USA coach Bob Bradley defended the effort of his team and players in the 2010 World Cup tournament, while admitting that the loss to Ghana had laid the team low.
Though some questioned the decision to start midfielder Ricardo Clark, Bradley took responsibility for that choice. Clark was at the heart of an early mistake that led to Ghana's opening goal.
"We thought that fresh legs in the center of the field would be good. We felt that against England Ricardo had been disciplined and had plugged certain holes and that would be helpful against Ghana. We took him off, which we almost never do, because I was concerned about the (yellow) card. We were already down 1-0 and trying to chase the game when you play that role in that part of the field - playing with a card is incredibly dangerous. I just told him that the decision was based solely on the card. Ricardo's such a good man - and he felt bad about the ball he lost."
Bradley gave the USA's rivals credit for their performance.
"Ghana is a talented team. I said yesterday that their coach has done a good job organizing the team. Of course, they'll have a tough task versus Uruguay, but they're a team that's certainly capable of moving on."
Looking back on the USA's participation in the tournament, Bradley found certain aspects to be proud of.
"In the first round we showed a lot of good qualities - you get through the first round and give yourself a chance to go far. We felt that we had that ability and we're disappointed that we didn't get past this game and continue to test ourselves."
Though the USA was battling from behind in most of their tournament games, Bradley did not see the team's first lost as accumulated weariness from that effort.
Instead, he pointed to the specific flow of energy in the match being dealt a death blow by Ghana's second goal.
"We put a lot in this game to get it to 1-1 and I think we had one very good chance when it was 1-1 to finish in regulation." Bradley explained. "In the overtime, i think we felt good about where we were physically in the game. But the fact that we gave up a goal so quickly - it's almost a feeling at that point that there's not that much time, you're deep into the game and it's going to be hard to get it back. We had a few chances after that - there were so many attacking plays that seemed to just miss. The timing might be a little off, the last ball was a little off. I felt there were some plays that had potential, but most of them seemed to be a little off."
The task of eliminating the final African team from the tournament might have been daunting to some, but Bradley maintained that the USA was focused merely on representing themselves well.
"We had a country behind us, we had great fans in the stadium and we had the belief that we could win," Bradley said. "The support that we've seen here in South Africa and across the United States - we know that people have been behind our games. At the moment it's a feeling of disappointment for our team and also all the fans."
Though the USA participated in the first-ever World Cup in 1930, the country's long absence from the World Cup final created an uphill battle for recognition in the sport.
"We always understand the responsibility we have as a national team to show how far soccer has come in the United States," Bradley waid. "It's a fight for respect. We certainly felt that we moved things along with our performance in the Confederations Cup and as we went through the first round we felt tha we were continuing to go in that direction. For tonight, all we can do is look hard at ourselves and continue to improve."
One specific area of improvement that Bradley addressed was the team's attack. No USA forwards have scored at the World Cup since 2002.
"When you go through four games and over the course of those four games you're trying to attack, trying to be dangerous, you count on everybody for goals, but let's face it, you count more on your forwards," Bradley said.
However, Bradley defended the team's youngest player, Jozy Altidore.
"Jozy played well this World Cup," Bradley said. "He will continue to be an important part of the national team. Sometimes you go through a stretch where you do a lot of good things to help your national team, but as it turns out, you don't score."
Though some have speculated that Bradley is looking to move on to a club post abroad instead of staying on with the national team, the coach gave no hint of his future plans.
"I don't think it's the time to talk about my situation," Bradley said. "This has been a four-year cycle where we worked hard and it culminated in us being here in South Africa and at the moment, a disappointing feeling at not having won tonight."