JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - The United States' roller coaster Confederations Cup ride may have come to an end here on Sunday with defeat to Brazil but Bob Bradley's men leave South Africa with their stock having risen sharply.
In the week that America lost its 'King of Pop' - Michael Jackson - the Stars and Stripes have given the country something to cheer about with their first ever appearance in a major final.
Yet their 3-2 defeat left Landon Donovan, the scorer of the second goal, with mixed feelings.
The US's all time top marker told AFP: "We're proud but disappointed.
"We put so much into getting the lead but Brazil are never going to lie down and let you win the game and at the end it was just too much.
"We can take a lot of positives from our time here but also some negatives - we need to learn from today - if we get in a similar position next year (at the World Cup) we need to know how to finish it off."
The CONCACAF Gold Cup winners had gotten off to a wretched start with lopsided losses compounded by two successive red cards against the Brazilians and world champions Italy and looked destined for an early trip home.
Then they produced miracle number one - a crushing 3-0 victory over African champions Egypt which lifted them into the semi-finals on goal difference.
Gone was the hesitancy of their first two games and in its place Bradley produced a tenacious well coordinated aggressive unit that floored the Pharaohs.
With rising confidence they then approached Euro 2008 winners Spain looking for miracle number two.
And remarkably Donovan, Clint Dempsey and colleagues pulled it off with a little help from a flawless effort from Everton keeper Tim Howard.
Villarreal's teenage striker Jozy Altidore got the ball rolling against Vicente del Bosque's record breakers with Dempsey sealing a historic victory that was in large part down to Bradley's brilliant tactics centring on closing down Spain dangerman Xavi.
The only sour note from that game in Bloemfontain was the sending off, the States' third of the tournament, in the 86th minute of influential midfielder Michael Bradley, the coach's son.
"It's like having your heart ripped out" was how Bradley senior described his son's enforced absence from a final that he had done so much to secure.
Miracle number three may have proved beyond them but only narrowly after Dempsey and Donovan gave them a two goal lead only for Brazil to prevail with three second half goals.
For two of the US team playing on African soil was a little like being on home turf as teammates Oguchi Onyewu and Freddy Adu have strong links with the continent.
Standard Liege defender Onyewu, nicknamed 'Gooch', was born in Washington of Nigerian parents while Adu left Ghana at the age of eight after his family won the green card lottery.
The States' buoyant showing in this World Cup warm-up has produced three interesting spin-offs.
The first and potentially most crucial is that should they qualify for the World Cup which looks highly probable FIFA could bump up their seeding before the World Cup draw in Cape Town on December 4.
Their success has also sparked renewed interest in 'soccer' in a country where it has to compete with basketball and baseball.
And last but not least the Yanks have won the hearts and minds of the public with their never say die spirit and polished technique.
The South African public have really fallen for them, something that was a pleasant surprise for Donovan.
"I think we've shown a spirit and competitiveness that people love and find infectious," said the Los Angeles Galaxy playmaker.
|Coach: B. Bradley|
for B. Feilhaber 75'
for J. Altidore 75'
for R. Clark 88'
|Duff predicts Chelsea success, ´worried´ for Fulham|
|CONCACAF Champions League Review: Portland shine in Guyana|
|Simeone: We have a ´50-50 chance´|
|Copa Sudamericana Review: Cerro Porteno win away, Huachipato start strongly|
|Ronaldo injury ´not serious´ - Ancelotti|
|Martino names Argentina squad|
|Supercopa ´still open´ - Alonso|
|Expect goals in Lille, Porto clash - Girard|
|Courtois wants Cech stay|
|Benitez backs Napoli to score|
|Real Madrid 1 Atletico Madrid 1: Ronaldo off at half-time as Real denied|
|League Two Review: Morecambe, Burton remain unbeaten, Portsmouth defeat Northampton|
|Wenger rues ´unbelievable´ Ramsey dismissal|
|League One Review: Fleetwood maintain perfect start, Sheffield United off the mark|
|Championship Review: Forest stun Bournemouth, Maynard returns to haunt Wigan|
|UEFA Champions League Review: Higuain rescues Napoli, Leverkusen edge thriller|
|Besiktas 0 Arsenal 0: Ramsey dismissed in Istanbul stalemate|
|Al Hilal 1 Al Sadd 0: Al Faraj settles tight encounter|
|Al Kuwait 3 Persipura 2: Dramatic turnaround for defending champions|
|Al Qadsia 1 Al Hadd 1: Honours even in Kuwait City|
|Julio Cesar poised for Benfica after QPR release|
|Al Ain 2 Al Ittihad 0: Gyan strikes as Al Ain take first-leg lead|
|United agree Rojo deal|
|Vardy commits to Leicester|
