CLEVELAND – The US men's national team's much-discussed defensive prowess went out the window on Wednesday evening, as they fell 4-2 to Belgium at FirstEnergy Stadium thanks to three second-half strikes from the visitors.
Geoff Cameron had canceled out Kevin Mirallas' early goal, sending the two teams into break level, but a pair of second-half goals from Christian Benteke sandwiched Marouane Fellaini's header as Belgium turned on the jets in the final 45 minutes.
The decisive goal came on a turnover in midfield from Brad Davis – who started the game at left wing. Omar Gonzalez chased down the subsequent Belgian pass, but his heavy touch sent the ball right to the electric Kevin De Bruyne, who centered to a wide open Benteke for the first of his two assists on the night.
Fellaini added the third goal of the game in the 64th minute when De Bruyne swung in a cross following a broken corner kick routine, with the big man powering his header past second-half substitute Brad Guzan at the near post.
Benteke added his second and Belgium's fourth with just less than 20 minutes to play as Steven Defour found him wide open on the right side, allowing him to burst in and chip it past his Aston Villa teammate in goal.
Clint Dempsey pulled one back for the US in the 80th minute from the penalty spot after referee Jeffery Solis adjudged Toby Alderweireld to have handled Eddie Johnson's cross.
The result was the second time the US have given up four goals during Klinsmann's reign, coming close to matching the 4-1 loss Brazil handed the them a year prior on May 30, 2012.
The Belgians' mix of athleticism and technical quality proved problematic throughout the game for the Americans, though they only forced one tough save out of Howard in the first half, when the goalkeeper got down to tip Romelu Lukaku's snap shot wide late in the half.
Still, the US 'keeper was left wishing he could have done better in dealing with De Bruyne's through ball in the sixth minute, which he spilled, allowing Mirallas to chip over his Everton teammate for the opening goal of the the game.
The US equalized in the 23rd minute on a well-rehearsed set piece, which saw Graham Zusi and Davis work a short corner before Zusi found Dempsey at the far post. The US captain headed back across goal and Cameron rose up to nod home his first-ever international goal.
Though the US found themselves able to cope defensively in the first half, they struggled to break through early against Belgium's center back duo of Vincent Kompany and Thomas Vermaelen, with Jan Vertonghen sliding over from the left to replace Vermaelen when the latter picked up a knock.
Davis was the only real surprise inclusion in US head coach Jurgen Klinsmann's lineup, though the German manager opted to split up the center back duo that earned the US a 0-0 World Cup qualifying draw at the Estadio Azteca, opting to start Clarence Goodson alongside Gonzalez instead of Matt Besler.
Belgium manager Marc Wilmots fielded what was close to a first-choice side, with the team missing Chelsea star Eden Hazard but still featuring its other Premier League stars.
The US will return to action against Germany on Sunday when they face Germany in Washington, D.C. at RFK Stadium. They will then face a string of three World Cup qualifiers form June 7-18, traveling to Jamaica before hosting Panama and Honduras.