US v. Portugal: Not Quite a Broken Heart But Close

US v. Portugal: Not Quite a Broken Heart But Close
Thanks to CNN for the image of heartbreak

It's been a while since I've been this upset at a sporting loss.  Growing up in Cleveland, it does kind of come like second nature.  The first one I remember was in 1978 when the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Browns in OT on a flea flicker play, after they were gifted possession on a fumbled kick off.  I remember when the Steelers fumbled the kickoff I ran around the house, only to return to the family room and find out, that no, the Steelers had the ball and would soon score, ending the game.  From there the list is long and pretty well known, Elway's Drive, Byner's Fumble, Jordan's Shot, Jose Mesa's Sucking, and the greatest sporting let down in my life, the Browns leaving Cleveland.  I was reminded of all of those today, when in the dying moments of the US-Portugal game, a draw was snatched from the jaws of victory.

Truly, it isn't all bad.  The US needs to draw or win against Germany on Thursday and they move on to the knockout round and a match against Belgium.  Looking at FiveThirtyEight, the US odds of moving forward are really good.  And yet… losing the win at that time, about 30 seconds left to go, and the way they did it, or didn't do it, stings.  As perfect as Ronaldo's cross was, seriously right on Varela's head, if Michael Bradley doesn't miss play a ball and allow the Portuguese to regain possession, setting up the final goal, then this is a different blog post.

The last fifteen minutes of the game, the minutes after Dempsey's goal were torturous and made that final goal possible.  After a very strong game, except for the miscue in the first five minutes giving Portugal the lead at 1-0, the US looked really good.  They dictated the pace for much of the game, contained Ronaldo, and when needed, played strong, if sometimes shaky defense.  Until the last fifteen minutes.

In that last in that last portion of the game, the US was playing to kill time, a couple of stalls in the corner, a few interesting "injuries" and a couple of very deliberate substitutions.  They managed to eat away much of the clock, but I felt pretty confident, even though Portugal was pressing and getting down the field.  Then they announced five minutes stoppage time and I was worried.  It seemed like too much time to give Ronaldo.

In the end, the US looked tired and the sense of urgency to get the ball clear wasn't there.  Damarcus Beasley, who had an otherwise brilliant game, had one of the worst clearances ever in stoppage time, and as the ball rattled around in the US half, bad passes and missed connections, until the fatal one by Bradley.  They just didn't do what had been working so well.  Even if attacking was off the plan, no sense opening up to a quick counter, the stout defense and pressure on Ronaldo disappeared, until Ronaldo was given a chance.  Big players, big moments, when it isn't your team, those moments suck.  Just ask Craig Ehlo.

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