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Dempsey at the gun, Brooks at the death deliver victory for the U.S., 2-1 over Ghana

Jun 16, 2014, 8:00 PM EST

NATAL, BRAZIL - JUNE 16: John Brooks of the United States (R) celebrates scoring his team's second goal with Fabian Johnson during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group G match between Ghana and the United States at Estadio das Dunas on June 16, 2014 in Natal, Brazil. Getty Images

The fastest goal in the team’s World Cup history looked like it would unrewarded, but thanks late heroics from a halftime substitute, the United States has its first opening game victory since 2002. Heading home a Graham Zusi corner in the 86th minute, 21-year-old John Brooks gave the U.S. a 2-1 win over the Black Stars, exorcising some lingering demons in the process.

The U.S. was eliminated by Ghana from the last two World Cups, with the Black Stars’ 2-1 in extra time at South Africa 2010 sending the nation to its first quarterfinal. On Monday, however, the U.S. led for 85 minutes, with only André Ayew’s 82nd minute equalizer giving the four-time African champions hope of salvaging a result.

That equalizer came after Clint Dempsey set a U.S. record 34 seconds in, finishing from just outside the six-yard box to give his team an early 1-0 lead. Four minutes before the end of regulation time, Brooks restored the U.S.’s advantage, giving the team its first perfect start since defeating Portugal at World Cup 2002.

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With Germany defeating the Seleccao earlier on Monday, the U.S. moves into a tie atop Group G, labeled by many as Brazil 2014’s Group of Death. Goal difference gives the favored Germans the edge among the two perfect teams, but with a hobbled Portugal up next, the U.S.’s win over Ghana represents a huge step toward securing a spot in the tournament’s final 16.

That match will take place on Sunday in the Amazonian city of Manaus, where conditions should mimic the 78 percent humidity that slowed the Americans tonight in Natal. Ghana, in the meantime, will face Germany in Fortaleza, with tonight’s loss meaning the Black Stars will in all likelihood need a result from the 2010 semifinalists.

With the first attacking movement of the game, the U.S. were on the board. Pressuring the Ghanaian defense into an early turnover, the U.S.’s quick throw-in from the left gave captain Clint Dempsey a chance to go one-on-one against central defender John Boye. Leaning left before cutting right, Dempsey moved in on goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey, who was left to kick in vain at a left-footed shot that found the far corner. After 34 seconds, with the sixth-fastest goal in World Cup history, the U.S. was up, 1-0.

Come the half-hour mark, the game assumed the posture it would take into halftime, with a U.S. defense that congested the middle of the park forcing the Ghanaians to play from high and wide. Sharp reads from Tim Howard stifled attempts to pass through the defense, while the Black Stars had no luck getting behind fullbacks DaMarcus Beasley and Fabian Johnson. Come halftime, the U.S. had retained its 1-0 lead, with both teams registering one shot on target.

Along the way, however, the U.S. lost starting striker Jozy Altidore to injury, with the Sunderland forward replaced by Aron Johannsson after going down with a left hamstring injury in the 21st minute. In the middle of the half, a leg to the face of Dempsey from Ghanaian defender Jonathan Mensah left the team’s captain with a bloody nose, while another hamstring problem, this time afflicting defender Matt Besler, saw Brooks come on at halftime. By the 46th minute, Jürgen Klinsmann had used two of his substitutions.

source: AP

United States’ Clint Dempsey leaps as he celebrates after scoring the opening goal  between Ghana and the United States. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan)

Despite the changes, the second half began as the first ended, with Ghana left to probe the edges to the U.S. defense, with their sequences usually ending with a ball rolled to Howard. Ten minutes into the half, a long-range shot from Sulley Muntari and an open header for Asamoah Gyan gave the U.S. its first scare, with a 17-yard header from Gyan two minutes later drawing a diving save from Howard.

By the time Ghana’s captain forced a 64th minute block from Geoff Cameron, the effects of Besler’s loss were clear. The U.S. defense, particularly after the introduction of Ghana’s Kevin-Prince Boateng, had lost control.

