United States' Michael Bradley reacts after his shot on an open goal was blocked by Portugal's Ricardo Costa during the group G World Cup soccer match between the USA and Portugal in Manaus, Brazil on June 22, 2014.
Martin Mejia—AP
June 23, 2014 5:12 AM EDT

Michael Bradley managed to accurately echo the disappointment of a nation. “Soccer can be a cruel game sometimes,” the 26-year-old admitted following Team USA’s exasperating 2-2 draw with Portugal on Sunday.

The American midfielder found himself uncomfortably in the limelight after his last-minute blunder allowed Cristiano Ronaldo to gain possession and swing in an inch-perfect cross to Silvestre Varela who headed in an equalizing goal.

If the World Cup can turn relative unknowns like John Brooks into a national hero in a matter of seconds, a pivotal error can just as easily turn a lauded player into a scapegoat — no matter how unfair the indictment.

“The ball popped up, and I was able to make a few quick steps and get there. It was tight and unfortunately I wasn’t able to make a good enough play to keep it for us or get a foul,” explained Bradley. “At that point the ball turns over and it’s up to us to deal with the situation.”

Despite the flub, Bradley insisted during a postgame interview that he was satisfied with his performance against the star-studded Portuguese squad.

“I put my heart and soul into every game, every time I step on the field,” said Bradley in response to a question from an ESPN correspondent. “I’m proud of that and proud every time I play, and there are certainly no regrets in my book.”

The American squad will face off against Germany in their final group match Thursday. A win or draw will guarantee them a place in the knockout stage of the World Cup, though they can still get through with a loss if the Portugal-Ghana game breaks their way.

Contact us at letters@time.com.

Read More From TIME

Related Stories

EDIT POST