Portugal 1-1 United States
A young and inexperienced American side looking for hope following the disastrous 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign put Portugal to the test in their final match of the calendar year in Leiria.
Debutante Weston McKennie scored an impressive goal to give the visitors a deserved first half lead.
Though Portugal improved in the 2nd half, it must be said that the outcome might have been different were it not for a howler by Ethan Horvath. Fernando Santos will have been given plenty to think about after watching his own experiment falter against the athleticism and physicality of the Americans.
Braga's Ricardo Ferreira was given his full debut and Santos opted for a speedy attacking trident with Gelson and Bruma complementing Gonçalo Guedes. Antunes took over for Kevin Rodrigues at left back while Sporting's Bruno Fernandes pulled the strings in central midfield.
The visitors pressed high early on and forced several miscues that Portugal were a bit fortunate to escape from without incident. Both sides struggled for rhythm in the passing game with youthful exuberance all over the pitch yielding some lack of composure.
Antunes' excellent cross from the left was cut out by Lichaj with Gelson lurking at the back post in the 7th minute. But Portugal were dealt a blow when Pepe sustained an injury to his right foot, forcing Santos to introduce Luis Neto in only the 10th minute.
Bruma mishit a presentable chance at the back-post set up by Danilo's cross while at the other end Juan Agudelo fired well wide of Beto's right hand post from long range. Beto smothered Adams' shot after good work by C.J. Sapong down the left as the Americans signaled their intent.
The opening goal quickly followed as Weston McKennie easily cut inside Ferreira to open his international account on his debut for the senior side with a routine finish.
But Portugal equalized ten minutes later when the American keeper, Ethan Horvath, somehow let Antunes' cross squirm underneath him and into the back of the net. Manuel Fernandes was next to test the young shot-stopper with a dipping effort from 25 yards.
Horvath offered up another chance for Portugal in the 39th minute when Danilo seized onto his poor distribution, but his blushes were spared when the Porto midfielder directed his shot straight into the keeper's mitts.
The visitors probably should have taken the lead minutes before halftime when John Brooks arrived ahead of Beto to meet a corner, but the referee spotted a minor and unnecessary foul by Matt Miazga. Rather unlike the first half against Saudi Arabia four days prior, the Seleção were fortunate to still be on level terms at halftime. Tactically and physically Portugal were lacking.
Gonçalo Paciência made his Portugal debut after the break with Gelson making way. But Portugal made no discernible improvement in the early going and Beto made a spectacular flying save to deny a Tyler Adams header after Ferreira allowed a cross from the right to get beyond him.
Beto was called upon yet again minutes later to stop an outside of the boot shot from Eric Lichaj at his near post. The resulting corner kick was thudded against the crossbar by Weston McKennie in a manic spell for Portugal.
As Portugal struggled for balance, Bruma gained a yard of space to fire in a shot that substitute keeper Hamid easily gathered in the 56th minute. Fernando Santos introduced Bernardo Silva and Ruben Neves minutes later to wrestle back control of midfield.
Steadily Portugal regained some composure and Paciência rattled the woodwork after being teed up by Bernardo Silva in the 69th minute. But Portugal still looked vulnerable on set pieces, and Beto produced a spectacular kick save to deny Carter-Vickers at point blank range to keep the score deadlocked at 1-1.
Antunes warmed the keeper's mitts with a drive from range as both sides worked hard for the winner. Rony Lopes was given his debut and very nearly laid one on a plate for João Mário in the 87th minute only for Hamid to gather at his feet.
But Portugal could not find the right combination of passes to overcome the visitor's determination and were perhaps lucky to come away with a draw in the end. Bernardo Silva's introduction elevated Portugal's threat considerably and Paciência probably should have at least hit the target with his lone chance of the game, but the result was inevitable as Portugal never found a consistent passing rhythm.
Ricardo Ferreira and Neto struggled at the heart of defence after Pepe's injury and Nelson Semedo, despite playing quite well for Barcelona, was caught out at crucial moments even while revealing his attacking threat on occasion. On this evidence, Santos' decision to not include a No9 in the first half will surely be considered a failure as Portugal's attacks lacked a focal point.
Meanwhile Beto made good use of his opportunity, showing his athleticism to hold the result for Portugal early in the second half when the defence was all at sea.
With half of the season yet to play, Santos will certainly have time to patch up the holes and round out the World Cup squad, but it must be said the likes of Cédric, Ronaldo, William, and Adrien were greatly missed tonight.
by Nathan Motz
Portugal: Beto, Antunes, Ferreira, Pepe (Neto, 10'), Nelson Semedo (, 62'), Danilo (Neves, 62'), Bruma (Bernardo, 62'), Gelson (Paciência, 46'), Manuel Fernandes (, 56'), Bruno Fernandes (João Mário, 46'), Gonçalo Guedes (Lopes, 81')
USA: Ethan Horvath, DeAndre Yedlin, Matt Miazga, Tyler Adams, John Brooks, Weston McKennie, Eric Lichaj, Juan Agudelo, C.J. Sapong, Danny Williams, Kelllyn Acosta
[0-1] Weston McKennie, 21'
[1-1] Antunes, 31'