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U.S. MEN'S NATIONAL TEAM

June 22, 2014
SO CLOSE
Seconds away from securing a spot, U.S. settles for 2-2 draw

By Michael Lewis
BigAppleSoccer.com Editor

Jermaine Jones’ goal tied the game at 1-1.
Jermaine Jones’ goal tied the game at 1-1.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
MANAUS, Brazil – So close, yet so far.

Only 39 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 a frustrating 2-2 Group G draw on Sunday night.

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 from Cristiano Ronaldo past goalkeeper Tim Howard in the fifth minute of stoppage time.

Seconds later, after allowing the Americans to kick off, referee Nestor Pitana (Argentina) called the match.
“Too long. Thirty seconds too long," goalkeeper Tim Howard said.

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.

"We had one foot in the door, but there's a small bit of disappointment," said Howard, named man of the match. "We gave ourselves every chance to advance. We wanted to go into the last game with a chance and we do."

Added coach Jurgen Klinsmann: “It's a bummer for a moment that you have to swallow. These finishes are very emotional for all of us, for the fans, the players and the bench. This is what the World Cup is about. You have to cross it off and move on.”

Michael Bradley lost the ball to Varela at midfield. The ball eventually was worked to Cristiano Ronaldo, held in check by the USA for most of the match and he sent a right-wing cross to Varela, who headed past Howard.

“Michael Bradley got caught in the middle of three or four guys and lost the ball unfortunately,” Klinsmann said. “Then the counter break comes and even if we had in this moment three center backs on the field, we were not able to get to that cross, which was a beautiful cross and so they finished it off.”

The USA thought they had the game in the bag when 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. It was Dempsey’s second goal of the tournament.

“I just tried to stay onside and when the ball came across just put it on my chest,” Dempsey said. “I was happy that the linesman kept his flag down.”

Zusi started the USA scoring sequence on Jones’64th-minute 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.

“After a difficult start, the response and the commitment and the effort was incredible,” Bradley said. “Difficult conditions and still we found a way to push through.”

With injured striker Jozy Altidore (strained left hamstring0 looking on, 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 easily scored from six yards for a 1-0 lead.






   
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