Sizing up impact of Belgium loss 

May, 30, 2013

How much does the national team's ugly 4-2 friendly loss to Belgium on Wednesday night in Cleveland actually matter? Ask the question again in three weeks.

Because for all of the hand-wringing in the wake of the Americans' worst defeat since a 4-2 loss to Brazil 12 months ago, the truth is that as long as the Americans take care of business in the games that count -- those would be the three high-stakes World Cup qualifiers looming next month -- the U.S. can get outclassed on Sunday against Germany, too, without it meaning a thing.

But while inching closer to qualifying for Brazil 2014 is quite rightly the only thing coach Jurgen Klinsmann and his team should be focused on this spring, the exhibitions are still important. And if the U.S. looks as disjointed and mistake-prone when the Hexagonal resumes June 7 in Jamaica as it did last night, the loss to Belgium will be looked back on as a clear warning sign.

Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine. He has covered American and international soccer since 2002.