|Hangeland ends Norway career|
|Let´s emulate the Brazil greats - Dunga|
|Dunga rings Brazil changes|
|UEFA Europa League Play-Off Preview: Inter, Villarreal hit the road|
|Lokeren v Hull City: Bruce set to rotate|
|Ha Noi T&T 0 Erbil 1: Radhi strike gives Iraqis first-leg advantage|
|AEL v Tottenham: Pochettino poised to make Euro bow|
|Pekerman signs new Colombia deal|
|Zubizarreta plays down Alves reports|
|Larsson targets more goal glory|
|Banega presented at Sevilla|
|Baptistao returns to Rayo|
|Zuculini seals Valencia loan move|
|Knee injury sidelines Schweinsteiger|
|Ideal start to title push - Terry|
|Ninh Binh 2 Kitchee 4: Visitors edge six-goal thriller|
|We will move on quickly, says Arfield|
|Conte aims to transform Italian fortunes|
|Redknapp eyes triple swoop|
|Conte dismisses Puma pressure|
|Barkley reports untrue - Martinez|
|Rossi a doubt for Serie A opener|
|Stjarnan v Inter: Icelandic minnows host Italian giants in Europa League play-off|
|My dream has come true - Suarez|
|I will not bite again, Suarez vows|
|Long happy with Southampton price-tag|
|Lambert slams disrespectful Koeman|
|Marin relishing Fiorentina loan|
|Everyone needs to chip in - Rodgers|
|Barcelona want fans´ pride - Luis Enrique|
|Popovic: Palace have not approached me|
|Rooney must work harder, says Hamann|
|Sigurdsson will be crucial - Williams|
|Prandelli sends best wishes to Conte|
|Cabella: I have more to offer|
|Brandao issues apology online before removing|
|Theophile-Catherine loaned to Saint-Etienne|
|Keller bemoans ´huge disappointment´|
|Hart to fight for spot|
|Costa hard done by - Mourinho|
|Liga del Futbol Profesional Boliviano Review: Blooming go top, The Strongest play out thriller|
|Rakitic keen to get to know Suarez|
|Rojo confirms United move|
|Argentine Primera Division Review: Racing Club, Velez Sarsfield stay perfect|
|Berg fires parting shot at UEFA|
|Mourinho hails calm Chelsea|
|Wenger: Play-off suits Arsenal|
|Sanchez swayed by Angel chat|
|DFB-Pokal Review: Schalke ousted, Hamburg scrape through|
|South Korea end Van Marwijk chase|
|Grinding win pleases Sturridge|
|Dyche upbeat despite Chelsea defeat|
|Mourinho lauds Fabregas after Burnley win|
|Russian Premier League Review: Spartak beat CSKA in derby|
|Burnley 1 Chelsea 3: Costa on target in Premier League bow|
|Suarez makes Barca bow in Leon rout|
|Copa Sudamericana Preview: Penarol start quest to end continental drought|
|Courtois gets nod from Mourinho|
|Beckenbauer expecting Reus departure|
|Bordeaux sign Ilori on loan|
|Bordeaux sign Ilori on loan|
|Marin completes Fiorentina loan|
|Olsson handed three-match ban|
|Celtic free to play Maribor after CAS reject Legia request|
|Montella confident of Cuadrado stay|
|Bastia opt not to punish Brandao|
|CSL Review: Shanghai SIPG cut gap to top three, Henan beat R and F|
|CSL Review: Shanghai SIPG cut gap to top three, Henan beat R and F|
|CONCACAF Champions League Preview: Sporting aim to mirror domestic form, Cruz Azul begin defence|
|Championship Preview: Bournemouth, Millwall out to continue perfect starts|
|Benitez not scared of early Champions League exit|
|Palace fined over Cardiff spying allegations|
|Vitesse agree McEachran loan|
|Pohang Steelers v Seoul: South Korean sides do battle|
|Leicester duo to miss Chelsea trip|
|Simeone: Kroos has improved Real|
|Lambert hails Sanchez arrival|
|Casillas to start against Atletico|
|Neymar set for Barca return|
|Enrique Barca´s most important signing, says Bartomeu|
|Wenger ´desperate´ to reach Champions League group stages|
|Allegri keen for tactical flexibility|
|No quick fix for United´s problems, says Meulensteen|
|Inzaghi takes positives from defeat|
|Ba hits out at Mourinho selection policy|
|Dzeko will renew his Manchester City contract - Pellegrini|
|Badstuber elated with Bayern return|
|Liverpool still hunting Suarez replacement|
|Rodgers hails Lovren, Manquillo|
|Koeman sees key Schneiderlin role|
|Berahino: I´ve learnt my lesson|
|Referee to blame for Monaco defeat, says Jardim|
|Bielsa dismisses formation concerns|
|Western Sydney Wanderers v Guangzhou Evergrande: CSL leaders eye away win|
|Diamanti slams Prandelli over World Cup snub|
|Colombian Primera A Review: Deportes Tolima go top, Once Caldas beaten|
|Peruvian Primera Division Review: Juan Aurich climb to the summit, Melgar lose|
|DC United 4 Colorado Rapids 2: Hosts end losing run|
|Costa Rican Primera Division Review: Saprissa start with a win|
|Ecuadorian Primera A Review: Mushuc Runa capitalise on postponements|
|Liga MX Review: America stay perfect, Pabon hat-trick inspires Monterrey|
|Chilean Primera Division Review: Universidad Chile held, Wanderers win|
|Brazilian Serie A Review: Cruzeiro back to winning ways, Scolari earns first victory|
|Venezuelan Primera Division Review: Mineros miss shot at top spot|
|Paraguayan Division Profesional Review: Guarani edge clear|
|Uruguayan Primera Division Review: Danubio lose opener, Nacional win big|
|Coppa Italia Review: Four lose on penalties, Livorno dumped out|