The World Cup officially has my attention.
Since the first piece I wrote about the US vs. Ghana game was successful, or my editor liked it anyway, I’m documenting all of the US games throughout the World Cup. Next up was the match with Portugal.
If that didn’t work, I have another one for the modern crowd.
It was actually a lengthy email chain full of witty banter, facts, and excellent analysis regarding the upcoming game against Portugal. Since it is my column and I refuse to get shown up, I decided to go straight for the cliff note version of what the brothers Salem said.
Dan: “They smell blood in the water and as is the American way, will jump on the opportunity. A win or a tie is a great outcome … I’m feeling a 3-1 victory.” (In all fairness, Dan would be right 98% of the time.)
Todd: “Just based on the fact that Portugal has an elite goal-scorer in Ronaldo, if the US is giving up as many chances as they did a week ago, Howard’s save percentage isn’t going to look so good, regardless of how well he plays individually.”
Doc: The US has never had that “hop on my back” guy that so many other nations have. A guy who can make the big play to score a goal. Landon Donovan was never comfortable as the guy. Just this past weekend we saw players from Uruguay (Suarez), Argentina (Messi), Germany (Muller), and the Netherlands (Van Persie) play like elite goal scorers when it mattered the most. Can Clint Dempsey be that guy? If not him, who can it be?
My thoughts during the game, as I was watching on TV:
I like the fact the referees are Argentinian. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because the US never fought a war against them. Also, the stadium in the Amazon Rainforest is going to be very hot and humid for the game today. Gee …. did anyone not expect that? This will come into play later.
2 min: The broadcasters let us know the US is 1-9-4 vs European nations since 2002 in the World Cup, with the only win coming against Portugal. I somehow knew that, but didn’t want to admit it to myself. Like step on a scale right now. If you think you “could lose 5 Lbs.” you are probably fat. Yes, that’s my level of US soccer denial.
5 min: US defender Geoff Cameron tries to clear the ball from the penalty area. Not only does he fail, but the ball ends up on the foot of Nani for Portugal. Unlike Cameron, he does not miss. 1-0 Portugal.
8 min: The broadcasters now inform us the US is 0-35-4 when allowing the first goal. I really hate stats right now and the TV is making me sad. I know how little US soccer has won before 2002.
9 – 12 min: The US is answering back and is being way more aggressive and possessive of the ball than they were against Ghana. It fascinates me how well certain teams play when they’re behind. They got mad and all it took was allowing a goal.
14 min: I found it hysterical that Portuguese midfielder Raul Meireles, with a Mohawk and arm-sleeve tattoos, is knocked over by a bearded US defender with dreadlocks in Kyle Beckerman.
18 min: I noticed Ronaldo looks and reminds me a lot of Alex Rodriguez. I’m not sure why, but there is a resemblance.
26 – 35 min: Dempsey, Bradley and the US are on the attack. They look confident, aggressive and have already attempted more shots by the 35th minute than they did the entire Ghana game. Still sad that it takes being down to bring out an aggressive streak in them. Maybe this is the wake up call the US needed.
40 min: Ok, apparently there is literally a thing called a cooling break rule, which if the Wet Bulb Globe (WBGT) is over a certain rating, the players get a three-minute water break. The WBGT combines heat and humidity to form a one number temperature for the match. Personally, I don’t see this catching on for any other sport. Think the NFL would utilize this?
During this period, my friend Jayci sent me a message joking how someone should take out a few Portuguese players and I replied back with a “sweep the leg Johnny” retort. Ok, I thought it was funny.
41 – 44 min: Howard proved he is a world-class goalie. In that time span, he made two huge saves. One of which the ball hit the post and rebounded back to #11, who tried to lift the ball over a falling Howard. Howard, deciding he really didn’t like losing to anyone from Portugal, one-handed the ball and lifted it just over the crossbar for a save. I am almost positive he yelled “too bad” as he did it.
45 min: US defender Fabian Johnson basically body checked Ronaldo. Maybe they did hear the sweep the leg comment.
