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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Might as well be a loss for US

George Scione

Screeches of grown men were heard from Boston to San Diego, out to Hawaii, up to Alaska and back down to the tip Florida on Sunday. Forget the red and white, United States soccer fans were only blue after a 2-2 loss to Portugal.

That’s right, loss. ...

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Screeches of grown men were heard from Boston to San Diego, out to Hawaii, up to Alaska and back down to the tip Florida on Sunday. Forget the red and white, United States soccer fans were only blue after a 2-2 loss to Portugal.

That’s right, loss.

Mere seconds from a one-goal victory and a trip to the Round of 16, the defense rested.

All the Stars and Stripes had to do was hold its one-goal advantage for five minutes of extra time. At the 94:24 mark, with only 36 seconds remaining, midfielder Michael Bradley lost possession of the ball and Portugal was off to the races.

One last run and the ball was on the feet of arguably the game’s best player. Of course Ronaldo looked anything but the best Sunday – outplayed by Clint Dempsey for sure – until he made the perfect pass in the match’s closing seconds.

It was two on five – two on six if you count U.S. keeper Tim Howard – but Ronaldo bent the ball around three Americans to the head of Silvestre Varela for the game-tying goal. It may as well have won it.

One point just isn’t enough. Not when Germany is on the horizon.

The U.S. is going to lose Thursday. Yes, Germany will beat the U.S. on Thursday. The only real question is by how much?

To think Dempsey and Co. were just 30 seconds away from being the first team to advance out of the so-called Group of Death. Now, they are on the brink of elimination.

OK, there are far more opportunities for America to reach the Knockout Round, so here’s hoping.

If the U.S. wins or ties it advances no matter what happens in the Portugal-Ghana match. Heck, if the U.S. wins, it wins Group G and would likely avoid a game against Group H frontrunner Belgium.

If the U.S. loses and Portugal ties Ghana, the Americans advance.

If the U.S. loses and Portugal beats Ghana, it all comes down to goal differential. As long as German goal scoring is kept in check in the win over the U.S., there’s no issue here. After losing 4-0 to Germany, Portugal holds the worst differential of all the Group G team.

If the U.S. loses and Ghana beats Portugal, the Americans are likely in trouble. If the U.S. loses by more than one goal to Germany and Ghana beats Portugal by more than one goal, Jurgen Klinsmann’s prophecy will have come true.

Of course it will be more of a self-fulling prophecy. The U.S. defense did all it could to give Portugal an early lead and then the late equalizer.

Just five minutes into the contest, Geoff Cameron shanked a clearing attempt right to an open Nani on the doorstep. Cameron sure did his hometown of Attleboro, Mass., and his two college programs West Virginia and Rhode Island proud. He had a rough night all-around, the shank, a yellow-car worthy tackle on Ronaldo that wasn’t called and then letting Varela get enough separation to net the tying tally. Ugh.

Even with that early gaffe, the U.S. battled back to knot things 1-1 in the 64th minute on a perfectly placed drive off the foot of Jermaine Jones just inside the goal post to the lower right. Dempsey then bellied one in off a Graham Zusi cross in the 81st minute and all was right with the world.

Cameron’s teammates picked him up in the second half. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough time in the end to overcome another blunder. Cameron and Team USA gave up too much, too late.

Oh well, there’s always Thursday, Nicht?

George Scione can be reached at 594-6520 or gscione@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Scione on Twitter (@Telegraph_BigG).