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Oh so close, Americans wilt at end in Amazon heat

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MANAUS, Brazil (AP) — They were less than 30 seconds away.

The Americans were about to romp into the round of 16 at the World Cup, about to walk off with their first come-from-behind win at soccer’s showcase. About to advance with a game to spare. About to win consecutive World Cup games for the first time since 1930.

But they wilted in the Amazon heat and humidity.

Varela’s goal on a diving header off Cristiano Ronaldo’s cross 4 1/2 minutes into five minutes of stoppage time gave Portugal a 2-2 tie Sunday on an exhausting night in the rainforest capital.

“It’s tough, but it’s just the way it goes,” U.S. captain Clint Dempsey said. “We’re Americans. I think we like to do things the hard way.”

Now the U.S. may need at least a point Thursday against three-time champion Germany to advance to the knockout stage. The Americans could clinch with a loss, depending on the result of the Portugal-Ghana game that will be played simultaneously.

“Somebody sent me a text: It feels awesome and awful at the same time,” U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati said.

Germany and the U.S. have four points each, but the Germans have a better goal difference. Portugal and Ghana have one point. All four nations remain alive.

Both the Americans and Germans would advance with a tie. U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann, a star for West Germany’s team that won the 1990 title, dismissed the notion that he would entertain trying to play a draw if asked by current Germany coach Joachim Loew, his assistant on his homeland’s 2006 World Cup squad.

“There’s no such call,” Klinsmann said. “There’s no time right now to have friendship calls. It’s about business now.”

The U.S. fell behind early for the fifth time in its last 12 World Cup matches when Geoff Cameron’s wayward clearance gifted Nani a fifth-minute goal.

Tim Howard made several tough saves to keep the U.S. close, and Bradley nearly scored in the 55th, but his 6-yard shot toward an open goal clanked off the knee of defender Ricardo Costa.

Jermaine Jones finally tied it in the 64th with an exquisite 28-yard shot tucked inside the far post. And Dempsey put the Americans ahead 2-1 in the 81st when Bradley’s initial shot was blocked and squirmed to Graham Zusi. He crossed for Dempsey, who let the ball bounce off his stomach and in for his second goal of the tournament and fourth of his World Cup career.

A screaming, pro-American majority in the crowd of 40,123 was ready to party late into the steamy night.

“We could all taste it. We could taste the second round. We were right there,” defender Matt Besler said,

Not quite.

Eder stole the ball from Bradley at midfield and made a short pass to Nani, who sent it up the field and wide to Ronaldo. The two-time world player of the year lashed a 25-yard cross into the box, and Varela beat Cameron to the ball, deflating the red, white and blue-clad fans.

Klinsmann called it “a little bit of a bummer.”

According to Jones, the American players took it harder.

Now it’s onto Recife. Nothing is decided.

They could move on. Or after all this, they could be sent home.

“We have one foot in the door,” the always-optimistic Klinsmann said. “Now we’re going to walk the second foot in there and get it done.”

Oh so close, Americans wilt at end in Amazon heat

KDWN

MANAUS, Brazil (AP) — They were less than 30 seconds away.

The Americans were about to romp into the round of 16 at the World Cup, about to walk off with their first come-from-behind win at soccer’s showcase. About to advance with a game to spare. About to win consecutive World Cup games for the first time since 1930.

But they wilted in the Amazon heat and humidity.

Varela’s goal on a diving header off Cristiano Ronaldo’s cross on the game’s last play gave Portugal a 2-2 tie Sunday on an exhausting night in the rainforest capital.

“We had one foot in the door,” goalkeeper Tim Howard said.

Now the Americans may need at least a point Thursday against Germany to advance to the knockout stage. They could advance with a loss, depending on the result of the Portugal-Ghana game that will be played simultaneously.

U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann called it “a little bit of a bummer.”

“Obviously we’re disappointed, but at the end of the day you’ve got to look at the positives: We got a point,” American captain Clint Dempsey said. “We put in a good performance. I thought we played better than the last game. I thought we moved the ball better. I thought we created more chances. Just unlucky.”

Germany and the Americans both have four points, but the Germans have a better goal difference. Ghana, which lost 2-1 to the U.S., has one point, as does Portugal.

Both the Americans and Germans would advance with a draw. Klinsmann dismissed the notion that he would discuss the match ahead of time with Germany coach Joachim Loew, his assistant on his homeland’s 2006 World Cup team.

“There’s no time right now for friendship calls,” Klinsmann said. “It’s about business now.”

The U.S. fell behind early, when Geoff Cameron’s wayward clearance gifted Nani a fifth-minute goal.

But Jermaine Jones’ exquisite 28-yard shot tucked inside the far post in the 64th minute and Dempsey’s goal off his stomach in the 86th, his second of the tournament and fourth of his World Cup career, put the Americans ahead 2-1. A screaming, pro-American majority in the crowd of 40,123 was ready to party late into the steamy night.

Then Varela beat Cameron to the cross, deflating the red, white and blue-clad fans.

“It was unfortunate,” Klinsmann said, “An amazing game, amazing performance by our guys. Nothing more that you can ask for. We just go it the tougher way. We’ve got to go and we’ve got to beat Germany, get a result against Germany, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Just like four years ago, the Americans relied on a late push. But they couldn’t sustain it.

Now it’s onto Recife. Nothing is decided.

“We are capable to surprise even more teams in this tournament,” Klinsmann said.

They could move on. Or after all this, they could be sent home.