance and a little luck to be able to keep the game close.

The second half seemed to be even worse than the first half for the United States as Belgium continued to dominate the ball and the opportunities on offense. Howard made save after save as Belgium continued to put pressure on the United States backline.

Many spectators and fans were encouraged by the 0-0 score through 75 minutes, but arguably, Belgium had the U.S. right where they wanted them as they had scored all four of their goals in the final 15 minutes of each match.

Belgium thought they had broken through in the 77th minute when Mirallas took a pass from Origi and was one on one with Tim Howard. Howard charged the Belgian and again made an amazing save with his legs.

Tim Howard Save Just one of 15 of Tim Howard's amazing saves in the match. Reuters

By the 80th minute, Tim Howard had the United States record of ten saves. Ian Darke may have said it best when he proclaimed, “It feels like Tim Howard is playing Belgium on his own.”

Tim Howard Team USA's Tim Howard was Superman on Tuesday, making 15 saves but it was not enough as Belgium beat the U.S. 2-0. Reuters

Mental and physical fatigue started to rear its ugly head in the final moments of the match as sloppy play and lazy turnovers led to chances by both sides.

Like a heavyweight fight, the United States and Belgium went the distance, the full 90 minutes and 30 in extra time.  The dream may have ended early, but just like in the movie Rocky, USA can hold their heads high and yell out, “Yo Adrian, I did it!”

Four years ago in the knockout round, the United States found themselves in a similar situation against Ghana. In that match, the U.S. gave up an early goal in extra time to Asamoah Gyan and the U.S. lost the match and was eliminated.

Lightning struck twice as Belgium scored early in extra time to turn the dagger into the hearts of the Americans. Late sub, Romelu Lukaku, charged through the U.S. defense and made a great pass to Kevin De Bruyne who finally found the net after many attempts throughout the match.

Howard was asked after the match what it felt like to be under constant assault throughout the match and his answer was simple and poignant: “…at some point the levy was going to break”

The United States fought til the bitter end and can hang their heads high as they got off the mat and poured every ounce of blood, sweat, tears, heart and grit on to the pitch. Multiple times in the final minutes of extra time, team USA was close to finding the equalizer, but Courtois flashed signs of brilliance himself and pushed the United States away.

“It was heartbreaking. I don’t think we could have given anything more. What a great game of football. We left it all out there and got beat by a really good team.. It’s heartache. It hurts.” said man of the match in a losing effort, Tim Howard.

President Obama President Barack Obama watching the match between the United States and Belgium. Reuters

Belgium will face Argentina and Lionel Messi on July 5th in what should be a great quarterfinal match up.

The future is bright for Jurgen Klinsmann and his men as the heroic effort on Tuesday came without Jozy Altidore and Fabian Johnson. Young talent, DeAndre Yedlin and Julian Green showed signs of greatness for the future. Be proud America, and support this team until you see them at the World Cup again in four years.

Game Notes:
Belgium's first goal came on their 32nd shot. At that point, Belgium had outshout the United States 32 -6. Tim Howard's 16 saves were more than any other player in World Cup History (1966-2014). With the go ahead goal by Lukaku, a subsitute has now scored 4 out of Belgium's last 6 goals. USA's Julian Green's goal came on his first ever touch in the World Cup. He is the only player in World Cup history to score a goal on his first ever touch.