MANAUS, Brazil -- If the heat and humidity at Arena Amazonia wasn't draining enough for Team USA on Sunday night, then surrendering the equalizing goal so late into stoppage time definitely did the trick.
Only seconds from securing a spot in the round of 16, the Americans allowed a header by Varela five minutes into added time to lift Portugal into a dramatic 2-2 draw in the Group G encounter.
"Too long. Thirty seconds too long," goalkeeper Tim Howard said.
Actually, it was 39 seconds before referee Nestor Pitana of Argentina whistled the match after the Americans kicked off.
Their only consolation was that they still have another chance of moving on as they still have their World Cup destiny in their hands.
The Americans (1-0-1, four points) play Germany (1-0-1, four points) in Recife on Thursday. A win or a draw would clinch a spot in the knockout round. Portugal (0-1-1, one point) and Ghana (0-1-1, one point) face off Thursday at the same time. Both are still alive. However, should they tie, both the United States and Germany would advance regardless of their outcome.
Even if the Portugal-Ghana match yields a winner, Team USA could lose and still advance, as long as it has a better goal differential. Currently the U.S. is a +1, Ghana a -1 and Portugal a -4.
"We had one foot in the door, but there's a small bit of disappointment," said Howard, named man of the match Sunday. "We gave ourselves every chance to advance. We wanted to go into the last game with a chance and we do."
The match had plenty of twists. Portugal grabbed a fifth-minute advantage on a blunder by USA center back Geoff Cameron that was converted into a goal by Nani. The Americans rallied with a pair of second-half goals by Jermaine Jones and Clint Demspey, who pushed home an 81st-minute equalizer.
"Crazy game," midfielder Michael Bradley said. "We put so much into it."
Added Howard: "Football is cruel sometimes.
For most of the match, the U.S. held the great Cristiano Ronaldo in check, but he still made his mark in the waning seconds. Bradley lost the ball to Varela at midfield. It eventually was worked to Ronaldo on the right wing and he crossed the ball to Varela on the left side of the penalty area and the forward headed it home to stun the U.S. and give Portugal a lifeline.
"It's a bummer for a moment that you have to swallow," coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. "These finishes are very emotional for all of us, for the fans, the players and the bench. This is what the World Cup is about. You have to cross it off and move on . . . We're going into Recife very ambitious, with a lot of confidence."
The Americans started off giving Portugal a gift goal on a horrendous clearance by Cameron in the fifth minute. The ball went to the right to an unmarked Nani, who had Howard dead to rights and easily scored from 6 yards.
Team USA fought back, knotting it up on Jones' 26-yard blast after Portugal could not clear Graham Zusi's corner kick in the 64th minute.
"After a difficult start, the response and the commitment and the effort was incredible," Bradley said. "Difficult conditions and still we found a way to push through."
After the Portugal defense blocked shots by Zusi and Bradley, Demspey netted the rebound for a 2-1 advantage in the 81st minute.
"I just tried to stay onside and when the ball came across, just put it on my chest," Dempsey said. "I was happy that the linesman kept his flag down."