Soccer is a cruel game

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Sunday around 5:30pm, feeling as patriotic as I ever felt, I got dressed up in all of the red, white, and blue apparel I could muster up from my wardrobe, grabbed our American flag, and ran around and out of my house waving the flag as I got myself, and as many other people as I could, pumped up for the U.S.’s match against arguably the best player in the world. Little did I know what would transpire in the next two hours would leave me feeling almost every emotion in the book.
“Soccer is a cruel game” was said many times in post-match interviews, after the US had seemed to have their ticket to the round of 16 booked late in the game against Portugal.
Going into the game, The U.S. looked pretty with Germany playing to a draw against Ghana the day before giving the U.S. a chance to win against a Portugal team missing key players like Pepe, suspended for a red card, Fabio Contrao, out the rest of World Cup due to injury, and Bruno Alvez who was a question mark going into the game but was deemed unfit before the match, putting them atop the group and more importantly giving them a guaranteed spot in the round of 16.
The setting was Arena de Amazonia in Manaus, a $300 million stadium and city located in the Amazon Rainforest. A hot and humid night that would undoubtedly leave both teams tired with only three days to recover before their next match.
The match could not have started more opposite of the Ghana game with the U.S. conceding a goal in the seventh minute off a miss-hit clear, made by the defender Geoff Cameron, which sent the ball across the box to a drooling Nani who was able to fake Howard into falling and hammer home the first goal. Soccer is a cruel game.
Continuing the opposite trend of the U.S.’s first game, The U.S. and Cameron were able to show their mental strength by recovering well by controlling the ball and not conceding another goal. They even looked like the better team after a mental lapse like that which can leave a defense and a team vulnerable.
The first half was coming to an end when, in total “American” fashion, the picture of the game went out. Not understanding what was going on and in a bit of a shock we waited patiently for the picture to come back on listening to the commentators tell how Portugal controlled the ending moments of the half. Soccer is a cruel game.
Ian Darke is a great commentator (and my all-time favorite), but resorting to the Spanish channel was the only option after losing all hope that the picture was going to come back on (except for commercials). We kept the TV in the other room on just in case the picture was to come back though.
The U.S.’s head coach, Jurgen Klinsman, worked some of his halftime magic and the boys in white came out of the halftime and played the remaining 49 of 50 minutes just right. They were able to control the pace of the game and attack with right back Fabian Johnson making wide runs up the field. Klinsman made all the right subs at seemingly the right times too.
I was still getting used to the commentators, who seemed to be placing a little bit more emphasis on Graham Zusi than on other players (Zusi scored a last second goal in the qualifiers that sent a hopeless Mexican team into the World Cup), when the equalizer finally came for the US in the 61st minute after a corner kick bounced out to Jermain Jones. He took a touch and fired it into the far lower corner leaving the keeper with no chance.
The Stars and Stripes was able to complete the comeback, following another World Cup trend, in the 81st minute when substitute DeAndre Yedlin was able to play low cross to the middle where Michael Bradley’s shot was deflected. The ball dribbled out to Graham Zusi all alone on the left side of the box. He fired another low cross in which Clint Demsey was able to chest into the goal.
The U.S. did all they could in wasting time from that point on. They were fending off the attacks of Portugal, taking the ball to the corner of the field, and making substitutions. They were doing anything to just get to that final whistle.
The clock couldn’t tick fast enough especially when the fourth official changed the added time from four minutes to five minutes because Zusi took too much time to get off the field when he was subbed out. Just like U.S.’s first game they were going to have to fend off an onslaught of offense coming at them for an extra five minutes, in other words, an eternity. Soccer is a cruel game.
 The game ended on a bad give-away from Michael Bradley in the midfield, which led to the best counter attacking team in the world to do what they do best; counter. The ball went wide to Cristiano Ronaldo, who had been quiet all night, and he was able to put a spectacular cross into the box finding the only Portuguese player in an area filled with five American defenders for a header that not only tied the game and keep Portugal alive in the group, but miraculously fixed the picture of the American ESPN broadcast.
Alexi Lalas’s face in the post-match show described everything so perfectly. A blank face with a jaw dropped. A face that did not know what expression to show caught between anger, sadness, enjoyment, and surprised adding up the shocked expression that all Americans wore on their faces in that moment.
I don’t know if you got the picture yet but soccer is a cruel game.
Thus being said, take yourself out of the moment and look at the big picture though. When the US was picked into the “Group of Death” who would have realistically put the US in a position in which they are one of the favorites of advancing heading into their last game?
Not even Klinsman would have believed that the U.S. would be in second after two games.
The USA is currently in second in the group with four points behind Germany who also has four points buts has the edge in goal differential. Ghana is in third with one point and -1 goal differential and Portugal is in fourth with a -4 goal differential.
After this “devastating” 2-2 result against Portugal, the U.S. still holds their own destiny of advancing and even holds aspirations of beating Germany, a team they feel they match up well against, and winning the group. So keep the party going, and more importantly keep the belief, for this drama and celebration is what the World Cup is all about.

(Seth Graham is a Kentucky Press Association summer intern for the Grant County News. He can be reached at 824-3343.)