The World Cup match between the United States and Portugal was a wild ride that sent American fans careening from one emotion to the next with no regard for their personal well-being. It opened with utter despair as Portugal knocked in an early goal off a U.S. miscue, then transitioned to relief as the U.S. tied the game in the second half, then jumped to elation as the U.S. took a 2-1 lead on a Clint Dempsey goal and appeared ready to advance out of group play, then turned to … to … whatever emotion is characterized by being dead inside for hours on end, after Portugal snatched the victory away with a goal in the last seconds of stoppage time. Brutal. Just brutal.
And I know it’s easy to play the blame game in situations like this. “Oh, he should have done this,” or “Oh, he shouldn’t have done that,” or what have you. I usually try to avoid this because a game is made up of thousands of tiny moving parts, and it’s kind of unfair to point to one and say “Yes, that was the reason,” when that moment only existed at all thanks to all the things that happened before it. But, with that said, I am making an exception here, because there was a solution that could have won the game for the United States, and no one is talking about it today even though it is so obvious.
The United States should have just kicked the ball really high to run out the clock.
Like, really, really high. Super high. So high that all five minutes of stoppage time ran off while the ball was in the air. Five minutes high, whatever that converts to in feet or meters. That way Cristiano Ronaldo couldn’t have gotten it and hit the last second cross that led to the tying goal. Because the ball would have been really high in the air and out of his reach. Then the United States would have won. You can’t kick a ball that’s really, really, really high in the air. Everybody knows that.
You know what? I feel like I’m not explaining this very well. I think some visual aides would help. (NOTE: Clint Dempsey has not been taken out of the game in these visual aides, because I think he’s probably a good really-really-high-ball-kicker and because I wanted to make a drawing where he’s happy and Cristiano Ronaldo is sad.)
Keep an eye on the clock. The clock is the key.
See? How easy was that?