FIFA World Cup

USA vs. Portugal 6 Things We Learned

John D. HalloranContributor IIJune 23, 2014

USA vs. Portugal 6 Things We Learned

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    Themba Hadebe/Associated Press

    The United States men’s national team and Portugal played to a thrilling 2-2 draw in a crucial World Cup Group G matchup on Sunday night in Brazil.

    Portugal scored in both the fifth and the 95th minute to break American hearts twice. In between, the U.S. battled back first to tie the match in the 63rd minute and go ahead in the 82nd minute, before conceding the equalizer in the dying seconds.

    Here are six things we learned from the match.

Round of 16 Implications

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    Themba Hadebe/Associated Press

    While a win would have guaranteed U.S. advancement to the round of 16 and killed off Portugal’s World Cup life, the 2-2 draw now leaves plenty of scenarios heading into the final game of group play.

    For the U.S., they can advance easiest with a win or tie against Germany. If the U.S. lose against Germany, they can advance if Ghana and Portugal tie. If either Ghana or Portugal wins their final Group G matchup and the U.S. lose to Germany, the team with the best goal differential will advance.

Jermaine Jones Led a Fantastic U.S. Effort

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    Adam Pretty/Getty Images

    Even if he hadn’t scored the U.S. equalizer early in the second half on an absolute thunderbolt, Jermaine Jones’ performance on Sunday still would have been fantastic. He covered loads of ground, was excellent defensively and contributed to the attack with some excellent passing.

    Jones repeatedly found Fabian Johnson down the right side, and Johnson rampaged the left side of Portugal’s defense all game long, creating dangerous chances for the U.S. time and time again.

    Also notable for his strong performance for the U.S. was Matt Besler, who snuffed out chance after chance and held the U.S. defense strong through most of the game.

Geoff Cameron Made 2 Mistakes and Portugal Punished Him

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    The life of a striker can be comparatively easy, as he can miss chance after chance in a game, but if he puts one in, he is still the hero.

    The life of a defender can be far less forgiving, as Geoff Cameron was reminded of on Sunday night.

    Cameron had a relatively strong game save his two mistakes, which both led to Portuguese goals. In the fifth minute, Cameron’s poor clearance fell directly to Nani for the opening goal. In the 95th minute, only seconds from the end of the match, Cameron lost his man, who snuck in behind the U.S. defense to head home the equalizer.

Credit to Jurgen Klinsmann

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Throughout his tenure as coach of the USMNT, Jurgen Klinsmann has taken a fair amount of grief from fans and the media alike for his roster decisions, starting lineups, formations and tactics.

    However, on Sunday night, his decisions were correct.

    Throughout the match, the U.S. contained Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo and repeatedly gave the Portuguese problems defensively.

    The U.S. earned corner after corner, found opportunities to shoot, packed the middle of the field defensively and had the better of the play for long stretches.

    If U.S. fans were told they could take four points headed into the third game of the group stage before the tournament began, they would take it in a heartbeat.

Graham Zusi Struggled

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    Adam Pretty/Getty Images

    Although he did deliver the pass on Clint Dempsey’s goal to put the U.S. up late and although his effort was excellent all game long, Graham Zusi made too many mistakes on Sunday night.

    He repeatedly conceded possession, either through missed passes, bad touches or being dispossessed on the dribble.

    And his trademark contribution, his service, was missing against Portugal both in the run of play and on the numerous corner kicks for the U.S.

    He simply needed to be better.

Thank Goodness for Timmy Howard

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    Adam Pretty/Getty Images

    Although Tim Howard may have gone down slightly early on Portugal’s first goal, there was certainly little he could do after Cameron’s missed clearance left Nani in behind all alone. Similarly, there was little he could do on Portugal’s equalizer in the 95th minute.

    In between, Howard was fantastic, parrying away repeated shots by the Portuguese attackers. He made perhaps the save of the tournament just before the halftime whistle when he somehow got his fingertips to a shot that would have put Portugal up 2-0 headed into the locker room.

    Howard’s fantastic performance was simply world-class.

     

    Follow me on Twitter @JohnDHalloran

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