Nobody ever said that getting out of the Group of Death would be easy for the U.S. National Team.
On Sunday in the USA's second match of the group stage, Sounders FC's Clint Dempsey and DeAndre Yedlin learned just how tough it would be. The Seattle duo both played a part in the go-ahead goal for the U.S. but had to settle for a 2-2 draw with Portugal when Varela netted the stoppage-time equalizer.
All eyes were on Dempsey in the Amazon Jungle city of Manaus, as U.S. Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann opted for a 4-5-1 formation with Dempsey as the lone striker while target forward Jozy Altidore missed the match with a hamstring strain. The Sounders FC forward delivered with a goal in the 81st minute to give the U.S. a 2-1 lead. The U.S. was moments away from clinching advancement to the knockout stage when Varela scored a header to end the match with a 2-2 scoreline, but that didn't diminish the efforts of Dempsey and Yedlin, who came on as a second-half substitute and helped in the build-up to the second goal.
Nani opened scoring in the fifth minute and Portugal held that 1-0 lead until the 64th minute. The U.S. threatened to equalize throughout the first half, with Dempsey leading the way with four first-half shots while also setting up two scoring chances for his teammates.
To no avail though, as the U.S. trailed 1-0 at halftime and finally saw its breakthrough in the 64th minute.
Graham Zusi played a corner kick into the box and it took a favorable deflection to Jermaine Jones at the top of the box. He took a touch to his right, then turned a brilliant shot inside the far post for his third career goal in 43 appearances for the U.S., evening the score at 1-1.
In the 72nd minute, Klinsmann brought on the Seattle native Yedlin to help seal the draw, but Yedlin instead helped set up the go-ahead strike.
In the 81st minute, Jones led Yedlin on a run up the right side and he carried it to the endline before crossing for Dempsey in the box. The ball was touched away by the Portuguese defense and to Michael Bradley, who played wide to Zusi on the left side. The Sporting Kansas City midfielder sent the ball back to Dempsey, who chested the ball in for his second goal of this World Cup and fourth in three World Cup tournaments, giving the U.S. a 2-1 lead and precious few minutes to keep it.
Then, with just seconds separating the U.S. from an assured spot in the Round of 16, the Americans lost possession in the midfield and fell victim to the vaunted Portugal counterattack. The ball went wide to Cristiano Ronaldo and the Ballon d'Or winner crossed to Varela behind the U.S. defense and he headed it past Tim Howard to make it 2-2.
After the subsequent kickoff, the referee blew his whistle to end the match and the U.S. goes into the final match against Germany on Thursday (9 am PT; ESPN) needing a win or draw to insure advancement.
Yedlin's appearance was his first in the World Cup and fifth overall with the U.S. National Team. The 20-year-old O'Dea High School and Sounders FC Academy product played 18 minutes, giving him 110 in five substitute appearances since making his debut on February 1 in a 2-0 win over South Korea.
Dempsey, who captains the national team, netted his fourth career World Cup goal and 39th in 107 caps overall.