USA vs. Portugal: Gut Shots
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On the bright side, we’re not England or Spain.

If we had been offered a tie at the beginning of the match, we would have taken it. It was that the tie happened the way it did that stings. But it shouldn’t take away from a pretty great game. I actually feel better about this game than I did about the Ghana win.

I was pretty clear that I was nervous about this game. A shaky Portugal is still Portugal. And for the first twenty minutes of this game, I thought that my pessimistic prediction for the game was coming true. Portugal scored from our sloppy play in minute five.

So, much like a bizarre anti-romantic comedy, I have been so blinded with hate for Luis Suarez that I couldn’t see a special person so worthy of my hate standing right in front of me! Oh, Nani, you prick, I hate you, oh, I hate you so much! He hadn’t scored for Manchester United in this last campaign and he hadn’t scored for Portugal in 2014. So, of course Nani is going to be the one that scores on us. It’s just been that kind of World Cup.

Portugal should thank us for that goal. Everyone will point to Cameron’s poor clearance but what was Tim Howard doing? I think he was prepared for a low shot that didn’t come. He went low and Nani shot high. In the replays it looks like he literally just sat down.

That’s when I thought we were dead. If that’s how we’re going to play, then this is going to get ugly. And it did get ugly after that. The United States was showing its Ghana form. It just couldn’t keep possession or move forward. We looked lost.

But then, in the middle of the first half, something happened. We found our game. It was like the team collectively realized that there was a whole lot more time in this game. We started controlling possession and taking shots, creating chances. Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley and Kyle Beckerman controlled the midfield. We were down but I had hope and that’s all I want during a game.

So, the United States has never won when conceding the first goal in a World Cup game. Portugal has never lost when scoring the first goal. But, I thought, maybe today will be a day of firsts. And then the water break happened. While technically legal under certain conditions, it was the first water break in the history of the World Cup. So, it was a day of firsts. Maybe it would continue.

That’s a superstitious notion at best but then Jermaine Jones’s shot happened, curling into the side netting from outside the box. We were level. I had hope.

Now I’ve always balked when a manager is praised for making a substitution. Alex Ferguson would often be praised as a tactical genius for substituting one world class soccer player for another world class soccer player. But when Jurgen Klinsman subbed DeAndre Yedlin into the game, he injected some pace down the right side. On one of his runs he sent a cross into the box that went to Bradley, then over to Zusi who crossed to Dempsey who scored the go ahead goal with his stomach.

Yeah, his gut. Clint Dempsey is my hero.

Everyone in the bar where I was watching screamed. We weren’t going to draw Portugal, we were going to beat them. We were going to beat them and move into the knockout round! This was a miracle.

After 90 minutes, my girlfriend asked me when it would end. I pointed to the plus five next to the time. Five minutes of injury time. Chris Wondolowski dribbled down the line to the corner. Keep wasting time. This is happening.

And then 30 seconds from time… a cross from Ronaldo, a header from Valera into the back of the net. It was surreal. Everyone who had screamed for the goal moments earlier was now silent. Even the Portuguese didn’t celebrate. Had that just happened? Was it offside? Does that count? What’s going on? It started to sink in, though. Yeah, that just happened. That gut shot of a goal just happened. “All we have to do is tie Portugal.” Well, we did, and it fucking sucked.

So, now it’s Germany. Our coach is a German legend. Some of our best players, including John Brooks and Jermaine Jones, were born and raised there. I suppose it had to come down to this. It was always the group of death. We knew that before the tournament even started.

And, hell, I just have to say it: All we have to do is tie Germany and we’re through!

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