The United States Men’s National Team just completed a tie to Portugal that should be celebrated on most days, and should be celebrated today. However, when the U.S. led for the last fifteen minutes of the match, until the last kick of the game, you feel upset and ripped off. Nevertheless, there are things to celebrate and things to hold your breath on. Here’s the good, bad, and the ugly going forward.
Clint Dempsey is Texas tough. The man scored his second goal of the World Cup to put the United States up 2-1 in the 81st minute. He did it all with a broken nose, too, making it more difficult for him to breathe than it already was in the humid Manuas stadium. He fought through that and a Portuguese defense that was focused on him. While he seemed to get shut down for the majority of the second half, especially as the lone forward up top for the U.S., he stepped up when he needed to most.
Graham Zusi is the hero late in games. Twice now, he has delivered fantastic balls for lead-taking goals (I think he should get credit for an assist on Jermaine Jones’ goal as well). He was shaky in the first half with a couple of midfield turnovers, and maybe that was due to nerves over his first World Cup start. But the second half he had key pass after key pass, and the wherewithal to find Dempsey for the late goal instead of shooting the ball himself shows incredible vision. He also played some great defense tracking all the way back to his own 18 yard box to stop a Portuguese attack.
Jurgen Klinsmann is a great coach, and every bit the coach America needs. He has his players fit and molded to his system now. It says a lot that even after losing the lone striker (Jozy Altidore) this team had better attacks today than last week against Ghana. He knows his guys and Klinsmann is ready to act at all times. Key subs like Zusi and John Brooks against Ghana, and DeAndre Yedlin against Portugal (Yedlin sparked the play that led to Dempsey’s goal), add energy and sparks that change the game from the time these guys step on the pitch.
This is one game Geoff Cameron will want to forget as he had key roles in both of Portugal’s goals. He mishit a clearance that ran right to Nani for the first goal of the game. Then it was his man that got behind everyone to finish Ronaldo’s cross to tie the game in the 95th minute; especially after the U.S. made subs to put three center backs back there for that purpose, Varela should not be able to get to that cross. The defense as a unit seemed out of position most of the game: DaMarcus Beasley got beat more often than not by Ronaldo and Nani. Beasley and Fabian Johnson also seemed to be attacking up the wings at the same times leaving Cameron and Matt Besler to stop a lot of Portuguese counter-attacks. They did do well with that part.
The USMNT now has three days to recover from the most humid and hot atmosphere, and travel to Recife to play Germany. The schedule always seemed to be the toughest, but now after hearing and seeing the conditions of tonight’s game in the Amazon, the task seems a lot more difficult. Germany had today to rest after a 2-2 draw with Ghana yesterday and they should be ready to go. Jurgen Klinsmann criticized FIFA tonight after the game, saying they set up the tournament so the more well-known teams could advance easier. “We have one less day [than Germany] to recover. They played yesterday. We played today. We played in the Amazon. They played in place where you don’t have to travel so much. Things are set up for the big teams to move on.” Klinsmann will do everything in his power to have his guys ready to go on Thursday at 11:00. He is already setting up bulletin board material, so the team will come out ready to take down his former team.