Heartbroken. Devastated. Despondent. Foolish. That’s how I felt when the US defense got caught watching Cristiano Ronaldo instead of marking their men in the final minute of stoppage time.
A sloppy give away at center gives Portugal one final chance. The ball, of course, finds the boot of Ronaldo. He crosses. Silvestre Varela slides in unmarked behind the US defense to head home the tying goal. The USMNT did such a remarkable job to come back from the one goal deficit they were in at the half, to see them lose the lead with only seconds remaining in the game was just crushing.
A poor clearing attempt by Geoff Cameron gifted Nani a point blank shot, which Nani blasted past Tim Howard to give the Portuguese the lead. Nineteen minutes into the second half, Jermaine Jones rockets in the equalizer for the USMNT from 27 feet. In the 81st minute Clint Dempsey, from fellow MLSers DeAndre Yedlin and Graham Zusi, deflected in the go ahead goal and it appeared the US squad was going to advance from the “Group of Death” in just two games.
Then came the lapse. The letdown. The crushing blow that took all the promise and glory from the fingertips of the USA and shattered it across the landscape of doubt and under achievement. I could already hear the critics chiming in with their negativity. Disparaging remarks raining down upon us.
It felt like a loss. But it is not. Even in my despair, I remember the words I wrote for this very site a few weeks ago. A win against Ghana and a result against Portugal is what the USMNT needs to have heading into the match with Germany. Guess what? That is what they have.
It really is disappointing to watch a game slip away right at the end but the fact remains the US squad is still in a good position to advance. The USMNT played well, even outplaying the Portuguese squad for most of the second half. They just went toe-to-toe with the fourth ranked team in the world and looked like they belonged. Howard was remarkable in goal. Dempsey scored again. The big names on the US squad are doing well. The team improved in most areas since their last game against Ghana. Everyone is contributing. There is a lot of positives to be seen despite the negative way the game ended.
The way the US lost the lead is devastating but the result and the way they played really is not. The USMNT have done enough to put themselves in a positive position heading into the final group stage match with Germany. A win or tie with Germany and the US advance. A tie from Ghana and Portugal and the US advance. Even a loss to Germany does not necessarily eliminate the US from advancing.
The USMNT can still advance. England cannot say that. Neither can Spain. Who would have expected that? There is still time for this team to shock the world and I still believe.