MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Did you miss Sunday’s action-packed game between the United States and Cristiano Ronaldo?
I know some of you must be scratching your head asking what I mean by that.
Basically, the U.S. squared off against the world player of the year and his Portuguese roster fillers (that is all they are) in a match that has me at a loss for words.
I’ll run you through the game.
Coming off a huge victory over Ghana, the U.S. team had to work on reeling in the emotion and gaining exposure to face off against the most dynamic player in the world -- Ronaldo.
Our team was by no means the favorite in this game against the Portuguese who were, at the time, ranked number four according to FIFA standings.
There are a few key points to understand about how critical this game was.
1: Portugal had just come off a very humbling defeat by the Germans and was looking for an easy win to get their cup run back on track. A loss would mean elimination from the tournament all together.
2: With a win, the U.S. would clench a spot in the next round of the World Cup.
3: I bet my Portuguese neighbor the U.S. would either win or draw, or else I would wash his car.
The stakes could not have been higher.
So the match began, and things are looking a bit rough for Uncle Sam’s soldiers, but they tried to settle in and play the game.
Jeff Cameron, right defender for the U.S. hit the self-destruct button in the fifth minute.
A poor clearance attempt placed a gift-wrapped ball at the feet of Portuguese right midfielder Nani who slotted the ball past goalkeeper Tim Howard.
But what happened after that was so encouraging, so patriotic, so American, I couldn’t believe my eyes.
The U.S. took the game to the Portuguese.
Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t have the ball for more than a second before being surrounded by at least two American players and every U.S. fan in the stadium booing him with all of their might.
The combined effort forced Ronaldo to do something he hasn’t had to do in a long time … pass the ball.
Wave after wave of development and attack from midfielder Michael Bradley, combining with Jermaine Jones in the center put the opposition on its heels.
The retaliatory strike was sure to come at any moment ... and it did.
Jermaine Jones decided two years was long enough without a goal and struck the ball so hard and so precisely, officials should have checked his boots for laser guided technology.
After almost tearing out the back of the net, the U.S. was back in the game with over 30 minutes of play left and the momentum to take the entire game.
Fun fact of the day – If you wanted a Jermaine Jones jersey last week it would have run you about $112. Today it would cost you $172.
U.S. forward and team captain Clint Dempsey lived up to his new nickname, “Captain America” by scoring again for the U.S. after a cross from Graham Zusi.
With the clock winding down and the game past regulation time, the win looked almost certain.
Cristiano Ronaldo chose to use the very last position of the game to send in a cross to striker Silvestre Varela who would head the ball into the goal and bring the game level at 2-2 in the 95th minute.
The game was over. The U.S. was stunned. The crowd was stunned. I was stunned.
The soccer gods are cruel.
So, where does this leave the U.S. on their march to glory?
With a win or draw against Germany, the U.S. would move on to single elimination round of the World Cup.
With a loss to Germany, the fate of the team rests on the outcome of the Ghana vs Portugal game.
I won’t even begin to break down the different results that could potentially knock the U.S. out of the tournament, because they are numerous and make my head hurt.
Basically, the U.S. needs to play well against Germany to advance to the next stage. Period.
People said we couldn’t beat Ghana and we did. People said we would get creamed by Portugal and we didn’t. Now people are saying we don’t have a chance against Germany.
Seems to me people have been wrong about this U.S. team at every turn.
I think all we need to do is tune in today and watch for ourselves.
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