MANAUS, Brazil (USA TODAY) – It was about as pretty as a shiner below his right eye, but it didn't matter. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, especially with a result like this.
In the 81st minute, on a pinball series of plays, from Michael Bradley to Graham Zusi, Clint Dempsey found himself in front of the net. Then, with his right hip, he pushed the ball into the goal. It was awkward, but it didn't matter.
Dempsey, once again, had saved the day with his second goal in the tournament. But that euphoria was short lived. In the last touch of the ball, Varela saved Portugal's World Cup with his header to tie the game.
With the 2-2 draw, the USA has put itself in a favorable position to advance to the knockout round. Next the USA will meet Germany in Recife on Thursday in a game that will decide which two teams advance. Both have four points each.
If the U.S. ties Germany, the Americans will advance. If the U.S. loses the game, the Americans would have to rely on goal differential to advance. Portugal plays Ghana on Thursday and the U.S. has a +1 goal difference, ahead of Ghana (-1) and Portugal (-4).
The USA had been down 1-0 for 59 minutes, after Nani scored on an epic Geoff Cameron whiff. Tim Howard had proven himself time after time, especially with his outstretched left arm, and the rebound, that saved a sure goal.
The Americans had much of the momentum, and the fan support, but couldn't connect, until Jermaine Jones took matters into his own hands. In the 64th minute it appeared that Jones was tired of all this dilly-dallying, the just-miss rockets on goal.
With a nifty step around Nani (payback), he crushed a right-footed shot. Dempsey ducked, then then he cheered. Jones let out a roar. He had taken the game back for the Americans.
After conceding an early goal, the Americans didn't wilt in the hothouse of Manaus. They made Ronaldo pout and dive and they sweated out the remainder of the half until the final seconds.