Delayed But Not Derailed: USA vs Portugal

We did it to ourselves.  That feeling we can’t shake, it’s our own fault.  We believed.  We outrageously dared to believe.  As yesterday’s match raged on, our belief grew.  Jones’ curling shot to tie, our belief grew.  Dempsey’s bellybutton bomb, our belief grew even larger.  Stoppage time announced, our belief was turning into a truth.  Five minutes and the USMNT was out of the Group of Death, a dream 2 weeks ago, on the verge of reality.  With seconds left…ala Temple of Doom style, our belief was ripped out of our chest and thrown over a cliff.  We moved the goal posts on ourselves.  We changed our criteria for evaluating our performance.  We decided that just getting by is not for us.  We wanted to beat them all. That’s why a draw against Portugal feels like a loss today.

My quick thoughts.

CAMERON

How quickly things change.  My man of the match against Ghana, a rock in defense, gifted Nani the opening goal with a sloppy clearance, and was sluggish on attempting to clear out Ronaldo’s final cross to tie the game.  Uncharacteristic of the Stoke City man, I suspect he will shake it off and move on.

DEFENSIVE DUTIES

Balancing Cameron’s off day, Besler made up the difference.  Eder wasn’t great on the day, and part of that was Besler’s pressure.  Beasley, everyone’s favorite whipping boy, was steady on defense, minus the final Ronaldo cross.  Johnson, only one defensive lapse, tracking Varela on the final goal.  Bedoya, unmentioned by the announcers, anonymous on the attack, was a wet blanket on Ronaldo. Beckerman, our MLS hardman, gives zero f***s who he is playing against, just does his job.

HOWARD

He would have prefered to push Nani’s shot out wide versus hitting the post, but did well to slap Eder’s follow up shot over the bar.  Solid performance otherwise.

JOHNSON

Ronaldo abandoned the wing and and any sense of tracking back.  Fabian Johnson dominated that wing for his hubris, and was our biggest threat going forward.

JONES

I begrudged him for his rampaging against Ghana, but it worked well against the Portuguese, forcing errors.  Going forward he was a catalyst and may have scored one of the best goals in US soccer history.

ZUSI

Mixed bag here.  Hard worker, never gave up on a play, but wasn’t the Graham Zusi we are used to seeing on the ball.  Didn’t think I’d be saying this, but his defensive efforts outshined his attack.  I think we’ll see him again against Germany.

DEMPSEY

Wears the Captain America moniker well.  Another MLS hardman, read a friend’s post on one of the social media outlets, “Dempsey should have been a hockey player.”  Sums it up.

BRADLEY

Is he carrying an undisclosed injury?  Miles better than against Ghana, but still not as sharp as our center midfielder needs to be.  He’s probably relived that sitter he sent straight at the lone Portuguese defender on the line a few thousand times by now.  He is getting slammed on his effort for the final play, but there were plenty of men back, the blame can be shared.

SUBSTITUTIONS

I suppose 2 out 3 ain’t bad.  Klinsmann did well to swap in Yedlin.  His pace proved the right choice against a Portugal team that needed to keep pushing forward.  Wondo for Dempsey works.  Fresh legs to run the ball into the corner to kill off the game.  Zusi for Gonzales — now you messed up Klinsi.  Nothing against Gonzo, but adding a tree trunk of a defender was not the answer.  With Bradley and Zusi both running on fumes reinforcements were needed.  But when they arrived rather than lighten the load for Bradley, Klinsmann put even more pressure on him by adding an Ent like defender. The pressure tactic went the wayside, and Portugal was allowed the space they craved for 94 minutes.  That’s all it took.

5 MINUTES MORE

1 minute, no doubt.  2 minutes, sure. 3 minutes, expected.  4 minutes, maybe.  5 minutes, don’t choke on your whistle.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Positive vibes.  4 points from 2 matches.  What lies ahead is a German team that was shook to it’s core by the Ghanians.  The task won’t be easy, but they have already shown us they are just as susceptible to pressure as the next team.  We can do it.  We have to do it.  Portugal has only delayed our advancement, not derailed it.  And regardless of not agreeing with Klinsmann on some tactical fronts, the man sure does have balls, in reference to the big teams getting preferential treatment,  “We have to do it the tough way, but we’re going to do it the tough way.”

 

 

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