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At halftime: Early defensive mistake haunts US against Portugal, but 1-0 deficit by no means a mountain – FOLLOW LIVE

Jun 22, 2014, 6:57 PM EST

Portugal AP

Story of the game:  The game started exactly the opposite of the US’s first game against Ghana, as Portugal struck first on a gift of a goal.

The US slowly built itself into the game, and by the 10th minute they were relatively on top, with Portugal content to defend and counter.

Portugal put together a few solid, dangerous counters, but the United States will be happy with how they found spaces in the Portuguese defense. Unfortunately, their accurasy passing or shooting was not exactly up to snuff, but they outpassed the Seleção over the course of the 45 minutes.

There’s much work to be done for the United States, but after the early goal, they are by no means out of this match.  A draw will be a positive result (somewhat), but they’re still definitely looking for the win.

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Goals:

5′ – A gut-punching moment for the United States, as a simple clear for Geoff Cameron gets flubbed and falls directly to Nani at the back end of the attack, and he pokes home easily.

Other key moments:

13′ – Fabian Johnson earns a free kick in a dangerous position atop the Portuguese box, and Clint Dempsey hits a venomous strike that skims just over the crossbar.

16′ – Portugal was forced to make an early change, as they lost another striker in Helder Postiga to injury. With Hugo Almeida down with injury after the first game, Eder was the man to come in.

18′ – The US – to no surprise – looked most dangerous from set pieces. A corner from Graham Zusi fell to Dempsey at the far post who tried a chip that again grazed just over the crossbar.

24′ – Again the US came close. Jermaine Jones picked out Michael Bradley trailing the play, and his shot from well out – again – skimmed just over.

28′ – The United States remained the more dangerous side in the past 15 minutes, and a Michael Bradley shot slow-rolled past a diving Beto, but also just past the post. Again close for the US.

39′ – Water break! The first ever?

42′ – Kyle Beckerman missed a tackle in the Portugal half, and Ronaldo broke with numbers. Nani’s howitzer was saved well by Tim Howard.

45′ – TIM HOWARD. The post stopped a first-time shot from Nani, and the follow-up from Eder looked destined to loop into the corner. However, Howard scampered over and got his fingertips to it, keeping the game at 1-0.

LINEUPS:

United States – Howard; Johnson, Cameron, Besler, Beasley; Beckerman, Jones; Bedoya, Bradley, Zusi; Dempsey.

Portugal – Beto; Bruno Alves, Pereira, A. Almeida, Costa; Veloso, Meireles, Mourinho; Nani, Ronaldo, Postiga (Eder 16′).

Goals: Nani 5′

Key players:

  • Clint Dempsey – The man to replace Jozy Altidore at the front, Dempsey was by far the most dangerous American attacker.
  • Fabian Johnson – The US right-back bombed down the right flank on numerous occasions, and was often in space. He received 25 passes from teammates, many of which led to positive buildups.
  • Joao Moutinho – 34 of 37 passing, and he was the clear creative force for Portugal in their midfield. He’s struggled defensively, however, completing just one of four tackles. The US may look to run at him on their attacks.

Numbers to know:

  • 9 – The number of shots the US took at Beto’s goal, more than they had all game against Ghana. Portugal had nine as well.
  • 31 – The number of attacking-third passes the US completed after the 10th minute.  Portugal had just 26.
  • 3 – Ronaldo’s touches in the Portuguese attacking third.

Questions for the second half:

  • Can the US find a way through the porous Portugal defense? There were some clear spaces in Portugal’s back four.  The US hasn’t made it all the way through just yet, but they came agonizingly close on a number of occasions.
  • Can the United States stand up to the Portuguese counter? After their goal, Portugal looked like they would be the most dangerous on the counter. Tim Howard made a few stunning saves to keep the game at 1-0, meaning the US will need to deal with the break better. It could be something they will need to risk going forward if they don’t get a goal early in the second half.

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