Of a tie, some say it’s like kissing your sister,
Of the late nature of Portugal’s equalizer, some say it’s like getting kicked in a very delicate area.
For me, it feels more like a bad M. Night Shyamalan movie – surprisingly, I was enthralled for 90-minutes, but then he delivered the trademark, though puzzlingly disappointing twist, leaving me sitting in the theater, confused, and able only to muster a baffled, exasperated “what?”
…With a dash of the delicate area kick.
But really, it’s important to remember that the draw with Portugal, despite looking assured of better, is a win for the United States.
Before the tournament, the road to knock-out round qualification looked a treacherous one, with only a complicated, long-shot, best-case scenario that would see the Americans through. That road, as most agreed, called for an American win over Ghana, a German demolition of Portugal, an American draw with Portugal, and a less than terribly embarrassing loss to Germany that puts the U.S. threw to the knock-out round on goal differential.
It was a list with four boxes to be checked off. So far, the U.S. is three for three. So far, everything is going according to plan.
And, given their play in Sunday’s game, perhaps going better than planned.
Jurgen Klinsmann’s side looked unskilled, unfit, and ill-conceived in their opening match win over Ghana. They lacked the ability to pass or control, and, therefore, carry possession in any way. Yielding to his team’s poor performance in those areas early in the game – and comfortable with the one-goal lead Clint Dempsey’s burst of skill gave them in the match’s first minute – Klinsmann refused to press the issue and try to pull his team into the game. Instead, he ceded possession to the Ghanians and let them attack his team’s weakness – their defense. He welcomed their equalizer, and got lucky when John Brooks scored a late winner.
On Sunday, the opposite was true. A formation built to allow Portugal to control the game – with Clint Dempsey alone at striker, a position in which he has never thrived – was turned into an attacking one when the team’s shaky back-line conceded a bad goal early in the game.
Forcing the U.S. to come alive. Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, and Fabian Johnson pushed forward menacingly, and fed the creative runs of Clint Dempsey – resulting in more possession and better chances than they’d seen thus far in the World Cup.
On Sunday, chasing the game and pressing the action, the U.S. took 15 shots, almost twice as many, eight, as they’d had against Ghana, and netted 48% of the game’s possession, up 7% over where they disappointingly finished their first game.
For the first time in this World Cup, they looked like a team that actually belonged – a team that could do something more than play three games and exit stage left.
Failing to defend Ronaldo’s cross and giving away a win at the game’s death is hard to take, there’s no doubt. Qualification just seconds away, it is certainly a missed opportunity that will haunt the U.S. and their fans until they’re given a reason to forget about it. But let us remember, before the World Cup opened, American fans would have hoped desperately for a win and a draw in their team’s first two matches.
Let us remember that they’re exactly where they hoped they’d be – while only just having started playing their best.
Let us remember that not every Shyamalan movie is The Village. Let us remember that one was The Sixth Sense.
Author: Joe Bianchino
Joe Bianchino is a writer, producer, and radio host located in upstate New York. He is a life-long New York sport fan, Chelsea supporter, and Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon enthusiast. Follow him on Twitter @JoeBNTS. Email him at Joe@noticketsports.com.