Two games into the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Sounders FC forward and U.S. National Team captain Clint Dempsey has played a vital role in securing four points as America continues its quest toward the Round of 16.
He opened the tournament with a goal just 30 seconds into a 2-1 win over Ghana. On Sunday he scored his fourth career World Cup goal in the 81st minute to give the U.S. a 2-1 lead over Portugal, only to see it negated by a Portuguese equalizer in stoppage time for a 2-2 draw.
“We put in a good performance. I thought we played better than last game – I thought we moved the ball better and created more chances. Just unlucky not to get three points,” Dempsey said in a postgame interview with ESPN. “But at the end of the day we got a point and we’re looking good in the group.”
Playing as a lone striker in a 4-5-1 formation, Dempsey was a threat throughout the first half after the U.S. fell behind in the fifth minute on an opportunistic goal by Nani. He very nearly equalized on each of his four first-half shots and almost set up goals on two other occasions.
Then he was kept relatively quiet in the second half, but was thrust to the forefront in the 81st minute. Jermaine Jones netted a 64th-minute equalizer, setting the stage for a dramatic goal late in the match.
DeAndre Yedlin, who made his World Cup debut in a late substitute appearance on the right side of midfield, charged to the endline and crossed for Dempsey in the middle of the box. The ball was deflected away to Michael Bradley for a shot, but that too was deflected wide to Graham Zusi, who crossed back to Dempsey for a chested goal and a 2-1 U.S. lead.
Although Portugal was able to even the tally with a goal in the final moments of the match, U.S. Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann chose to use the momentum from the comeback as the biggest takeaway from the match.
“That’s what we’re going to build on. We’re going to take a lot of confidence now into the next game and it’s going to be another final, but that’s what the World Cup is all about,” Klinsmann said. “We just go at it the tougher way. We’ve got to get a result against Germany and that’s what we’re going to do.”
The U.S. will be faced with similar challenges against Germany, as Jozy Altidore remains a question mark with a hamstring injury, continuing to limit Klinsmann’s options at forward alongside Dempsey.
Thursday’s match with Germany kicks off at 9 am PT and will run simultaneous to the Portugal-Ghana match. A win or a draw for the U.S will assure advancement while a loss will require help in the Portugal-Ghana match.