Portugal Scores Stoppage-Time Goal, Ties U.S., 2-2
The United States fell behind early, caught up, went ahead, and then, on the last play of the match, gave up a game-tying goal to Portugal to finish its World Cup match in a tie, 2-2.
BY John Godfrey PostedMANAUS, Brazil—On Monday, the United States got off to a dream start. On Sunday, it suffered a nightmare finish. Six days after scoring 29 seconds into its match with Ghana, the Americans gave up a game-tying goal on the last play of the contest against Portugal. "It was a thriller. It was a real exciting match," U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said afterward. "Everybody in Manaus will talk about this match for a long time." No doubt. With the U.S. leading 2-1 and within seconds of securing passage to the knockout round of the World Cup, Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo delivered a pinpoint cross from the right flank that teammate Silvestre Varela headed past Tim Howard for a game-tying goal. Final score: 2-2. Instead of celebrating a victory over the fourth-ranked team in the world—and completing its To Do list in terms of tournament goals—the Americans now have to wait until Sunday, where they will have to earn their way into the round of 16 against a German side that also needs at least a point. "It was a little bit of a bummer but we'll move on and get the next one," Klinsmann said. "These finishes are very emotional for all of us. That's what the World Cup is all about." Tim Howard echoed the sentiment: "Football is cruel sometimes," he said. "It ebbs and flows. We'll try to give ourselves 12 hours or so to ponder this result and then we'll move on." As badly as the game ended for the Americans, the beginning wasn't much better. In the fifth minute, midfielder Miguel Veloso delivered a lazy cross from the right flank that bounced into the penalty area. It wasn't really a cross—it was more like a giveaway. But U.S. central defender Geoff whiffed badly in his attempt to clear it, and the ball slid across the goal mouth straight to an unmarked Nani at the far post. The Manchester United winger took his time and sent an easy strike past Howard and into the top netting. The Americans had gotten out to an early lead against Ghana; now they were chasing the game. And they actually showed a lot of moxie in doing so. The team generated its first serious attempt on goal in the 13th minute, when Fabian Johnson cut in from the wing and made a run on goal. He was chopped down and on the ensuing free kick Clint Dempsey sent a screamer that sailed just over the crossbar. Relentless in their pursuit of an equalizer, the Americans pushed hard to get back into the contest. In the 17th minute, Michael Bradley combined with Dempsey from an acute angle that led to a corner kick. Graham Zusi's delivery fell to the U.S. captain, but his chipped shot flew wide and into touch. Seven minutes later, Fabian Johnson cut in from the right flank and passed to Jermaine Jones, who unleashed a 20-yard left-footed that flew just over the crossbar. Most of the U.S. attack came down the right side, where Zusi and Johnson paired up with Jones to create chances. They created another in the 27th minute, as Dempsey moved in to the penalty area after some nifty combination play. The U.S. captain showcased some fancy footwork and took a strong right-footed shot from the six-yard box, but Portugal's Ricardo Costa blocked the shot beautifully to ease the pressure. Wave after wave of U.S. attacks flew at the Portuguese, but the Americans couldn't put one away. Their best chance in the first half came from Johnson who, once again, cut in from the right flank and unleashed a vicious left-footed blast. It went just wide of the top corner. In the 39th minute, Jermaine Jones stopped in the middle of the field, grabbed his right leg, and clearly needed some medical attention. Referee Nestor Pitana took the opportunity to call both teams to the sidelines and let them take a water break. Yes, it was weird. With everybody hydrated, Alejandro Bedoya pulled Nani down in the 42nd minute in a very dangerous spot—roughly 25 yards from goal. Prime Cristiano Ronaldo territory. The tension in the stadium built as the Real Madrid stood over the dead ball and... sent it way over the crossbar. It was an ugly attempt—the first of several terrible strikes from the superstar. Though Ronaldo left the Americans off the hook, disaster nearly struck right before intermission when Nani delivered a 30-yard shot that befuddled Howard. Though it looked completely harmless, the ball flew through the keeper's arms and ricocheted violently off the right upright. The rebound then fell to Portugal attacker Eder, who lofted a shot that seemed destined for the back of the net, but Howard scrambled to the ball, waved his left arm at it, and pushed the ball out of bounds. When the referee whistled to signal the end of the first half, Portugal led 1-0, but the United States was on the ascendancy. "At the half I said, 'It's all good guys. We're going to get a first goal and a second goal.' And we did," Klinsmann said. Possession was split right down the middle in the first half—50-50. Both teams had four shots on goal and both were playing at a deliberate pace with an eye toward preserving strength late in the match. It wasn't a riveting 45 minutes of soccer, but with the stakes so high for both teams, every touch felt significant. The Americans looked to have a surefire goal in the 55th minute when Johnson—yet again—broke dowm the right wing, beat his man, and delivered a perfect cross into the box. The pass beat Portugal goalkeeper Beto and landed at the feet of a streaking Michael Bradley. With the keeper out the way Bradley was staring down an empty net, but out of nowhere Richard Costa arrived on the scene and cleared Bradley's point-blank strike off the line. The missed opportunity seemed to deflate the Americans, who ceded possession multiple times after that. But then, in the 63rd minute, Jermaine Jones conjured up a piece of magic. It started with a Graham Zusi corner kick that appeared to bounce away from goal harmlessly. But the ball rolled to Jones, who faked out Nani, and then curled a vicious shot into the side netting from 28 yards away. Game tied, 1-1. Crowd energized. It looked good for the Yanks. Knowing that a tie would do them no good in the group, Portugal began to take more chances in the offensive half. It almost paid off in the 66th minute, but Tim Howard made up for his earlier gaffe when he sprawled to block a Raul Meireless strike that was clearly headed for the back of the net. As the game wore on and the United States showed it could absorb the increased pressure, Portugal appeared to wilt in the heat. In the 81st minute, DeAndre Yedlin, who replaced Alejandro Bedoya at right wing, sprinted down the wing, beat defender Andre Almeida, and delivered a dangerous cross. The ball, appearing to move in slow motion, bounced to Bradley, and then fell to Zusi, who crossed to a wide-open Dempsey inside the six-yard box. The U.S. captain guided the ball into the back of the net with his torso to give the Americans a 2-1 lead with nine minutes left. But it wasn't enough. Despite doing a mostly masterful job of time-wasting and ball possession, the referee called for five minutes of stoppage time, and that was just enough for Ronaldo, and Portugal, to even the score. Michael Bradley, who has now played two subpar games in a row, was the man who relinquished possession in the dying minutes, allowing Portugal to tie the match. "We're going to move on quickly," Klinsmann said. "We'll do everything now geared toward Germany." American Soccer Now will have much more on the match, and what happens next for the U.S., in the hours and days ahead. For now, tell us what you think. The Comments section is open for business.
June 22, 2014
June 22, 2014