In the 82nd minute, Ghana’s work paid off when Gyan dragged Cameron away from goal to create a chance for Ayew. Laying the ball off for the Marseille attacker, Gyan created space between the U.S. center backs for the one-time shot, with Howard beat inside his right post for the late equalizer.

Four minutes later, the U.S. had restored its lead, with two substitutes delivering victory in the sauna of Natal. Off a corner from the right, Graham Zusi’s out-swinging ball found Brooks at the edge of the six-yard box, with the Hertha Berlin defender heading down and into the Ghanaian goal to deliver full points.

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When the ball reached the back of Kwarasey’s net, the fight left the Ghanaians. Lifted to its crest four minutes earlier, the team that’d vanquished the Americans in Nuremberg and Rustenburg had seen the tables turn, with a U.S. side they’d expected to beat landing the final blow. Not only was Ghana’s mastery of the Americans over, but the Black Stars had lost suffered a major blow to their knockout round hopes.

The U.S., on the other hand, sit even with Germany at the top, and although Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal await, the players can take a moment to savor a moment their predecessors could not. A nemesis has been fallen, and in the process, the U.S. may have laid the groundwork to improve on its 2006 and 2010 results.

Lineups:

Ghana: Kwarasey; Opare, Mensah, Boye, Asamoah; Rabiu (Essien 71′), Atsu (Adomah 78′), Muntari, J. Ayew (Boateng 59′); Gyan, A. Ayew

Goals: A. Ayew 82′

United States: Howard, Johnson, Cameron, Besler (Brooks 46′), Beasley, Beckerman, Jones, Bradley, Bedoya (Zusi 77′), Dempsey, Altidore (Johannsson 23′)

Goals: Dempsey 1′, Brooks 86′

  1. hartfordhellions4ever - Jun 16, 2014 at 8:05 PM

    So on second thought. Having all these german-americans on the squad. BRILLIANT !

  2. darkorameses - Jun 16, 2014 at 8:05 PM

    YESSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. reformed2012 - Jun 16, 2014 at 8:13 PM

    In 2002:
    Brazil get a questionable penalty in the 1st match of group stage
    Defending champion (France) lost its opening match
    USA won its opening match
    USA beat Portugal
    USA reached quarter-finals

    In 2014:
    Brazil get a questionable penalty in the 1st match of group stage – CHECK
    Defending champion (Spain) lost its opening match – CHECK
    USA won its opening match – CHECK
    USA beat Portugal – still waiting
    USA reached quarter-finals – still waiting

    • braxtonrob - Jun 16, 2014 at 9:31 PM

      @reformed2012, I like your thinking! :)

    • krazymunky - Jun 16, 2014 at 10:16 PM

      We also beat Mexico 2-0 in 2002. Semi finals?!

  4. SergeantKabukiMan - Jun 16, 2014 at 8:14 PM

    Such an exciting match. And to get the 3 points. Awesome. USA!

  5. nottinghamforest13 - Jun 16, 2014 at 8:15 PM

    An exciting win & all, but Ghana completely outplayed the USA. Bradley was an embarrassment & the possession was non-existant. Major improvements will be needed going forward. All that being said, the absence of Altidore isn’t that big of a blow for several reasons.

  6. rphillish - Jun 16, 2014 at 8:20 PM

    Just once, I wish the US could play a game where they win comfortably, and are able to just coast into stoppage time. I don’t think my heart can take anymore of these stressful results. Also, all these injuries and sore muscles are a big concern. What is Klinsmann and his fitness staff doing?

    • schmutzdeck - Jun 16, 2014 at 10:35 PM

      You know, Ghana were favored by most to win for a reason.

      Why is it that people can’t get that? Ghana are a little undisciplined but are also a dangerous, scary team who could beat just about anyone on a given night.

      You can get all the fitness training in the world but it is always going to be different when the actual game happens. That training decreases the chances that you will get hurt. It does not eliminate them. Players are human and humans get hurt, especially when their opponents push them to their limits.

      The US just earned a great victory. Too bad you don’t see that.

  7. rupp246 - Jun 16, 2014 at 8:30 PM

    They showed a stat possession Ghana 59% USA 41%, it was more like 80 to 20. Very fortunate to get 3pts but we’ll take it. Need to find more offense if we r going to have any chance against Portugal or Germany.

