The USA fell just seconds away from qualification from the knockout stages of the 2014 World Cup after blowing a 2-1 lead over Portugal in Manaus with just seconds to spare. Before the last gasp heroics, Jermaine Jones and Clint Dempsey had answered Nani’s early goal.
With seconds on the clock, Varela stooped low to head in Ronaldo’s cross for a devastating equalizer. They move to four points equal with Germany.
The American therefore have the chance to draw their third game with Germany safe in the knowledge that a draw would suit both sides.
This was a very different vibe to Natal. It became clear on approaching the stadium that the Americans were here in lesser numbers, many having opted to stay on the North East coast, where the first and third games were played.
The heat and humidity also drained the fans of one pre match fan and many seemed to be pacing themselves for the night ahead.
On the pitch, Graham Zusi replaced the injured Jozy Altidore and the Americans reverted to a 4-5-1 with Dempsey, the man from the Lone Star State the Lone Star Ronaldo’s first touch was greeted with a roar until he put the ball straight out of play, vastly overhitting his first pass.
Portugal immediately looked a better team than the did in their first game. But it was a US mistake that handed them the lead, and a very bad one at that.
Geoff Cameron badly sliced a clearance from a Miguel Veloso cross and the ball fell neatly for Nani who had time to wrong foot Tim Howard. The fact that the error came from one of the most experienced players seemed to rock the Americans.
Jones gave away to Meireles badly seconds later and for a while it was boys fending off men. The US seemed to have survived and even won a corner. Graham Zusi, making his World Cup debut, did not make the most of it.
Jones and Johnson won a free kick which Dempsey decided to launch on goal. It was narrowly over. Meireles went down in a tough challenge with Beckerman and managed to keep his hands on his eyes for some time until the referee noticed him. Still holding his jaw, he got up. Replays did show contact with his jaw as Beckerman got up.
Meanwhile Helder Postiga was really hurt and left the field for Eder. Using up a sub so early gave the Yanks a small glimmer of hope. Michael Bradley made his first impact with a slide pass to Dempsey who did we to win a corner off Beto’s leg save.
The first half was half way through and there was little reason to believe the Americans would win, they had at least steadied the ship. Bradley began to be more involved than he had been since the first half of the friendly win over Mexico in Phoenix.
Portugal were beginning to make mistakes. Zusi found Dempsey in the box after Meireles tripped over his own feet. Beckerman was dishing out some stick but the US play was generally becoming more intelligent. Portugal’s marking seemed very lax. One wondered if the burden of playing with ten men was wearing on some of them.
Howard flapped a shot from Nani onto the post while wrong footed and made a wonderful save off Eder.
Cameron fired a clearance straight at Besler and the other end Johnson tried Bento from a narrow angle and won a corner. Zusi tamely over hit it.
Almeida had left too much space on the wing and was hauled off at the interval for William, though Veloso took his space at left back.
Ricardo Costa was Portugal’s hero as he stopped a Bradley shot on the line after great work down the right by Johnson.
The US pressure paid off when Jones curled in the equalizer in the 63rd. It was a shot from a confident player. The stadium got behind the Yanks but they feel asleep and needed Howard to bail them out – again.
As the closing stages approached, Sounders DeAndre Yedlin entered for Bedoya and Jones received a yellow card. Portugal were kept at bay although Nani managed a shot way over Howard’s bar.
But the momentum was flowing to the new world and soon the moment of American joy was to come. Some poor Portugal defending allowed Bradley to fire in after receiving from the right wing, and tired legs could only deflect the ball to Zusi. His pass found Dempsey narrowly – oh so narrowly – onside but definitely onside. Dempsey fired past Bento to give the USA their first lead of the match with just nine minutes left.
Portugal were so tired that five men failed to get back onside. Dempsey left, exhausted but to a massive hug from Klinsmann. Chris Wondolowski almost unnoticed received his well deserved World Cup moment.
However the Yanks could not hold on to it and Varela dived to head home Portugal’s equalizer in stoppage time.