For 94 1/2 minutes, the U.S. transformed the peerless Cristiano Ronaldo into merely a cut above an everyday player. Not one of his shots was cause for alarm. Aside from the early pass that was poorly cleared by American defender Geoff Cameron and converted into a goal for Portugal, he contributed only marginally.
What a shame for the U.S. that the second half was extended by a rare five minutes. If Ronaldo, nagged by thigh and knee soreness, was pacing himself, he cut it mighty close.
Ronaldo's seeing-eye ball, sent on the run from the right flank, found the noggin of Varela in the box for Portugal's second score. The 2-2 tie maintained Ronaldo's relevance, if barely, at the World Cup as Portugal (0-1-1) kept a pulse.
Before then, Ronaldo at times seemed more a liability than an asset. Though never a dogged defender, he (and teammates) allowed the U.S., especially its fullbacks, to surge down the right side and generate inviting chances. At the other end, he was caught offside on three occasions.
The U.S. had loaded its lineup with midfielders, five in all, in part to congest the middle of the field, where Ronaldo is wont to roam. Rather than assign one player to mark him, the Americans crowded his space -- until the last foray, when he was allowed free rein up the sideline.
They neutered him for 94 1/2 minutes. They would take that any day, except when the match lasts 95.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times