To begin with, the United States and Portugal actually tied 2-2 on Sunday afternoon in the World Cup. With the way it ended, however, the match had the feeling of a loss. The United States’ Men’s National Team was less than 30 seconds away from guaranteeing themselves a spot in the World Cup’s second round. The USMNT was less than 30 seconds away from advancing from the “group of death” and declaring to the world that the US is not only getting serious about soccer, but it is getting better.
And then, with the clock running out in extra (injury) time, the best player in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo, sent a perfect cross pass to Silvestre Varela, who then headed the ball pass US Goalkeeper Tim Howard for the 2-2 tie. Fans of the Stars and Stripes when from the ecstasy of Clint Dempsey’s tie-breaking goal in the match’s 81st minute to the agony of Portugal’s last goal. To quote Charles Dickens, it was the best of times and it was the worst of times.
ESPN’s Bill Simmons has written several articles on what he calls “The Levels of Losing.” Mr. Simmons has painstakingly listed different levels of watching your team lose and provided examples. While this World Cup match officially ended in a tie, when Portugal’s goal went in, you almost couldn’t help but feel as if this match was a loss. And while a tie doesn’t necessarily ruin the Yanks’ chances at moving on, when a near certain victory is snatched away, the feeling is almost as devastating. Using Mr. Simmons’ classification, this game has to go down as a “Stomach Punch” game. The U.S. played so well, only to have one last second play take the sure victory away. Getting ready for the match against Germany is going to be tough to do with this game lingering. Hopefully, Clint Dempsey and company can mentally get past Portugal and focus on the Germans and propel themselves into the next round.