United States soccer fans watched Sunday’s match against Portugal from all over the world.
There were those lucky enough to be in Brazil, those who watched from bars and watch parties, and even the troops overseas got to witness it. As for me, I sat in my living room as the events unfolded.
But no matter where you were, the feeling was the same.
In the 95th minute, with just seconds remaining in what could have been the clinching win to send the United States into the next round, the tandem of Cristiano Ronaldo and Silvestre Varela ripped the hearts out of every American. As Portugal regained its final possession of the match, I watched as Ronaldo found room on the right side. But it wasn’t a shot from one of the world’s best. It was a rare cross to Varela, who headed the ball into the back of the net to even the score.
My head immediately dropped.
Our defense had limited Ronaldo and Portugal throughout much of the match, but even with an extra center back in, it was a shot that couldn’t be stopped by anyone.
There are certainly many times in sports where hearts are broken, but I can’t see anything hurting worse than allowing an extra time goal in the World Cup. Things that are close:
Giving up a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 9th in the World Series.
Missing a short putt on the 18th green to lose at The Masters.
Allowing a game-winning field goal return touchdown with no time on the clock. Yes, I’m referring to you, Alabama.
Okay, maybe the Auburn-Alabama game was worse if you are a diehard Bama fan…
It was as if we had been eliminated from the World Cup, but actually, the drama is just beginning. Fans were preparing to add Clint Dempsey to Mount Rushmore after his goal in the 81st minute to give USA a 2-1 advantage. Instead of doing so and moving on, Germany awaits us on Thursday.
Group G was called the “group of death” before the World Cup started, with great reason. It appeared the United States would not be one of the two teams to advance, but are now a draw or win away, along with other scenarios. (I started typing them, but let’s just worry about getting a win or draw, shall we?)
It’s still the “group of death”, but it’s not because of Germany, Portugal, and Ghana all being together. It’s due to the fact that each of the four countries are still mathematically alive, and all but one of the games have been close.
So what needs to be improved on the USA side?
Other than Geoff Cameron’s awful clearance attempt early in the game that cost them a goal, along with the 95th minute stunner, it was a very good performance. Tim Howard was phenomenal, Dempsey was Dempsey, and guys like Graham Zusi and Jermaine Jones played major roles in attacking.
But if you had to single out one person, it’s Michael Bradley.
Don’t get me wrong, I like Bradley a lot. However, after a poor performance against Ghana, he played lazy whenever extra time came on Sunday. How did Ronaldo end up with the ball? Bradley turned it over when all he had to was clear it. I’m not going to act like a tactical soccer expert, but he’s the guy I really want to see step up against a stacked German team.
Keep the support up for our team. It’s been so much fun and I don’t want to see it end. It’s been awesome to see everyone on Twitter tweeting about the World Cup, so keep the chants going.
Photo by Francisco Leong/Getty Image