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Soccer Is A Cruel Mistress; Portugal Draws US At The Death


Christopher Lee

This is the bare essentials at hand. The United States were, by far, the better team against Portugal. All of the nervy hiccups and squandered possession that so characterized the game against Ghana were gone. This team held onto the ball, they strung passes together with confidence and, at times, ease. The double pivot of Kyle Beckerman and Jermaine Jones clogged the outside edges of the 18 yard box and made Portugal take the wide route sending crosses into the six where Matt Besler and Geoff Cameron cleared them with relative ease, with one exception. The mishit clearance from Cameron that dropped for Nani, unmarked on the far post, which he buried.

From that moment on the US were by far the better team. It took a long time for this team to crawl their way back into this game, but slowly and surely they did just that. Jermaine Jones equalized with a golazo that will live on ESPN for the rest of the time.

17 Minutes later the speed of super sub Deandre Yedlin created a chance from nothing. Yedlin used his speed to beat makeshift left back Veloso to the byline where he cut the ball back to Michael Bradley. A portugal defender got a foot on the ball to prevent it from laying down for Bradley, but Bradley kept the play moving to Graham Zusi whose cross Clint Dempsey buried with his gut. It seemed that the US was signed sealed and delivered to the knockout rounds. And then Portugal grabbed a wholly undeserved sucker punch goal and a draw that felt like a loss.

So here we sit, two games played, two results and the US are sitting in second in the group of death. The match against Germany will settle the matter. Win and the US are through and topping the group. Draw with the Germans and the US are still through to the knockout rounds against (probably) Belgium. Even losing to Germany could possibly see the US through to the next round.*

* The complete scenarios are available here.

Germany is a quality side, that much goes without saying. But they are not the all conquering monoliths that they appeared to be after so comprehensibly smashing Portugal last Monday. Ghana made them look very human indeed, it took a goal from the ageless Miroslav Klose for them to even salvage a draw against a Black Star team that dominated large swathes of the second half, and were good money for their 2-1 lead when they accrued it. Germany is good, they have a wealth of attacking talent, but they also have very clear and exploitable weaknesses.

The German's defensive midfield is not of the calibre that you would expect from a German team in general, but this much fancied bunch in particular. Likewise the German's don't have the kind of quality you would expect at fullback. Ghana were able to attack and exploit the weakness of Benedict Howdes at left back, the right side of the US's attack. That also happens to be the be the same area where this team caused all kinds of problems for Portugal. Fabian Johnson was a menace from start to finish. Fabian was given free reign to pick up the ball in deep lying positions because Christiano Ronaldo had no interest in defending at all. Johnson made marauding run after marauding run down the right side to good effect. When Yedlin came on it was with the express goal of using his pace to cause problems for the left side of the Portuguese defense. That same route of attack could cause the Germans problems.

The bottom line is that the United States still control their own destiny to get out of this group. The odds are still in the favor for the US to advance to the knockout rounds. Germany is a team that the US can get at because Fabian Johnson so routinely makes the right side of the American attack a menace. Play the way they did tonight and this team will see themselves through to the knockout round for the second straight tournament.