USMNT Report: A Sobering Draw In The Amazon

The United States’ night went from bad, to great, to sobering with a 2-2 draw with Portugal
by Herb Scribner   |   Monday, June 23, 2014

USMNT Report - coverage of the United States Men's National Team

The United States was well on its way to a historic win on Tuesday night. But then, like so many other games in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, bizarro circumstances kicked in and brought everyone back down to Earth.

Despite starting the game a goal down, the USA rallied back to lead Portugal 2-1 before the European nation scored a last-second equalizer to end the game at 2-2, putting all teams in the group at level pegging going into the final round of games.

Though the draw feels like a loss for many, there were plenty of positives for the USA to look back on, as the team thoroughly deserved a result from the contest.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Clint Dempsey — Few were as on target as Clint Dempsey was against Portugal. In the first half, the Seattle Sounders player made slicing runs that came close to goal. And he found himself in the right place at the right time to put the USA up. He was the captain for the USA surely, putting the full weight of the team on his shoulders.

ANALYSIS: What a tough draw.

Riding off a high from the 2-1 dramatic win over Ghana, the USA found themselves surprisingly sobered when a poor Geoff Cameron clearance sent the ball to Nani, who buried a ball and put the USA back in the bellows of mediocrity. But once the USA scored twice more, all was forgotten, and the Americans looked to be on their way to the round of 16.

And then came the Ballon d'Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo, who sent an screaming ball into the box to Silvestre Varela, who socked the USA with a sobering, sucker-punch shot to send the Americans back down from their pedestal and stop an historic win.

While Ronaldo’s excellent ball is the true highlight of the play, it again highlights the troubles that the American backline faces. In fact, both of Portugal goals came from defensive mistakes — the first off a terrible clearance by Geoff Cameron, and the second from a complete unmarking of Varela. Cameron, Fabian Johnson and Omar Gonzalez were nowhere near Varela when he scored. Leaving a player of his caliber wide open — especially when one of the world’s best is on the wings sending Varela a ball — won’t do the Americans any good.

While the USA’s defense is highly to blame for the loss, midfielder Michael Bradley had another off night. He gave away crucial balls in the center of the field, and failed to keep position or make his presence known. Conversely, Jermaine Jones had an excellent goal from distance, and Kyle Beckerman kept the defensive shape in the midfield for all 90 minutes  (his fitness was unmatched by any other USA player throughout the game). Fabian Johnson did excellent work from the backline, making runs that complemented Graham Zusi's attacking runs.

Dempsey’s goal, excellent runs and leadership weren't enough, though, for the USA to make history against the Portuguese. Too many backline problems and miscues led to Portugal finding the equalizer and silencing the enthusiastic USA crowds across the world.

Now, the USA has to put everything it has into the pot against Germany. Both teams will be looking for a draw or win to advance. But given the embarrassment the Germans suffered at the hands of Ghana, it’s no question that USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s former side is going to go full strength ahead to finish off its fellow group member, and make a statement about the status of the German national team to the other teams remaining in the World Cup.

The Germany will game will likely be all or nothing for the United States. But if the Americans play the hell out of that match as they did against Portugal, and keep their shape in the threat of immediate danger, then the USA will achieve what it just nearly missed out on Sunday night.

NEXT UP: June 26 — World Cup: United States vs. Germany, Arena Pernambuco, Recife, Brazi. 12 p.m. EST, ESPN, WatchESPN, Univision.

Herb SCRIBNER

Nationality:
USA
College:
UMass Amherst
Club Domestic:
NE Revolution
Club Foreign:
Bayern Munich
SN managing editor, award-winning journalist and recent college grad, Herb has always been known as "The Soccer Guy" wherever he goes. He's been published by the Boston Globe and has experience with film production and novel writing.
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