On Sunday the United States was cruelly reminded why Group G is called the ‘the group of death" at World Cup 2014. The Americans will gladly take one point form its 2-2 draw with Portugal, but with the knowledge they could have already booked a spot into the knockout stage.
It took a brilliant cross from world best player of the year Cristiano Ronaldo to save Portugal. After a turnover by the United States, Ronaldo sprinted down the right flank and played a perfectly place ball to the head of Varela who scored to tie the game and save Portugal from elimination.
Varela’s goal in the final seconds of five minutes of stoppage time spoiled a comeback effort by the United States. A poor clearance by Geoff Cameron led to a Nani goal and a 1-0 lead by Portugal in the 6th minute. The United States showed its resolve the rest of the way and was the better team getting goals form Jermaine Jones and Clint Dempsey along the way.
Jurgen Klinsmann is a genius. This World Cup is making Klinsmann look awfully smart with his management of the United States. Substitutes Graham Zusi and John Brooks combined on the game-winning goal against Portugal. Against Portugal DeAndre Yedlin, who has only been a professional player with the Seattle Sounders for about 18 months, was introduced on the right flank in the 70th minute and his speed made a difference. Yedlin was involved in the set-up of Dempsey’s goal to give the U.S. a 2-1 lead. Chris Wondolowski was brought on late and his skill in possession was critical in the United State coming so close to securing the full three points from the match. Zusi started this match with Dempsey up top in place of Altidore. Zusi assisted on Dempsey’s goal.
Michael Bradley returned to form. Against Ghana Bradley’s struggled and that also explained the difficulty the United States had in keeping possession. It was not likely that Bradley would have two good bad games in a row and his strong response helped the United States dictate the terms against Portugal. In fact Bradley came very close to scoring in the 54th minute. I understand Bradley's turnover led to the tying goal, but his overall work helped the United States to at least get the tie.
Fabian Johnson was my U.S. "Man of the Match". I know Clint Dempsey, playing a different role in place of Jozy Altidore, still excelled and scored, but Johnson’s runs from the back on the right flank helped keep Portugal on its heels. It should also be noted that DaMarcus Beasley did well on the opposite flank and of course Tim Howard was amazing.
The ability for the U.S. to recover from the heat in Manaus and heartbreak will make the difference on Thursday against Germany in Recife.