Thursday may be the only day that anyone except teenage girls in the United States praise Cristiano Ronaldo. The Ballon d'Or winner struck the winning goal in Portugal's 2-1 win over Ghana that sent the USMNT through to the Round of 16.
The team could also thank John Boye of the Black Stars for a horrific own goal that set Ghana back 1-0 early on in the game. But the saying of this World Cup has been "Survive and Advance" and that is exactly what the Americans did in Recife, Brazil.
After an overnight flood threatened pitch conditions and left fans drenched as they attempted to get to the stadium and take their seats, both teams took the field for the decider of Group G. With the news of Portugal's lead coming later in the match, the USMNT had a nervy start to its final game in the Group of Death.
The Americans repeatedly fended off attacks from Germany. Ranked No. 2 in the FIFA World Rankings—USA is ranked No. 13—Die Mannschaft sought out to prove why it is thought so highly of in world soccer. The Germans used slow build up play and selfless passing around the box to slowly erode the U.S.' defense, hoping for a break. Tim Howard was sensational in goal and denied multiple opportunities while Omar Gonzalez made his first start of the World Cup and had a solid showing for the USMNT.
Brad Davis also made his first start in Brazil and DaMarcus Beasley suffered as a result, with his new partner on the left typically making forays deep into the opposing half and neglecting to give Beasley defensive cover. But Kyle Beckerman, quickly cementing himself as a defensive star in this World Cup, was there to make up the extra ground and being the aggressor in midfield when Germany seemed to be getting too comfortable in the American's half.
But a breakthrough was imminent and, after a great save on Per Mertesacker's header, Howard was finally beaten by a Thomas Müller strike that sent many American's hearts into their throats. That goal would end up being the decider but Ronaldo gave the U.S. a reason to smile in the end. And with the USMNT moving on to the next round, Jürgen Klinsmann looks like a tactical genius for infusing this side with a healthy dose of both youth and experience.
Speaking of youth, let's get to what everyone in the MAC came to see: DeAndre Yedlin. The Akron product made another appearance for the Red, White and Blue and showed what MACtion is all about, speedy, smart play and last-minute heroics.
Coming on in the 82nd minute, the speedster from the Seattle Sounders once again injected pace into a otherwise lethargic U.S. squad. The previous game in Manaus, located on the edge of the Amazonian region in Brazil, took its toll on the American's, with weary legs and sloppy passing. But Yedlin really sped the game up and looked to make an immediate impact, pushing forward to the German's byline but overhitting his first time cross by a mile to the cynical looks from his opposition.
His next attack would prove more successful, as he poked the ball over to try and hit Clint Dempsey in stride, but the U.S. captain first touch leaves it behind for Alejandro Bedoya, who saw one of the few USMNT offensive pushes into Germany's defensive third.
The former Zip looks to be proving his worth on this World Cup roster, despite all the pundits and fans alike who gave him no chance of getting off the bench in Brazil. If Yedlin keeps performing like this, he might be in Klinsmann's mind to start on the right with Fabian Johnson going back to his natural left side and replacing a tired Beasley.
But let's not speculate quite yet. The Americans are through a group that few gave them a chance in and now face an offensive juggernaut in Belgium on Tuesday. But in a World Cup where Spain were eliminated in two games, France scored eight goals in two games and Luiz Suarez got the chance to enjoy the taste of Italian, who know's what will happen in the Round of 16?