The choice to play without a striker
Jurgen had a big choice to make without a healthy Jozy Altidore, and opted to throw Graham Zusi in and push Dempsey forward as the lone striker. Dempsey obviously is not an out and out striker so the decision left some question marks. In the end, it seemed to work out. Deploying an extra body into the midfield helped the US maintain possession (something that never happened in the Ghana match) and allowed them to stretch Portugal by constantly working the right wing. Equally important was the fact that the trio of Moutinho, Veloso, and Meireles were largely contained. Sitting Jermaine Jones deeper and centrally, as opposed to the left side where he was against Ghana, proved vital.
Tim Howard. Fabian Johnson. Clint Dempsey. Jermaine Jones.
A section devoted to our standout players. Firstly, Timmy Howard. TIMMY HOWARD. How he does what he does, I have no clue. He was immense throughout the match, just as in the Ghana match. There was nothing he could do either goal, but his save on Eder's shot in the first half is the save of the tournament so far. On to Fabian Johnson, who was an absolute beast down the right side. He was making brilliant, intelligent runs down the wing and behind the defense. He really should have had an assist on the basically open net chance that Bradley had. Clint Dempsey. Is he maybe the greatest American player of all-time, not Landon Donovan? Another big goal for Deuce today. And finally, Jermaine Jones. That's a player who leaves it all on the field. Once again he was flying around the pitch making tackles and added a goal that no one saw coming. As our Zac McPhee said on twitter, the tournament had been waiting for its first thunderbolt goal.
For Portugal, it was another very disappointing performance. Ronaldo was off throughout the match until his (admittedly) world class cross for the equalizer. Their midfield trio was not able to dominate as they should have either. This is a team full of good players, but they just seem unable to play well as a team for now. Injuries haven't helped, but there is no reason that this team should be struggling this much.
The feels. All of them.
There's just something about this USA team. If we thought Ghana gave us the full spectrum of emotions, this match expanded that and delivered punches all over the place. Geoff Cameron's absurd error in the 5th minute forced us to start the match in a depressed mood, but as USA got into the match, we started to feel better. Then Jermaine Jones did something Jermaine Jones isn't supposed to do, and we were elated. Clint Dempsey put us over the top. And Varela broke our hearts. It just seemed right that a wild match would take place in the jungle theater that is Manaus. We all thought City would cut years off our lives and now the US isn't helping. Would we have it any other way though? This has to be the most entertaining first two group stage games, across the entire tournament, in a long, long time. I don't remember the stat exactly, but this group stage (I believe) is on pace to have more goals than the entire 2010 World Cup. Amazing.
The US would have sealed a spot in the last 16 with a win, but a draw still keeps us in good shape. I'm not worried about Portugal advancing, it's Ghana. We'll need Portugal to step up and get a draw against the Black Stars. The group was essentially thrown into disarray when Ghana pulled off a 2-2 draw against Germany yesterday, and the Ghanaians put in a strong performance along with it. They could well run over this reeling Portugal side. Can't we just get President Obama to call Chancellor Merkel and organize a nice, gentle 0-0 draw that is mutually beneficial to both nations? On to you, Barack.
Bonus Sixth Though: Freedom, hot dogs, "soccer", bald eagles, Abraham Lincoln. These are all great things.