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Heartbreak in Manaus for United States Men’s National Team

courtesy fifa.com

courtesy fifa.com

When the draw for the 2014 World Cup was announced in December 2013, nobody gave the Unites States Men’s National Team a chance to advance from Group G, the so called “Group of Death.” (Other groups are arguably tougher than Group G to advance out of.) If I would have told you that after two matches the USMNT would have four points out of a possible six, you would take that in a heartbeat. Even then the USMNT was just a mere 30 seconds away from going six for six.

The USMNT took on Portugal in Manaus on Sunday night, and things could not have started any worse for them, as Geoff Cameron failed to clear a ball out of the penalty area and Nani was there to capitalize, putting Portugal out to an early 1-0 lead five minutes into the match. Portugal was off to a fast start, which was exactly what they needed after being pummeled six days earlier 4-0 by Germany.

After that little miscue by the defense, the United States essentially controlled the rest of the match. Portugal had a few good spells of possession and were able to attack the US goal right before halftime, but Tim Howard did his best to keep the ball out of the net by making a few critical saves to keep the team in the match.

The US finally got the breakthrough they needed in the 64th minute after a Graham Zusi corner somehow made it’s way through the Portugal defense to the feet of Jermaine Jones. What Jones did next was a thing of beauty; he curled the ball inside the far post from roughly 30 yards out and the game was on.

In the 72nd minute, 20 year old speedster DeAndre Yedlin made his World Cup debut as he was brought on to replace Alejandro Bedoya on the right wing. Yedlin was able to run up and down the right side of the pitch for the eighteen plus minutes he was on. His cross into the box in the 81st minute started what would be at the time the go ahead goal. Not only was he excellent on the offensive side of the ball, but he was able to track back and play defense when needed.

Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann made a few substitutions late in the match to try to preserve the lead. The final substitution he made was bringing on center back Omar Gonzalez for Zusi. It seemed to me as the substitution was made nobody switched over to take the position perviously held by Zuzi on the left wing. As we all know now that after the ball was turned over at midfield, the ball was passed to Cristiano Ronaldo, who was left all by himself on the left side of the US defense. Ronaldo sent in a cross that nobody else but his man Varela could reach. Varela snuck it past Howard and the game was tied. It was the last serious action of the match as the official called for time after the US kicked off to restart play.

The United States Men’s National Team still has a chance to advance to the knockout rounds and can do so with a win or a tie against Germany on Thursday. If they lose they can still advance, but it becomes a little trickier. Tune into ESPN on Thursday at 12 p.m. EST/9 a.m. PST to watch this much anticipated match.

Chris Blakely writes for Stoppage Time Soccer. You can follow him on Twitter @TheRealCBlakely.

 

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