Late game-tying goal spoils otherwise glorious U.S. performance vs. Portugal

June 23, 2014 | Drew Forrester

When does a tie and one point feel like a loss?

When you have a 2-1 lead with thirty seconds left — and advancement out of Group G imminent — and your “star midfielder” gives up the ball at midfield…and your defensive player allows his guy to race past him and head the ball in on a last gasp attempt to keep themselves from being eliminated.

That’s how you turn a tie and one point into something much worse.

Make no mistake about it, the U.S. showed great grit in rebounding from an early disaster and 1-0 deficit to forge ahead 2-1 with nine minutes remaining.

Great grit, though, needs to include finishing off the job, which the U.S. couldn’t do in Sunday’s 2-2 tie with Portugal.

Michael Bradley was dispossessed from the ball late in the game.  Why didn’t he just play the ball downfield rather than coughing it up just shy of midfield?

Why didn’t the U.S. have ten players back at that point anyway?

Geoff Cameron slowed his pace as the ball was played into the box for Varela.  Was he simply outpaced there or was that give-up moment part of the goal-scoring process?

Questions, questions, questions…

Here, now, are the grades for the Americans from Sunday’s game with Portugal.

Tim Howard (6) — Not sure what he was doing on the first goal, where he went to the ground to leave most of the net open, but he steadied himself after that and made several nice stops.  Not a great performance, but decent enough.

Matt Besler (8) — Stood toe-to-toe with the Portugese forwards and was consistently better and faster than them.  If not for Fabian Johnson, would have been U.S.’s best player.

Geoff Cameron (4) — Was directly involved in both Portugal goals, but was relatively steady throughout the match.  Still, a player of his caliber can’t make those two mistakes; a sloppy clearance in the 5th minute and letting Varela get past him on pace alone in the final 30 seconds for the game-tying header.  He’s very fortunate Klinsmann is loyal to his starters or he’d likely be sitting on Thursday.

DeMarcus Beasley (6) — Nice work for the most part, with a handful of well-timed tackles on runners and solid play on corners and set pieces against.

Fabian Johnson (8) — Atoned for a poor performance vs. Ghana with the best game of any American against Portugal.  Was a thorn in their side going forward and excelled in the back, staying tight to his man and constantly poking the ball away on challenges.

Jermaine Jones (7) — Scored a great goal and supplied a couple of nice balls to Johnson on his well-planned runs, but looked tired as the game wore on and picked up a sloppy yellow card.  Showing that he belongs in this World Cup.

Kyle Beckerman (6) — Nothing special in this one from Beckerman, who continues to do his work defensively but shows little promise at all offensively.

Alejandro Bedoya (6) — Never stopped working in the first half and dug in hard defensively after the Portugal goal to help keep it at 1-0.  Like the Ghana game, he wore down rather quickly in the second half and was pulled for a sub.

Graham Zusi (6) — Had a poor first half but got better as the game went on and was involved in Dempsey’s go ahead goal.  Wasn’t as sharp on set pieces as he was vs. Ghana.

Michael Bradley (6) — Was world’s better than in the Ghana fiasco but won’t soon forget losing the ball near midfield and then jogging back as Portugal nailed the equalizer.  His miss of a glorious opportunity in the 60th minute was more great play by Portugal than bad finishing by Bradley, but the late-game cough up at midfield was a mistake he shouldn’t ever make with the game about to be stitched up.  His stock as a “premier midfielder” has taken a hit in two games thus far.

Clint Dempsey (7) — Phenomenal in the first half, where nearly every one of his touches turned into a scoring threat.  Wasn’t nearly as dangerous in the second half as Portugal slid their marking midfielder back into his space to help contain him.  Might have been offsides on his goal, but who cares?

Team grade (6) — Can’t give up a goal with 30 seconds left — and advancement in your grasp — and earn a better grade than this one.  Not sure why they didn’t have ten guys behind the ball at all times during injury time…that’s a coaching black mark in my book.