USA fights back but settles for draw with Portugal

Published Sunday, June 22, 2014 7:00 PM by Shane Barrow

USA v Portugal.  We waited all week for this. We also waited to see what Jurgen Klinsmann would do with the American lineup to cover the absence of the injured Jozy Altidore.

 One hour before kickoff we finally got our answer.  Throw in an extra midfielder and bog it down in there.  Portugal play off the counter attack with wingers Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani.  This lineup was clearly an effort to limit space and give the defense a bit of extra cover.

Good idea.  The problem was could the US generate enough possession and offense to trouble a shaky Portugal back line.  Michael Bradley would have to be flying while Zusi and Bedoya would need to be very active on the flanks.  Fascinating to see how it would play out.

Patience looked to be the order of the day for the USA as they knew Portugal would have to come at them.  Nothing short of a win would do for Portugal.

Last game it was a wonderful goal to get things started.  This time it was a disaster in the defense that staked Portugal to the lead.  A nothing cross from the wing was right to US center back Geoff Cameron who made an absolute meal of it.

The ball came off Cameron's mis-clearance and went straight to Nani standing all alone on the back post.  Nani had all the time in the world to wait Tim Howard out.  Howard went to ground and Nani roofed his shot into the top of the net.  A total disaster out of nothing.  Seriously I would be mad at my eleven year olds for giving that goal up.....

So much for the conservative lineup.

Portugal had their tails up and it had the makings of what looked to be a long night in Manaus for the Americans.  Could the US get a foothold?

They fought right back though.  Do not count out that American spirit.  A Clint Dempsey free kick sailed inches over the crossbar as Portugal were given notice.  Shortly after Dempsey forced Beto into a save as he fired from a tight angle.  Game on.

The red, white and blue were pushing and looking good despite being behind.  Dempsey was on.  Bradley was on.  It felt like a goal was coming.  Nine shots already with ten minutes to go in the opening half.  Could the get it even before the break?   Instead we got a water break.  The first in the history of any World Cup.

Just before the break Portugal got one of their trademark counters.  Tim Howard saved the Nani shot, but Kyle Beckerman committed a foul chasing the loose ball giving Cristiano Ronaldo a dangerous free kick opportunity.  No worries though as he sailed the kick well over the frame.

Portugal almost it the second just before the break as a long range Nani shot was barely touched onto the post by Tim Howard.  The rebound came right back at goal and a scrambling Howard palmed it over the crossbar for a corner.

Halftime 1-0 to Portugal.

The second half started quietly as both sides created nothing in the opening ten minutes.  The US needed more and they should have had the game tied as Zusi put Fabian Johnson in behind the Portugal defense.  Johnson raced deep into the box and cut the ball back for the onrushing Michael Bradley who had a gaping net to shoot into.  His one time shot hit Ricardo Costa in the knee and somehow stayed out of the net.  A pivotal moment and one that should produce a goal 95% of the time.  A massive chance missed and one that will surely wake Bradley up in his sleep.

Thirty minutes to go.  Come on boys!

Three minutes later. BOOM!  Another poor corner kick from Graham Zusi missed everyone and came lightly off Nani's head and out to Jermaine Jones who was waiting outside the penalty area.  Jones prepped the ball side to is right and let loose and laser that curled perfectly into the right side netting of the Portuglal net.  Beto cold do nothing more than pick the ball out of is goal.

All even.  Where would the match go from here?  Portugal has to win.  A draw does nothing for them.  Would the Americans be able to take advantage of a Portugal side having to take more chances or would the extra push find a winner for the Europeans?

Twenty minutes to go and DeAndre Yedlin was brought on to shore up the US right side.  Looks like safety first from Klinsmann who wanted to make sure we got a point on the night.  The problem was that we were inviting Portugal to come right at us.

In the 77th Matt Besler laid out to cut off a Portugal through ball.  As soon as he cut the ball out he grabbed the same hamstring that brought him off at halftime of the Ghana game.  Besler limped off but returned quickly.

Then the Klinsmann touch struck again.  Against Ghana it was John Brooks.  Today it was DeAndre Yedlin as he flew down the right and got to the end line where he cut the ball back.  A deflection landed at the feet of Zusi who put the ball across the face of goal.  Captain Clint Dempsey was waiting and he chested from close range int the net.  Portugal called for offside, but thankfully the linesman got it right.  Good goal!

2-1 USA and only ten minutes from clinching qualification from the Group of Death.  Could they hang on?  Portugal were throwing everything they had at the American defense.

Throats were in hearts as a Moutinho header deflected just wide.  Five minutes of stoppage time to go.  Big Omar Gonzalez came on to give another big presence at the back and close this game out.

Tick. Tick. Tick. And then right at the death victory snatched away.  A world class Cristiano Ronaldo cross found the racing Varela in for the header to tie the game at 2-2. Ugh. That one hurt, but still a valuable point that keeps everyone in the Group of Death alive heading into the final Matchday.