USA draw feels almost like a loss

It was hot, humid, and…a hiccup for the U.S. men’s soccer team, which tied Portugal 2-2 in World Cup men’s soccer action in Manaus, Brazil, Sunday night.

USA had a victory in its grasp, and a berth in the next round of the tournament, but let it slip away on virtually the last play of the match, a Portugal cross and header into the back of the net.

“It was a pretty exciting game,” said Marietta College senior soccer standout Wes Riley. “It’s unfortunate that the USA team couldn’t pull it out.”

Added Marietta High boys soccer coach Todd Morris, “Soccer is a funny game. I thought the USA looked much better than they did against Ghana, yet they defeated Ghana and were only able to draw with Portugal. I thought the USA possessed the ball much better and had great success finding space and attacking down the flanks.”

Give Portugal credit, because the equalizer in stoppage time with less than a minute remaining was true clutch.

“Possession was key, as Portugal was sending 7-8 players forward in desperation, needing to score the equalizer or seeing their chance of advancing from the group eliminated,” Morris said.

When Portugal scored, the United States had to be steamed.

“The U.S. team is probably kicking themselves, because they had it won, but Portugal made a perfect play,” said Marietta High girls soccer coach Jeff Price. “But you know, before Portugal scored, I was upset at (Michael) Bradley for losing the ball. All he had to do was put it out of bounds.”

Morris agreed.

“The turnover by Bradley in the midfield that ultimately resulted in the tying goal – you hate to be critical and point out one insurance, but there is no need to turn that ball over there,” he said. “No need to try to beat a defender or make a move. A ball blasted down the field towards the Portugal end line would have essentially ended the game.”

Now, USA gets to play another showdown game – against Germany at noon Thursday. A win or a tie and America advances. A loss? Perish the thought.

“They’ve got to get over the draw against Portugal quickly,” Price said. “They’ll need to play its best game (vs. Germany).”

Added Riley, “Germany has always been an international powerhouse. It’s going to be a tough game.”

Speaking of heat and humidity….

How warm was it on the World Cup grill, er I mean pitch, in the USA-Portugal match?

Very.

Reportedly, some of the players thought they were less than a mile from the sun.

Thing is, Manaus, Brazil, is located along the Amazon River in the middle of the rainforest, only a couple of hundred miles south of the equator.

Amazingly, it is believed that there are tribes in the surrounding jungle who have no clue as to what a soccer ball is.

Seriously, the temperature at match time was very similar to Marietta, in the low 80s. The kicker, though, was the humidity, which was in the high 80s in Manaus, and in the high 50s in the Mid-Ohio Valley.

“It was the same for both teams,” Price said. “The heat didn’t seem to affect one team over the other.”

Morris added, “You could tell fatigue was starting to set in at the end.”

Give Warren boys head soccer coach Andrew Johnson a teddy bear. The Warrior boss was right on before the match even started with the final outcome – a tie. “I think this game will end in a draw for the USA,” Johnson said. “Replacing Jozy (Altidore) is not possible and he was just coming into form.

“I think we should make it to the round of 16 but as a whole the USA men’s team isn’t dynamic enough to make a run much deeper then that. They are missing that explosive player who can score when it’s crunch time. The men’s team has came a long way but not quite there yet to really challenge the Brazils and Hollands of the world yet. As a whole this World Cup has been great and I really enjoy seeing the different playing styles and looking how they can influence my (Warren) team and what I can learn from the tactics these world class coaches use.”

Warren girls soccer coach Ekrem Eksi and his daughter Lara are in Turkey, watching televised World Cup matches. According to Eksi’s wife Susan, they aren’t scheduled to return to the United States until July 6.

If you’ve been following World Cup soccer, the Columbus Crew is short-handed at the moment.

Two of the Crew’s players are competing in Brazil – and not for team U.S.A.

Defenders’ Giancarlo Gonzalez and Waylon Francis are both players on underdog Costa Rica’s national team, which is 2-0-0 in Group D with wins over two-time WC champion Ecuador and four-time winner Italy.

With its 1-0 triumph over the Italians Friday, Costa Rica eliminated England. The 6-foot-3, 185-pound Gonzalez has been a starter in the two matches, while the 5-9, 161 Francis has yet to play.

Defensively, Costa Rica plays a five-man back line.

As it looks now, the Costa Rica team will be advancing to the next round, the knockout phase of the tournament, no matter what it does against England, a WC champion in 1966, on Tuesday.

Depending on how Costa Rica fares in this Saturday’s knockout round match in Brazil, the earliest Gonzalez and Francis could be back in Columbus would be Sunday, June 29.

Defender Michael Parkhurst had hopes of going to Brazil, but the Columbus Crew captain got cut, along with Landon Donovan, from the U.S. national team in late May.

Currently on the USA team roster in Brazil is DeAndre Yedlin, who played two years of collegiate soccer at the University of Akron. The 20-year-old native of Seattle, Washington, did not play in America’s World Cup opener, a 2-1 triumph over Ghana.

Ron Johnston is the sports editor, and can be reached at 376-5441 or at rjohnston@mariettatimes.com