June 22, 2014
By Michael Lewis
U.S. settles for 2-2 tie after late Portugal goal
MANAUS, Brazil – Only seconds away from securing a spot in the knockout round of the World Cup, the United States allowed a last-gasp goal by Varela to lift Portugal into an frustrating 2-2 Group G draw on Sunday night.
|Clint Dempsey's goal gave the U.S. a 2-1 second half lead they could not hold.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Jermaine Jones and Clint Dempsey scored goals to lift the Americans to a 2-1 lead over Portugal before the second-half substitute headed a right-wing cross past goalkeeper Tim Howard in the fifth minute of stoppage time.
Seconds later, referee Nestor Pitana (Argentina) called the match.
Dempsey snapped a 1-1 deadlock in the 81st minute, pushing a rebound of a shot into the goal with his stomach from close range Portugal had blocked shots by Michael Bradley and Graham Zusi, before Dempsey took possession of the ball pushed it home as the American fans erupted.
It was Dempsey’s second goal of the tournament.
The Americans (1-0-1, four points) need a win or a tie with Germany (1-0-1, four) to clinch a spot in the Round of 16 in Recife on Thursday. Portugal (0-1-1-, one), which kept its slim hopes alive, will meet Ghana (0-1-1, one) on Thursday as well.
Zusi started the USA scoring sequence on Jones’ equalizer with a corner kick. Portugal was unable to clear the ball. It bounced around until it got to Jones, who got a step on Nani on the left side and fired a 26-yard shot with his right foot into the lower right corner past goalkeeper Beto, who did not move.
With injured striker Jozy Altidore (strained left hamstring) looking on, USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann decided against teaming fellow forward Clint Dempsey with a forward and deployed five midfielders instead of his usual four. He added Zusi, whose corner kick set up John Brooks' game-winner in the 2-1 victory over Ghana. Kyle Beckerman and Jermaine Jones manned the two defensive midfielder spots, with Alejandro Bedoya (left) and Zusi (right) flanking central midfielder Bradley in the attacking roles.
Only five minutes into the match, disaster struck for the Americans as a horrendous defensive clear gave Portugal a goal on a silver platter.
Helder Postiga started the play with a pass to Miguel Veloso, who tried to work the ball inside the penalty area. Center back Geoff Cameron tried to clear the ball out of harm's way, but he flubbed his attempt as it landed to his left at the feet of an unmarked Nani, who had goalkeeper Tim Howard dead to rights and easily scored from six yards and a 1-0 lead.
The USA's had problems penetrating Portugal's patched up backline, which was without Pepe (red-card suspension) and Fabio Coentrao (tournament-ending thigh injury).
Most of the Americans' shots came from outside the penalty area. Dempsey came close with a 24-yard free kick in the in the 13th minute, just missing the crossbar. Bradley had two attempts -- a 25-yard effort over the bar in the 24th minute and a miskicked shot from distance four minutes later. The only USA shot on goal was by Jones as goalkeeper Beto easily handled his long-range attempt in the 35th minute.
Portugal coach Paulo Bento was forced to use one of his three subs earlier than planned as an ailing Helder Postiga came out of the match in favor of Eder in the 16th minute.
As stipulated by FIFA when the temperatures reached 86 degrees (plus 66 percent humidity) game officials gave both teams a water break in the 39th minute, an unusual stoppage of play so close to halftime.
The Portuguese appeared to make the best out of the break as Nani fired a blast from atop of the penalty area that Howard punched away. Seconds later Portugal was awarded a free kick some 25 yards out on a foul, prime Cristiano Ronaldo territory, but the striker drilled a shot wide over the bar in the 43rd minute.
The European side came close to taking a two-goal advantage into the locker room as Nani powered a long-range shot off the right post in the 45th minute as Howard looked fooled. Howard, however, recovered in time to produce an off-balance save on Eder's rebound attempt, batting the ball away with his left hand.
After Portugal made its three subs, Klinsmann finally made his first change in the 71st minute when he pulled Bedoya for DeAndre Yedlin in the 72nd minute.
The USA had a golden opportunity to equalize in the 54th minute when Bradley, taking a feed from an overlapping Johnson on the right side, found himself shooting with Beto out of the net. Ricardo Costa, however, saved the ball off the goal line as a disbelieving Bradley put his hands to the side of his face.