The USA were 30 seconds from advancing to the next round of the World Cup tonight, until Portugal miraculously found an equalizer to stay alive in the “Group of Death.”
A mistake early on led to a golden chance and goal by Portugal. An attempted clearance by Geoff Cameron was badly misplayed, which led to the ball falling into the feet of Nani, who put it past Tim Howard
in-goal. Portugal were up 1-0 just 5 minutes in.
To the credit of Klinsmann and the US, they were not rattled, and settled in after the goal. With Clint Dempsey as the lone striker in a 4-5-1 formation, Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones led the midfield attack for the US. Bradley linked up well with Dempsey over the top on a few different occasions, but the real difference for the US was the play of Fabian Johnson at right back. He bombed forward and caused trouble for Portugal’s defense, or lack there of. The US created chances and came close to equalizing on a Dempsey free kick, and Johnson screamer that sailed wide. After the official signaled for a water break in the 39th minute the US went into halftime down a goal. However, the US did an excellent job of containing Cristiano Ronaldo in the first 45 minutes, as he had only a couple of playmaking chances.
After halftime, Portugal took a few chances in the first 10 minutes, but could not double their lead. In the 55th minute the US had a perfect chance to equalize. Michael Bradley found himself in front of an empty net, set up by a Fabian Johnson cross, but had his shot cleared off the line by the knee of Ricardo Costa. It appeared the equalizer would never come.
Finally, in the 64th minute it happened. On a Graham Zusi corner kick, the ball sailed through the box and was cleared only as far as Jermaine Jones. Jones then took a touch to his right, and sent a beauty curling into the side netting to equalize the match at 1. Klinsmann brought on DeAndre Yedlin in the 72nd minute to give speed to the midfield, a decision that paid off very well. In the 81st minute after a Yedlin cross that deflected to Graham Zusi, Clint Dempsey knocked the ball into the net. Off of his stomach, actually… To give the US a 2-1 lead. The yanks were only a mere 9 minutes from advancing.
Dempsey was subbed out in the 87th minute for Chris Wondolowski, and the US had only 3 minutes and stoppage time to go. However, after a terrible giveaway in the midfield as the clock struck 94:30 by Michael Bradley, Portugal were on the break… led by Ronaldo. The superstar had one man in the box waiting for his cross, he delivered an absolutely perfect ball to the head of Varela who scored. The final kick of the ball saw the US lead dissolve, and the match ended 2-2.
So, now what for the USMNT? Well the final group games in Group G take place at 12 pm ET on Thursday. The US play Germany, only needing a point to go through. Ghana play Portugal with both teams needing a win and some help to make it through. If Germany and the US draw, both teams go through, with Germany winning the group on goal difference. A US loss combined with a Ghana victory, and a better goal difference, means Germany and Ghana go through. Same situation with Portugal.
The US were the much better side today, against the 4th ranked team in the world. Without a couple of defensive lapses, the US win 2-0. If Klinsmann’s side plays like this against Germany, they will make it through for sure. We only need a point, but wouldn’t it be great to win the “Group of Death” when nobody gave us a chance? 3 points Thursday does that.