The United States may have under-performed in their opening win against Ghana, but that is not something that could be levelled at them following their clash with Portugal. Unfortunately, the result didn't follow suit.
Team USA were seconds away from securing their World Cup progression, having fought back from a goal down to lead 2-1. Silvestre Varela's last-ditch equaliser may have meant a result is needed against footballing giants Germany on Thursday, but this showing was a huge improvement on what had gone before. Rather than sitting in and defending a lead as they could in their first match, Jurgen Klinsmann's men had to go out and fight for the victory - and very nearly earned it.
A reliable spine has been evident in both games, with Tim Howard, Matt Besler, Jermaine Jones and Clint Dempsey posting superb performances. That Sporting Kansas City defender Besler can be mentioned alongside such names says an awful lot about the increasing standard of Major League Soccer. Never having played outside of the division, the 27-year-old is consistently one of the best centre-backs in the country and will still be in his peak when the World Cup cycle comes around again.
Elsewhere on the pitch, Fabian Johnson and DaMarcus Beasley remain impressive going forward but susceptible to weak defending - much like understudy DeAndre Yedlin. Alongside Besler in the centre of defence Geoff Cameron's performance levels have ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous, and the Stoke City man is perhaps fortunate to have kept a starting place from younger pair John Brooks and Omar Gonzalez.
Michael Bradley is undoubtedly an incredible talent in midfield - and still only 26 - but he has not reached his usual high standards so far in this tournament. After a sloppy showing against the Ghanaians, he made a blistering start to the second match before fading in the second half and ultimately gifting the ball to the Portuguese midfield in the build-up to the leveler.
Kyle Beckerman, meanwhile, excelled in the first group game and collected many plaudits, but looked out of his depth against the European side. Another player to have spent his entire career in the MLS, he appeared to struggle against more technical orchestrators like Joao Moutinho and Raul Meireles. He - like Jones and Brad Davis - is probably coming to the end of his international career, but with Mix Diskerud and Julian Green emerging - and Graham Zusi and Alejandro Bedoya showing flashes of quality - there is cause to be optimistic.
The problem area for the Stars and Stripes is up front. Dempsey is always a goal threat, but Jozy Altidore's fitness concerns are the last thing Klinsmann needed after excluding Landon Donovan from the squad. It must also be of concern to the German that the Sunderland forward has shown worrying signs of carrying his poor club form onto the international stage. Much of the team's work relies on a quick, powerful forward, but with Altidore unavailable - or just misfiring - options are thin on the ground.
If the side fail to make it to the knock-out stage this will very much have been an opportunity missed, but unlike previous World Cup exits this could offer hope of a brighter future. The world's sport is finally getting there in the States. Where in 2010 the New York Post carried the headline "USA WINS 1-1", four years later there is a sense that the country is getting there in its enthusiasm and understanding of the game. Even president Barack Obama is behind them, tweeting "11 on the field, more than 300 million cheering them on."
Donovan may have been dropped and Altidore may be injured, but Team USA stand on the brink of something special.
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