    • jdfsquared - Jun 16, 2014 at 11:14 PM

      I actually thought once we got the ball into the attacking third, we did alright. It’s just we almost NEVER got it there! The problems were really with the distribution from the back and the hookup play thru the middle. Everyone was wigging out up the middle, and no one, even Bradley, could make a smart pass. I’m gonna chalk it up to nerves, but there were so many errant balls that I’ve seen our guys be smarter on of late. Glad for the result. Now lets hook it up.

    • jdfsquared - Jun 16, 2014 at 11:16 PM

      It was out hookup play thru the middle that looked atrocious.

  8. jaybaileys - Jun 16, 2014 at 8:51 PM

    Great to escape with the win, but they are fatigued in game 1, the game in the rainforest is gonna be awful for humidity and cramps etc. Hope they rest and hydrate.

  9. sparkydelong - Jun 16, 2014 at 9:05 PM

    Hmm. What to do at forward now for the USA?

    • midtec2005 - Jun 16, 2014 at 9:15 PM

      That’s such a huge question. And I haven’t got a clue. But Johannson didn’t look great. So maybe it’s Wondolowskis turn. He’s a gamer.

    • mknow406a - Jun 16, 2014 at 11:10 PM

      Ghana is one of the most athletic teams on the planets. Their speed through out the line up, including at the back, is almost unmatched. AJ had never faced a back line with such speed and you could tell. He won’t see that again the rest of the group stages at least. He’s not a target man, but neither is Wondo… JK will could also make tactic changes depending on the opponent. If you can’t occupy the CBs with a big, fast ox in the middle, put more speed on the outside and further up the flanks (Green?) to make the CBs either drop back or chase back and then trust Dempsey to find himself a yard of space….

  10. guerojose - Jun 16, 2014 at 9:26 PM

    Team did not look sharp, but full marks for gutting out a win. We know they can play much better, and if they can just stop gifting away possession so easily, they’ll be fine versus Portugal. Jozy hurts, but Wondo and the others mean we’re not completely without a Plan B.

  11. braxtonrob - Jun 16, 2014 at 9:30 PM

    Saint Brooks.

    • mknow406a - Jun 16, 2014 at 10:53 PM

      @braxtonrob: Isn’t this where you jump in saying Klinsman has no clue, he’s a disgrace with this German insurgency and Landon Donovan should be coach? I mean, we’ve been hearing it over and over since the end of May… what happened?

      • braxtonrob - Jun 17, 2014 at 3:00 AM

        @mknow, How convenient of you to misquote and slander me. What are you, three (years old)?

        1. Klinsmann overtrained the group and cut Donovan out of personal bias. Those are just accumulating facts now.
        2. I facetiously recommended that Donovan become coach (but apparently you hate him enough to hope he never gets that call either; fine.)

        Nice to know (even someone as petulant and slandering as) you have already proclaimed the USMNT World Champions. Seeing as I’ve been a fan at least twice as long as you, I’m sincerely pleased to know it’s going to happen for certain now.

      • braxtonrob - Jun 17, 2014 at 3:29 AM

        @mknow, Ironically, you don’t “know” jack$%^, (although you DO consistently wax on).

        P.s. Here’s how you quote someone –

        mknow406a – Mar 5, 2014 at 12:53 AM
        Is this an early April Fools Day column? Kyle Beckerman is a lock? What?

        Obviously, Beckerman played FANTASTIC, as did Jones.
        Your analysis …. sucks.

      • mknow406a - Jun 17, 2014 at 4:50 AM

        @braxtonrob: When you FINALLY find that post where I proclaimed the USMNT was going to win it all, please post…

        Maybe you’ve been a fan for longer (and that’s not even a given.), so what? All that probably means is that you are more entrenched in the dysfunctional system that has been hindering US player development for decades… we certainly wouldn’t want a legacy of failure reaching an apex of mediocrity to be threatened by progress!!!