The email I sent at the half: “I learned three things from this first half. 1) Tim Howard is a world-class goalie. 2) The US is getting its chances, already more chances and shots than the Ghana game. Keep up the pressure and things should begin to fall. 3) I love how aggressive and physical the US is playing. Makes me laugh when a dreadlocked American can make a Mohawked, arm-sleeved Portuguese midfielder his b—-.” I really hate editing the word bunny. I don’t know why I have to in the first place.
47 min: The US defense deflects another ball to Eder of Portugal. Seriously US defense, if you clear a ball, make sure it doesn’t go DIRECTLY to an opposing player. The amount of curses I yelled at the TV couldn’t be allowed on HBO.
54 min: US player drove down the right side of the pitch around the penalty area. After making a move, the ball was passed to Bradley who had a goalie-less net. Just a Portuguese defender in front of him. Bradley had 99.9% of the net to put the ball in for a 1-1 tie, but kicked it in the .1% that caused the ball to pop up and out of play. Even Isaac Newton didn’t know how that was physically possible.
59 min: I wonder if it’s possible to get soccer blue balls? If the US keeps getting chances like this, I may know the answer.
64 min: From a Zusi corner (he is really good at them) the Portuguese fail to clear properly (sound familiar) and the ball goes to US midfielder Jermaine Jones. Jones makes a move to his right, outside the penalty area, and does his version of bend if like Beckham. It was such a good shot the goalie didn’t even move, just stood there. AAAHHH. Thank you ‘MERICA as the game is tied. For Jones’ first World Cup goal, that was pretty.
66 min: Howard comes up huge again with a save and break up of a cross. Can a goalie lead a team to a World Cup? The most recent was in 2002 when German goalie Olivar Kahn only allowed three goals total. Two of them were in the final, but his dominating goalie performance was already legendary. How so? Kahn is the only goalie to receive the Golden Ball, or World Cup MVP. Did I mention Germany lost in the final to Brazil, yet Kahn was that good for the entirety. Just say’n, it can happen.
72 min: Seriously US, did they teach any of you how to get the ball out of the penalty area?
75 min: Jones is called for a yellow card. From what I saw, and I hate to say this, it looked like a legitimate yellow card. I’ll admit it …. deep breath …. good call ref. Even I can be neutral sometimes.
81 min: Defenseman DeAndre Yedlin drives down the right side and passes the ball to Bradley in the penalty area. Bradley’s shot is blocked, but the ball bounced directly to Zusi who chips it beautifully to Dempsey. Dempsey, with no one around him in the goalie box, mushroom stamped the US to a 2-1 lead. That is the only way to describe that goal. I’m surprised he didn’t yell “WHAT!” and strut off the pitch.
83 – 84 min: Both Beasley and Dempsey fall with various injuries. I can start breathing at a normal rate when they are walking around again. Or breathing at all for that matter.
87 min: Dempsey is taken out. Probably a good move since he is the one dude Portugal tried to injure.
90 min: Five minutes of extra time? That seems like way to much. Why not make it like thirty seconds. I’m not just saying that because the US is up 2-1.
93 – 94 min: Portugal threw the kitchen sink at the US defense, who finally were up to the challenge. Blocking shots and disrupting the Portuguese offense.
95 min: Bradley had the ball stolen at midfield. Ok. Ronaldo got the ball around the thirty yard mark. Ok, he was still outside of the penalty area. Ronaldo crosses the ball to the only spot where Portugal’s Eder can score the goal. Wait, that header was nice too …. oh you’re kidding, right? ……. radio silence …….
Yup, what you just witnessed was 1) Ronaldo crossing the ball so well only five or six people on the planet could have put the ball right there, at that location, and with their team on the verge of elimination. The soccer part of me was amazed by the cross and following header. The US in me ……. I just sat there. It is a point and it is a tie, but some ties are better than others. This one sucked.
I described it as such in my post game email. Truer words have never been written down. “That is the sport equivalent of when your girlfriend (or any woman rather) agrees to a threesome with her hot friend and then it ends up never happening. You’re more upset because you could have had it, than if the thought never crossed your mind.”
That’s the general mind-set right now. Perhaps Todd put it best. “A draw against Germany is beneficial to both sides so a wink-wink 0-0 tie may be afoot, but it doesn’t make the Portugal loss any less historically ball-busting.”