Late Varela goal forces U.S. to settle on a disappointing draw

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

The U.S. Men’s National Team were this close to qualification. Then, Cristiano Ronaldo happened.

With seconds remaining in the match, a crucial Michael Bradley giveaway at midfield allowed Ronaldo all the space he needed to make a final run at the American third, sending in a cross on loose coverage past centerback Geoff Cameron and right to the head of late-game substitute Silvestre Varela for the equalizer.

The U.S. is still in strong place to qualify, but leave the door open for both Ghana and Portugal to sneak in the back door. The U.S. and Germany have four points atop the group heading into their clash this Thursday at the Arena Pernambuco in Recife. Both Portugal and Ghana share one.

Varela’s goal erased some mighty gains by the U.S. in one moment of brilliance. Despite facing a wounded and questionable opponent, Jurgen Klinsmann’s side started the match tentative, allowing Portugal to take early possession. The nervous legs of the USMNT were on full display for the first goal. Cameron mistimed a clearance attempt in the box, redirecting a Miguel Veloso cross into the path of three Portuguese attackers. A stunned Tim Howard fell to his knees allowing Manchester United winger Nani to put Portugal ahead in the fifth minute of play.

Portugal continued their attack but soon cooled, allowing the U.S. time to find their composure in the midfield. Clint Dempsey would be the first to challenge keeper Beto, sending a shot in on net from a brilliant Bradley pass. The Portuguese keeper stretched to stop the U.S. captain. Dempsey would challenge again in the 27th minute, riding his defender as he did in Ghana, but Beto would get a foot in on the shot.

Portugal nearly doubled their lead at the death of the half with first half substitute Eder ringing a shot off the post past Howard. Nani followed the shot on the rebound, but Everton’s stalwart keeper contorted to get a paw on the attempt, saving the U.S. from a two goal deficit.

The U.S. used their first half momentum to press Portugal in the second, and nearly found pay dirt ten minutes in. Fabian Johnson drew in his defender and Beto, leaving Bradley at the top of the box with room to spare. With Beto out of the way, Bradley sent a straight-away shot on net but didn’t count on Ricardo Costa to make a goalline save, preserving the Portuguese lead.

It wouldn’t take long for the U.S. to cash in. Some ten minutes later, Jermaine Jones sent a slicing shot past his defender, through the goal mouth and into the net behind a stunned and stoic Beto to tie the score.

With Portugal carrying heavy legs, Klinsmann elected to bring on unproven Sounders defender DeAndre Yedlin to the midfield in place of Alejandro Bedoya. The move proved to be a master stroke as the converted midfielder pushed the Portuguese line, opening up room for Michael Bradley in the middle. His shot ricocheted to Graham Zusi who then fed Dempsey for the go-ahead goal in the 81st minute.

The U.S. looked firmly in control, but did not think to waste time on the ball to kill the clock late. The ever dangerous Portugal took advantage of the oversight with just 30 seconds remaining in the match.

Varela’s goal keeps Portugal alive in their group ahead of this week’s final group fixtures. Ghana and Portugal meet in a potential group decider at Estádio Nacional de Brasilia on Thursday at 12 p.m. ET. The U.S. and Germany will face off at the exact same time in Recife.

– U.S. Men’s National Team Match Report –

Match: U.S. Men’s National Team vs. Portugal
Date: June 22, 2014
Competition: 2014 FIFA World Cup – Group G
Venue: Arena Amazonia; Manaus, Brazil
Kickoff: 6 p.m. ET
Attendance: 40,123
Weather: 86 degrees, sunny

Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA                        0 2 2
POR                        1 1 2

POR — Nani                                               5th minute
USA — Jermaine Jones                               64
USA — Clint Dempsey (Graham Zusi)           81
POR — Silvestre Varela (Cristiano Ronaldo)  90+5

Lineups:
USA: 1-Tim Howard; 23-Fabian Johnson, 20-Geoff Cameron, 5-Matt Besler, 7-DaMarcus Beasley; 15-Kyle Beckerman, 13-Jermaine Jones; 11-Alejandro Bedoya (2-DeAndre Yedlin, 72), 4- Michael Bradley, 19- Graham Zusi (3-Omar Gonzalez, 90+1); 8-Clint Dempsey (capt.) (18-Chris Wondolowski, 87)
Subs Not Used: 6-John Brooks, 10-Mix Diskerud, 12-Brad Guzan, 14-Brad Davis, 16-Julian Green, 21-Timmy Chandler, 22-Nick Rimando, 23-Aron Johannsson
Not Available: 17-Jozy Altidore
Head coach: Jurgen Klinsmann

POR: 22-Beto; 2-Bruno Alves, 13-Ricardo Costa, 19-Andre Almeida (6-William Carvalho, 46), 21-Joao Pereira; 4-Miguel Veloso, 8-Joao Moutinho, 16-Raul Meireles (18-Silvestre Varela, 69); 7-Cristiano Ronaldo (capt.), 17-Nani, 23-Heider Postiga (11-Eder, 16)
Subs not used: 1-Eduardo; 9-Hugo Almeida, 10-Vierinha, 12-Rui Patricio, 14-Luis Neto, 15-Rafa Silva, 20-Ruben Amorim
Not Available: 3-Pepe (suspended), 5-Fabio Coentrao, 9-Hugo Almeida, 12-Rui Patricio
Head Coach: Paulo Bento

Stats Summary: USA / POR
Shots: 15 / 21
Shots on Goal: 5 / 7
Saves: 5 / 3
Corner Kicks: 6 / 4
Fouls: 11 / 14
Offside: 1 / 4

Misconduct Summary:
USA — Jermaine Jones (caution)        75th minute

Officials:
Referee: Nestor Pitana (ARG)
Assistant Referee 1: Hernan Maidana (ARG)
Assistant Referee 2: Juan Pablo Belatti (ARG)
Fourth Official: Walter Lopez (GUA)

Budweiser Man of the Match: Tim Howard


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