Soon after the United States blew its golden opportunity Sunday to advance to the knockout stages, Twitter was afire with US fans directing their frustration at midfielder Michael Bradley.
Bradley was the last American to touch the ball before Cristiano Ronaldo found Silvestre Varela in the US box for Portugal’s equalizing goal, keeping the Americans out of the knockout stages and giving Portugal a lifeline with the 2-2 draw.
Those fans need to look a lot closer at the entire play.
True, Bradley’s first touch was awful, and the turnover a thing of nightmares. But why was Varela allowed to streak into the US defensive third unmarked? A fresh player off the bench brought on to score and on the pitch for only 20 minutes left alone?
Fabian Johnson had a brilliant game. The left back’s efforts to get into the offensive third throughout the game gave Portugal fits. He won a number of corner kicks and delivered crosses. But somehow Johnson let himself fall asleep on Varela. Johnson, who’d covered more than six miles in the game, let the fresher Varela get five yards on him. No way could Johnson catch up.
No excuse for letting that happen so late in the game.
Not only that, but Johnson was so busy hustling to get back he never let Geoff Cameron know that Varela was streaking into the box unmarked.
Cameron, the American central defender who blundered clearing a cross that directly resulted in Nani scoring to give Portugal a 1-0 lead, never turned to look for Varela. When Cameron attempted to clear Ronaldo’s cross he casually tried to kick the ball away. Instead, Varela flew in with a header, startling Cameron, and evened the game.
Plenty of other players were caught in transition, unable to get back in time to help defend. Too many players pushed forward with no chance of getting back.
Now, the US has to hope they haven’t blown their chance of getting back to the knockout stages.