After much reflection, I decided to ignore the first and last few minutes of the USA vs. Portugal match and focus on the middle ’90. If reality reflected that, the headlines would be something like:
USA BEATS PORTUGAL 2-0 IN ULTIMATE SHOCKER!
Two mental breakdowns. That’s all it takes. Three if you count Bradley‘s blocked shot (by a defender on the line, not the keeper) at point-blank range. Everything else was solid. The defense had a few letdowns but were able to mop up, apply enough pressure for a bad shot or rely on Tim Howard‘s excellent hands. The midfield controlled the ball throughout the game, wing play was great, Jurgen made some odd subs that worked out perfectly (again) and Dempsey had a solid, though not spectacular performance as the lone striker up top. That solid, gritty performance by American heroes doesn’t tell the scoreline. This is why they play the game; because stupid things happen.
Okay, fine, let’s look at Portugal’s two goals.
The First Goal – 5′
The ball takes a weird bounce off the turf towards Cameron. He misreads is and his giraffe leg splays out in an attempt to clear it. The ball careens off, bouncing gently for Nani, who’s sitting about a yard behind Beasley. He brings it down, stutter steps and Howard reacts to the stutter guessing a low shot. This leaves the goal wide open and Nani takes advantage. Bad luck.
The Equalizer – 90+5′
A hard to control ball bounces in front of Michael Bradley, and he tries to control it with his cleats. It bounces a bit in front of him, and Eder knocks him off the ball. Pass to Ronaldo sitting in space on the RIGHT side, roaming completely out of position. Beasley does his best to cut Ronaldo off, expecting a stutter step to try and get around him, but instead Ronaldo sends the perfect cross to the middle of the box. Somehow, Cameron (again) misreads it, loses track of the midfielder behind him and takes a slow, drifting angle. That midfielder, eyes on the prize the whole way, runs across Cameron at full speed and heads it home.
Bad luck and clumsy miscues. That’s usually how Americans win… this time it’s how we lost. Or drew. Whatever that means.
On to the next round, where we face our equally tall and gangly Caucasian cousins, Germany.
— Jürgen Klinsmann (@J_Klinsmann) June 25, 2014
Both the US vs. Germany and Ghana vs. Portugal matches occur at the same time. This means half the US will be in a bar in the morning (doctor’s note above if you need one). I’m sure everyone’s read the possibilities of the final day. US win or draw takes them to the next round. A loss depends on the result and score of the other game. Nate Silver breaks down the USA’s possibility of advancement much better than I ever could, so take a look there. 76% is a pretty darn good number.
My son asked me who we’re cheering for in the Ghana/Portugal match. Because he understands what I say is the truth. I said “We’re cheering against both.” The US team’s most likely method of advancement will be a draw between those two countries, if they even play. UPDATE: 3 Million Dollars was delivered to the team in order to bypass the boycott. Come on, President of Ghana whose name I’m not going to look up right now, do you really hate the US so badly?
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Muller: Thomas Muller is a scoring machine. He got his head cracked pretty good at the end of the Germany/Ghana match, but I think it’s just going to make him more eager to prove a point. The US back line can’t stop him, but the midfielders may be able to prevent the ball from getting to him, or even harass him enough that he’s knocked off his game. Specifically, that man may be:
JONES: Jermaine Jones was again a star for the US on Sunday. Scored the first goal and was very stout in the midfield. He may miss the next game from a yellow, but I think he’ll be clipping Muller’s heels from the first whistle.
James Cameron Explosions: I wish I could say that the Portugal game was Geoff Cameron‘s last hurrah. I don’t think that’s going to be the case. I don’t know the guy personally, so I can’t presume on whether he steps up instead of wilting after a very, very poor performance.
German Blood: There’s the slight possibility that US coach Jurgen Klinsmann may have a gentleman’s agreement with Germany coach Joachim Low. They never played together, but Low was Klinsmann’s assistant for the German national team when they won the world cup in 2006. I wouldn’t mind a little nepotism in this game.
Neuer – German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer usually plays the ball at his feet at some point in the match. He rarely gets caught out, but if…just if…if Dempsey is his normal scrappy self, I could see him stealing the ball for an easy poacher’s goal. Here’s to hoping.
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- That Was American: USMNT Beats Ghana - June 17, 2014
- Ghana vs. USA – The Scary Game - June 16, 2014
- Do Ya Feel Lucky? Well, Do Ya Punk? - June 16, 2014
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