        I get it, your ‘man crush’ got cut. Get over it. Such intellectual arguments such as “If Beasley goes to 4 World Cups, so should LD!!!”… and I’m the one that’s 3? There’s plenty of those posts,… So here’s just a sampling of a few of your other divine insights:

        “The only mistake Klinsmann made that is bigger than leaving Donovan off the team, is starting Howard over Guzan. Every SAVVY soccer fan knows that World Cups are won in goal, and Howard will make sure he looks good when he flinches and dives OUT of the way any near chances. After all, “looking good” is as important as winning.” – 5/27/14
        Yup, Howard didn’t get a hand to a shot all night…

        “I can’t wait to here from all the Jurgen supporters when this tournament goes much the same way as all of the US’s previous appearances.” – 5/24/14
        We beat Ghana, well that’s different…

        “Johannsson is better than Altidore, and Wondo is more likely than Dempsey to score goals. ” – 6/1/14
        Of course Dempsey is now the only American to have scored in three consecutive World Cups….

        “Klinsmann is clearly partial to German (and other Euro) players, fine, but you (Klinsmann) better be damn right, (‘cuz you just lost any ‘slack’ with me on how this team’s WC results pan out).” -5/22/14
        No clue where I could have picked up an anti-German vibe from you

        “Well, at least I know who to funnel ALL my anger and anguish towards, if the Ghana game goes sour.
        Jurgen, do you have a phone # I can call and leave a VM to, after the game?” – 5/23/14
        Did you at least call JK to congratulate him?

        I may be a jack$^%, but I am obviously not the only one on this thread.

      • braxtonrob - Jun 17, 2014 at 2:54 PM

        As usual, I’m right.

        re 5/27 – Howard played great! And got beat to the inside post AGAIN! Guzan is better, period.
        re 5/24 – I didn’t even say that. Slandered AGAIN.
        re 6/1 – Again, my statement isn’t a knock on Dempsey, simply states the fact that given the chance, Wondo WOULD score MORE goals.
        re 5/22 – Which part is “anti-German” again. Oh, that’s right, none of it. For a slanderer you sure do read between the lines efficiently; shameful!
        re 5/23 – If you don’t think we were lucky to escape that game with 3 points then you are FULL ON delusional. Save all your venom for someone more deserving …. like yourself, you obnoxious pr!$%.

  12. cowboyhater - Jun 16, 2014 at 9:31 PM

    No matter how you think the US should dominate, reduce mistakes, control the ball for a higher percentage of playing time, the fact is they WON!! It’s a confidence booster for this team. I would like to see the youngsters make a statement going forward in this tourney no matter what the results are. We need a youth movement to push this team forward in terms of confidence, and sustained success. USA, USA, USA!!!

  13. bostonredsoccer - Jun 16, 2014 at 9:36 PM

    Very similar scoring pattern to the women’s WC game against Brazil. Score very early & very late (minus the added scoring by the opponent & ET & PKs).

  14. footballer4ever - Jun 16, 2014 at 9:54 PM

    What a thrilling, palm-sweating, nail-biting football game. That early lead goal was good for sure, but somehow you knew them Ghanians were coming back with all their ammunition and quite a goal-bomb that was on US goal. The way the football aura changed, you knew something had to give in, but what a joy when Brooks scored. Even then, it was not hard to think Ghana could have scored and tied the game again. Time ran out, but what athletic footballers those guys are and kudos to Ghana for the intensity and passion they played too. It makes the US win even more meaningful and a nemesis demons have been exercised already.

  15. atahualpaoxford - Jun 17, 2014 at 2:02 AM

    If they play the same match 50 more times, Ghana wins 49…
    If the goal is in the 3rd. tier of the stadium, Ghana gets 33 goals…
    One of those games when the wrong team wins…
    Still…happy that USA won…
    Hope that the rest of the world Cup is not going to have more games than this….

    • handsofsweed - Jun 17, 2014 at 11:00 AM

      If if’s were fifths, you’d be drunk.

      Happy birthday.

  16. atahualpaoxford - Jun 17, 2014 at 2:07 AM

    Against Portugal…..??? Don’t know…hope that CR7 gets injured…
    Against Germany..??? hmmmm
    Hope that the whole team gets food poisoning..????

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