For the last 15 minutes, the United States had more in the tank than Portugal did.
Jürgen Klinsmann sent in 20-year-old DeAndre Yeldin, to provide fresh legs, just as the astute Taylor Twellman in the ESPN booth had suggested he should, and the youngster moved the ball to set up Clint Dempsey’s go-ahead goal.
In the closing seconds of stoppage time, the legs – and the minds – deserted them. The ball squirted loose from Michael Bradley and the defenders could not keep the ball away from Cristiano Ronaldo on the flank. But any one of three defenders – somebody, pick a number – could have shut down Varela, the only red jersey heading to the box. Three large defenders, three spectators, one header, and Portugal drew the USA, 2-2.
For the second straight game, Klinsmann made a great late substitution – John Brooks for the game-winning header against Ghana, Yeldin for the time-killing and aggressive move against Portugal.
But the USA did not win, and now the players will have to live with it on a brutal ride back to their base before Thursday’s match against a more rested Germany. Any talk of a potential waltz between Germany’s Joachim Löw and the USA’s Klinsmann, good friends and colleagues, will have to wait.
For now there is only the hangover feeling of a superb rally and a last-second giveaway. But before that, there was the superb dribble and hooking shot by Jermaine Jones that got inside the post. I love his swagger and his shoulders, and seeing him blast that goal was like watching Charles Oakley, the old New York Knicks enforcer, dunk from the foul line. Not supposed to happen, but it did.
One more thought: this is a great World Cup, isn’t it?
David Vecsey's sweet tale of distant love before the Web, now NYT Podcast, narrated by Griffin Dunne. Please see:
George Vecsey is Hofstra University's Alumnus of the Month! Read a Q&A with George here.