'Heartbreaking' is an overused term in sports, because awful sport occurrences aren't usually equatable with the end of relationships or the loss of loved ones. If you started to tell someone about how heartbreaking it was to break up with your significant other and they responded with "I know how you feel, I just watched the Yankees blow a lead in the 9th inning last night," you would punch them in the face, because anyone who has their heart broken by June baseball is a dickhead.
But a 95th minute equalizer in the World Cup? With the United States throwing away a lead against Portugal, the team that possesses the greatest footballer on earth? That's a genuinely heartbreaking sports thing. It's okay to call that heartbreaking, because given the bizarre nature of the game, no one could have seen any of it coming. Absolutely nothing that happened in that game should have happened, and any outcome would have been acceptable ... except that one. That outcome sucked, especially since the last USMNT game was as sane and believable as they come.
Portugal scores stunner
The United States' performance against Ghana really couldn't have been more American. It was a typical USMNT match in every way, from the surprising early goal, to the nerve-wracking nature of everything that came after, to the late winner that looked a bit undeserved to neutrals and like downright robbery to Ghanians.
Maybe John Brooks' goal was a bit shocking, but the fact that it came on a set piece wasn't, and Clint Dempsey would have been anyone's pick to put the U.S. on top in the first half. From blood to broken noses to brilliant Tim Howard saves, it was everything we've come to expect from the United States and their players.
Sunday's game was anything but.
The early goal? Okay, we've seen that before, but it didn't come from the source anyone would have expected. Instead of coming off an error from Fabian Johnson, who is mostly in for his attacking prowess, or DaMarcus Beasley, who isn't a left back, or Matt Besler, the relatively inexperienced MLS-lifer with a dodgy hamstring, it came off a botched clearance from Geoff Cameron. He's a two-year Premier League starter and he's spent time as an attacking midfielder during his career, but Nani was gifted the opener on his horribly missed touch.
Portugal scores in final seconds to save draw
Clint Dempsey's goal with less than 10 minutes to play looked to be the winner, but Silvestre Varela broke American hearts with a stoppage time equalizer.
Portugal should have scored again in the first half thanks to a horrible error by Tim Howard, who recovered to make a world-class save that was only necessary because of his uncharacteristic mistake. Howard made an awkward whiff on a shot that he should have turned wide for a corner quite comfortably, and that he does push clear 99 times out of the 100 that it comes at him.
Jermaine Jones' equalizer was his third goal for the United States and his first in over two years. His other two didn't even come in World Cup qualifying -- they were scored in the 2011 Gold Cup and in a 2012 friendly. And it wasn't just a goal, but a screamer. A glorious 30-yard rocket that no one could have seen coming. Earlier United States shots from outside the box hadn't missed by much, but if one was finally going to beat Beto and hit the back of the net, no one would have put their money on Jones scoring it.
The go-ahead goal came from an even more unlikely source. Dempsey finished it off, but the bulk of the move came from DeAndre Yedlin, seemingly a defensive substitution. The 20-year-old Seattle Sounders right back came on to replace Alejandro Bedoya at right midfield, and in the exact type of situation those who still advocate for Landon Donovan's inclusion in the USMNT would want him for. Tied in the second half against a big European side, the United States would typically look to experience, but Jurgen Klinsmann looked to a blazing fast youngster with a great right-footed cross. It paid off with a ball into the box that Graham Zusi eventually found Dempsey with, giving the United States the lead.
Then, the gut-punch equalizer. All the United States had to do to kill off the final 30 seconds of the game was boot the ball into the corner, but Michael Bradley, the player Klinsmann has built his team around due to his intelligence and technical ability, tried to get cute. He tried to dribble his way out of trouble in a dangerous spot when any long ball would do, and his turnover led directly to Cristiano Ronaldo getting the ball and crossing to Silvestre Varela for the goal. If the USMNT could have the ball at anyone's feet in that situation, they'd want it at the feet of Bradley, and he made a horrible mistake.
A draw is not a disaster for the United States. There are more final-day scenarios that send them through to the knockout stage than scenarios that eliminate them from the tournament. And in the end, it was probably the fairest possible result. They wouldn't have conceded the two goals Portugal scored on another day, but they wouldn't be able to duplicate the two they scored either.