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Not This Time, Ghana

Paolo Uggetti |
June 16, 2014 | 7:51 p.m. PDT

Staff Writer

Germany, 2006: The United States had achieved a surprising draw against Italy and needed a win against Ghana to advance to the knockout round. A 2-1 loss to Ghana ensued, and the Americans were eliminated.

South Africa, 2010: The United States advanced to the knockout round with an incredible last-second win over Algeria. Their first knockout match: Ghana once again. And once again, a heartbreaking loss to their nemesis was repeated. 

Brazil, 2014: Not this time, Ghana. Not on John Brooks's watch.  

John Brooks celebrates the late goal that gives the United States a dramatic win. (@SportsCenter/Twitter)
John Brooks celebrates the late goal that gives the United States a dramatic win. (@SportsCenter/Twitter)

It all began so perfectly, with Clint Dempsey scoring a goal off a throw-in 29 seconds into the match. A beautiful orchestra of touches to get around Ghana's defenders, who were completely caught off-guard, led to a bank shot of a goal bouncing in off the right post. The fifth-fastest goal in World Cup history--a positively stunning goal that unfortunately could not have been less indicative of how the rest of the game would go. 

The start may have been too perfect, and as shocking as it was incredible, the goal was short-lived. Ghana quickly settled into their boots and set the tempo to their liking. 

The rest of the half was all a downhill disappointment and rough trip back down to reality. Cross after cross, run after run, Ghana had multiple chances to equalize as the United States’ weak defensive back line could do little to combat the Ghanaians quickness and speed. Then, in an even worse turn of events, striker Jozy Altidore pulled his hamstring on an attacking run and had to be carted from the pitch.

Contributing to their demise, Jozy’s departure handicapped their attacking options as they vaguely tried to extend their lead. Losing the battle in the middle of the pitch, the Americans had no choice but to resort to a rather vain counter-attacking mode to supplant their hopes of a second goal. A badly needed second goal that is, as a goal by Ghana seemed to be on its away. 

The second half was more of the same. Errant passing and lackluster movement on the part of the USMNT continuously allowed Ghana to hold both possession of the ball and control of the pitch. A goal for the Ghanaian side seemed inevitable throughout the second half, but luck seemed to be on the American side. 

Somehow, someway, what Ghana had in possession, they lacked in execution. If not for goalkeeper Tim Howard’s solid performance and Ghana’s sudden lack of a finishing touch, this could have gotten ugly. In fact, a glance at the stats show just how dominating Ghana was. Twenty-one shots to the United States’ eight, and a lopsided 62-percent to 38-percent possession only told half the story as Ghana seemed to obtain a possessive monopoly on the ball. 

A ball that finally found the back of the net in the 82nd minute when Andre Ayew moved easily past the American back line, received a perfect back-heel pass, and equalized brilliantly for a Ghanaian squad deserving of a goal. Luck and their goalie could only take them so far; now the Americans needed a response.

ALSO SEE: Can Team USA Make It Out Of The Group Of Death? 

Down-trodden and disappointed, the USMNT had looked incredibly apathetic throughout the match. The inevitable goal only reinforced such feeling as they now looked defeated. Time was running out, and in a larger sense, their hopes of advancing to the Round of 16 were taking a deadly hit. Three points were needed, a simple tie would not suffice. 

Michael Bradley had looked uncharacteristically off in every facet of his usually sound game, Dempsey had disappeared after his sudden goal, and the rest of the starting squad looked incapable of creating any chance at a go-ahead goal. There was a sense that if a miracle was to take place, it would have to come in the form of fresh legs and an unlikely hero.

And it did. 

A half time substitution that took apparently injured center back Matt Beasler off the field for John Brooks proved to be a prophetic move by Klinnsman. But the sub that brought the architect of the second goal into the match was a bold move that worked to perfection. 

With Ghana seemingly dominating the game and looking poised to tie it up, Klinnsman brought in offensive-minded midfielder Graham Zusi to replace defensive-minded John Bedoya in the 77th minute. The message was clear: They were going for the win. 

Dangerous move or not, it certainly paid off. With four minutes left in the match, the Americans surprisingly won a rare corner. Sending all players forward was a risk in itself. A counter-attack goal was the last thing the team wanted to give up. But the corner kick was taken beautifully, right into the center of the box. Not too close to the net so the goalkeeper could control it, but not far enough to impede John Brooks from running in and using his head to give the United States the lead they would not surrender again. 

The corner kick taker? Graham Zusi.

via Bleacher Report
via Bleacher Report

 

Talk about an unlikely win. The United States had only four shots on goal. They scored two of them. I guess in this case, accuracy is better than consistency. 

Despite lacking a cohesive attack and displaying serious holes in the back, the Americans won in true American fashion. They were dominated, beaten and essentially finished. But they persevered. Unlike the Ghanaians, they made the most of their opportunities, and at the end of the day, that was the difference. 

So much was made about Landon Donovan’s absence from the World Cup roster, and many touted that his miraculous goal against Algeria should have been enough to earn him a spot. Through one game, however, it seems as though John Brooks has successfully replicated Landon’s magic and fulfilled his role by giving the USMNT yet another dramatic win. 

The third time was the charm against Ghana, and a win was a necessary result. But the work is not nearly over yet. Come Sunday, the United States has an important date with Portugal, who, although having struggled today against Germany, still has one of the best players in the world and are not to be overlooked. We can only hope that alongside better football, someone else will fulfill that role once again and place the United States in prime position to advance in the Group of Death. 

You can reach Staff Writer Paolo Uggetti here, or follow him on Twitter here



 

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