It is the fifth and final minute of stoppage time, your team is leading the game 2-1, and a win would be enough to book your place in the knock-out round with one game to play, and you find yourself with the ball at your feet near the middle of the field. What to do now should be a simple decision and the fact that Michael Bradley made the wrong one on Sunday against Portugal has many blaming him for the fact that the United States tied a game that they really should have won.
Bradley, instead of putting the ball towards the corner to kill off the closing seconds of the game took what seemed like a rather leisurely dribble in to the middle of the field. His trip to the middle of the field came as a result of a bad first touch on a pass that Bradley would normally be able to control. It was by no means a good pass to Bradley but it was one that he would be expected to do better with given his skill level. Once the pass bounced off him he did manage to get it back but was quickly disposed as a trio of Portuguese players had now been able to close him down. Once Portugal had the ball it was a simple pass to Christiano Ronaldo on the wing, a cross in to the box to Velera, and a tie game just before the final whistle.
It seems that thanks to this one mistake Bradley is going to wind up being the fall guy for the United States on the day. After a sub-par performance against Ghana he did look much sharper against Portugal and found himself involved in a couple of different attacks. He could have had his name on the score sheet twice but once again had an effort cleared off the line by a defender.
Bradley also got involved in the buildup that would eventually lead to Clint Dempsey putting the US up 2-1. It was Bradley's shot that was blocked by a defender into the path of Graham Zusi who was able to control the ball and pick out Dempsey at the back post.
For over 90 minutes it was a solid outing for Bradley and there would be no need for anyone to criticize his performance today if Portugal had not come down and scored that last gasp equalizer. One bad play and suddenly you can find US fans calling for Bradley to start on the bench against Germany with the Americans needing at least a point to ensure they reach to round of 16.
It is easy to blame Bradley for the result because it stands out when your country's best player is not playing at anywhere near his normal level. The problem was that even on the final goal it was not all Bradley's fault. The pass to him in the first place was a poor one and then the Americans had more than enough bodies back to be able to deal with the counter. There were three white shirts in the area and not one of them managed to get tight to the only Portuguese attacker as he was allowed to hit an open header. The play started with a mistake by Bradley but with some better defending that mistake would not have cost the Americans so dearly.
Despite not playing near his best soccer Bradley still has a chance to help the Americans reach the next round. A win or a tie against Germany would assure them of a place in the final 16. If they fail to get that result it will all come down to what happens between Ghana and Portugal. If those two teams tie they would both be out but if one of them comes away with the full three points it would then come down to goal difference between the winner of that game and the loser of USA-Germany. The US do currently hold the edge on goal difference with their +1 while Ghana are a -1 and Portugal sit at -4 and have a very steep hill to climb.
Germany-USA will be an interesting one to watch as both teams would be through with a draw but it seems unlikely that the Germans would be happy to settle for sharing the points when winning the group could lead to a much easier match in the first knockout round as the second place team in the group will most likely wind up meeting Belgium. The advantage to finishing second in the group is that it would potentially delay meeting up with Brazil until the final but that is looking way too far down the road for a tournament as crazy as this one has been.
We will know the fate of the Americans, and all the teams in Group G, come Thursday afternoon. Groups G and H are the last two to wrap up and will likely provide plenty of drama. The other Toronto FC player, Julio Cesar with Brazil, wraps up his group play on Monday as Brazil know that a win will be enough to claim to spot in their group and a date with either the Netherlands or Chile in the next round.