KRIS LINDSAY - Tuesday, June 24, 2014
It was there, and then it wasn't.
The United States played Portugal to a 2-2 draw Sunday night in Manaus, Brazil. A late goal from subsitute Silvestre Varela saw the Portuguese equalize in the 95th minute of play to keep their own World Cup hopes alive.
Clint Dempsey netted the fourth goal of his World Cup career in the 81st minute, in what appeared to be the game winner, before a lackadaisical defense allowed a superb cross from Cristiano Ronaldo to meet Varela with just 30 seconds to the final whistle.
The Portuguese started as the aggressors, and netted their first goal of a defensive error from defender Geoff Cameron, who mis-hit the clearance, landing perfectly for Nani, who blasted past Tim Howard.
The United States were able to lock down on defense, but nearly allowed a second just before half. Nani again attacked, this time banging his shot off the post, right into the path of Portuguese forward Eder. Howard got a hand up, stumbling and hopping back towards the center of goal. His one handed save just tapped the ball over the top of the goal.
Michael Bradley nearly equalized for the USA in the 54th minute. Fabian Johnson, who terrorized the left hand side for much of the match, broke through, laid off a pass to Michael Bradley, who's shot was cleared off the line by defender Ricardo Costa for Portugal.
The Americans finally broke through in the 64th minute, on a stunner from Jermaine Jones. A cleared corner kick landed at the feet of Jones, who took a step, and blasted a curler past a frozen Beto in goal.
The USA, who had never won after trailing at half in the World Cup, thought that they had their winner in the 81st minute. Substitute DeAndre Yedlin again broke through the left side, and had a deflected pass find it's way to the feet of Graham Zusi. Zusi, who was wide open, unselfishly crossed the ball in to an open Clint Dempsey, who chested the ball in the back of the net.
The elation went to despair in stoppage time however, when Ronaldo's wonder cross found Varela at the top of the six yard box, and the sub made no mistake.
The United States and Germany can both advance with a draw on Thursday. The USA could win the group with a win, and a loss doesn't necessarily knock them out of contention.
Portugal will need to score multiple goals on Ghana to have any chance of advancing to the knockout stage.