Hardly a word was uttered as fans exited Seattle’s Fuel Sports Bar on Sunday evening. Just minutes earlier, beers were being tossed in the air out of excitement.
Sunday’s match was an emotional roller coaster, but Americans should be pleased with its outcome.
The United States finished in a 2-2 draw with Portugal, one of the world’s highest-ranked teams. And for a good portion of the 90-plus minutes, the Americans controlled possession and created quality chances.
Had Graham Zusi not taken his time during a substitution, the U.S. would be alone at the top of the “Group of Death.”
Was just told slow Zusi sub added 1 extra minute of time. Was 4' then 4th official changed board when he walked slowly. #USA— Taylor Twellman (@TaylorTwellman) June 23, 2014
Nevertheless, Clint Dempsey and company are displaying the progress American soccer has made in recent years.
Dempsey’s go-ahead goal was a combination of four MLS players. DeAndre Yedlin played the ball to Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), whose shot deflected to the feet of Zusi, the Sporting Kansas City midfielder who assisted Dempsey. A Sounders FC player started and finished the goal.
Elsewhere at the World Cup, three MLS players are part of Costa Rica’s surprising success, plus keeper Julio Cesar (Toronto FC) and forward Tim Cahill (New York Red Bulls) have exceled for their respective countries.
MLS is not as represented in Brazil as the top European leagues – where the majority of Portugal’s starters play – but the gap is shrinking.
This World Cup is also doing wonders for the popularity of soccer in America. ESPN has dedicated its summer to the tournament, and the volume of goals and lead changes has created non-stop drama.
The U.S.-Portugal match had a larger American audience than the World Series or N.B.A. Finals http://t.co/igyPeGN770— The New York Times (@nytimes) June 23, 2014
The most drama-filled day will be Thursday, when the Americans and Germany battle for first place in the group. Jurgen Klinsmann will coach against his native country in what could be a matchup of heavyweights in the coming decades.
Even if Sunday’s heartbreaker ends up dooming the U.S., soccer in America appears to be on the upswing.