US players regrouped quickly after draw with Portugal
By Kevin Baxter, Los Angeles Times
Dec 17, 2015 at 6:42 PM
SAO PAULO, Brazil (MCT) – In the aftermath of Sunday's tie with Portugal, many U.S. players described the final seconds as an emotional roller coaster, in which Portugal's last-minute goal denied the U.S. certain advancement to the round of 16 at the World Cup.
But U.S. midfielder Graham Zusi said Coach Juergen Klinsmann quickly took control of the situation by refusing to let the team sulk.
"He came into the locker room very positive, as always," Zusi said. "Obviously, we were pretty gutted at the end of that one but in hindsight, when you look back at it, we put ourselves in a great spot. Four points after two matches, I think any of us would've taken that.
"We obviously played a great match and he was trying to get our minds focused on that rather than what happened in the last couple of seconds."
Zusi said some of the team's leaders, whom he declined to identify, joined in with praise. So by the time everyone had showered and dressed, the focus had switched from an opportunity missed against Portugal to the one that still looms against Germany on Thursday.
"There (were) a lot of people chiming in and it was all great stuff," he said. "It would've been easy to hang your head. But I think the guys did a great job taking the positives out of what we could have."
With Costa Rica winning its group, Mexico finishing second in its group and the U.S. and Honduras still alive with one group-play game remaining, it already has been a great World Cup for teams from the often-overlooked North American and Caribbean confederation.
But Zusi said that shouldn't come as a surprise given that the hot and humid weather in Brazil is something most CONCACAF teams have faced in Cup qualifying.
"It's obviously a hot place to play and CONCACAF teams are used to that," he said. "That could be or it could not be. I don't have a direct theory on that.
"I think the CONCACAF (teams) are gaining quite a bit of respect in this tournament."
Defender DaMarcus Beasley, who has started both of the U.S. games in Brazil, is the first American to play in four World Cups. But that subject, as well as every other subject, is something he hasn't addressed since he has observed a one-man media boycott.
Beasley, 32, did talk to a representative of U.S. Soccer about his record-setting achievement, which he says he's trying to take in stride.
"I'm not so much into individual accomplishments," Beasley was quoted as saying.
He has taken special memories away from each of the tournaments in which he has appeared, though.
"In South Korea, the stadiums, the atmosphere, the hotels ... everything was one of a kind," he said. "They built all those hotels right before we got there. It was crazy. The support that Korea had, and to play the host country was pretty cool.
"In 2006 we didn't do as good as we planned, we had another tough group and didn't set off on the right foot. In 2010, it was different for me, looking on the outside of it. I didn't play as much as I wanted to. Every World Cup is different. But at the same time, it's been great to be a part of every single one."
As for the toughest World Cup game he played in, Beasley singled out the group-play tie with co-host South Korea in 2002.
"The whole stadium was red," he said. "We couldn't hear each other, it was so loud. I think anybody would say that any time you play the host country of the World Cup, it's going to be amazing. So that was a very memorable game."