By Ridge Mahoney
An amazing match in the Amazon jungle wound up, 2-2. Here are some
thoughts in the aftermath of an incredible game between Portugal in the United States.
TURNABOUTS. Under head coach Jurgen Klinsmann the U.S. national team has maintained its rally reputation, but after wiping out a 1-0 deficit against Portugal Sunday in Manaus and closing to within seconds of
clinching a spot in the knockout round, it was caught from behind.
In the fifth and last minute of stoppage time, Cristiano Ronaldo redeemed an
otherwise benign match by swerving a superb cross from the right wing that substitute Varela headed home to produce a 2-2 tie that leaves all four teams in
Group G with varying chances of advancement.
The other main Portuguese attacking threat, Nani, also didn’t produce much threat but he pounced
on a scuffed clearance by U.S. defender Geoff Cameron to score in the fifth minute. The Americans weren’t flustered and played much better soccer than
they had in the opener against Ghana to get back into the game.
They tied the
game with a spectacular shot from distance by Jermaine Jones, and took a 2-1 lead in the 81st minute when Clint
Dempsey turned in a cross from Graham Zusi. But for once, the U.S. comeback itself faltered when Varela got inside of Cameron.
Varela had been brought on in the 69th minute for his
crossing ability and he delivered several ball towards Ronaldo that didn’t bring any reward. Instead, they reversed roles in the final seconds and by the barest of margins Portugal kept alive
its hopes of reaching the knockout round.
SHIFTING SUBS. Defender John Brooks, who came off the bench and
replaced defender Matt Besler to score the dramatic winning goal against Ghana, warmed up in the second half in Manaus but didn’t get on the field though
again Belser went down and needed medical attention from the sideline. Another sub, Graham Zusi, earned a start against Portugal by coming on as a sub and
hitting the corner against Ghana from which Brooks scored.
DeAndre Yedlin, the young Seattle Sounder defender whose presence on the roster is a
mystery to many, did get into the game in the 72nd minute and nine minutes later his run to the byline and cross produced the sequence from which Zusi crossed and Dempsey scored off his stomach.
Portugal had to burn a sub early when Helder Postiga, who got the start because of an injury to Hugo Almeida,
couldn’t continue and had to replaced by Eder in the 16th minute. Eder seldom threatened the American back line. William entered the game at halftime and though he was supposed lock down the midfield and secure Portugal’s 1-0 lead, in that regard the move failed.
But head coach
Paulo Bento’s third sub turned out to be the charm and thanks to Varela Portugal says alive at least until group play concludes Thursday.
JONES WITH A GEM. He did get carded, yet rugged midfielder Jermaine Jones marked another strong game by scoring a cracker
of a goal.
On the left side near the edge of the penalty area, Jones shifted the ball inside to make some space and rifled a right-footed shot to the far post. The goal ended nearly an
hour of the USA chasing a 1-0 deficit and set the stage for Dempsey’s go-ahead goal 17 minutes later.
Jones fouled Joao Moutinho after a
Fabian Johnson giveaway to stop a possible counterattack a few minutes after Jones had scored. It was his first caution in his last 12 international games. His
work, and that of Kyle Beckerman in the middle, enabled the Americans to throttle the Portuguese attack for most of the game and only seldom did the U.S. need
Tim Howard to come up with a big save.