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USA 2-1 Ghana: United States Man of the Match rankings

Jun 16, 2014, 8:31 PM EST

Brooks Getty Images

The United States played a heart-stopper against Ghana, and came out victorious 2-1.

It was a game of emotional ups and downs, early goals, devastating injuries, and young heroes.

I was only planning on doing a top-3 for Man of the Match, but there are no less than five deserving mentions, broken down into four segments.

Take a breath, enjoy the moment, and let’s hand out some prizes.

4. Tim Howard

The man who just earned his 100th cap for the United States was enormous in the first two-thirds of the game.  With Ghana looking to score late, the defense made more plays than Howard, but he was instrumental early as Ghana pressed, especially in the first half.

Howard is a man of continuity, and he didn’t shine, but he was essential in palming away Ghana early. Overall, he weathered 21 Ghanian shots, although only three were on target.  He made his biggest save on a powerful 31st-minute shot by Asamoah Gyan.

[ MORE: Brooks wins it late | Man of the Match | Injury update ]

3. Clint Dempsey

The man who scored the fifth-fastest goal in World Cup history was enormous in Jozy Altidore‘s absence. He was all over the field…up top, on the wing, down the middle, and everywhere in between.

Obviously the early moment was his finest, but for someone who absolutely broke his nose halfway through, Dempsey is the definition of toughness and determination. He went wire-to-wire in a match where so many others flamed out with exhaustion or injury.

2. Jermaine Jones/Kyle Beckerman

These two men weren’t very good going forward, giving the ball away too much, but once the US went early the instructions from Klinsmann were clear: defend, defend, defend. They were crucial in snuffing out Ghanian attacks before they became too dangerous, completing 9/12 tackles attempted.

Jones was also 6-of-8 in aerial duels, again proving how huge he was in his defensive roles. The German-born player had to cover for DaMarcus Beasley who was less than stellar on an island on the left, and even for Michael Bradley who struggled mightily above him in the advanced midfield.

This pair needs to get better in their advances forward, proving a bit too inaccurate, but defensively they were strong, and that was the most important after going ahead early.

[ RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly ]

1. MAN OF THE MATCH: John Brooks

21 years old. One of the last men on the roster. A surprise selection. Thrust into the spotlight unexpectedly.

John Brooks is the perfect storyline, heading in the winner for the US in the 87th minute, and his celebration was a perfect example of why. He flat out couldn’t believe what had just happened.

Having decided to play for the United States over Germany, many people criticized his selection onto the roster over the much more experienced Clarence Goodson.  Brooks was thrown into the fire after an injury to Matt Besler, and in that kind of situation, many youngsters would crumble.  Not Brooks. His defending was brilliant both before and after he scored.

Brooks’s stats on the day: 2/2 tackling, 2 interceptions, 2 blocks, 7/7 clearances, 9/10 passing. That’s outstanding for a 21-year-old inexperienced kid.

But don’t take my word for it. Here’s his Wikipedia page right after the final whistle:

source:

[ RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly ]

  1. dohpey28 - Jun 16, 2014 at 8:36 PM

    14th – Bradley

    Worst game I have ever seen him play period, capping it off by the ridiculously dumb cross in the 94th minute instead of taking it into the corner and killing the clock.

    • northseattlebruce - Jun 16, 2014 at 8:55 PM

      Brutal day for Bradley. Recurring comment at our viewing party was “I didn’t hear he contracted malaria.”

      Demsey was awful after the broken nose. Walked the rest of the game.

      I thought Jermaine Jones was MOTM. In a game where the US couldn’t string three passes together — and usually didn’t even try — he was tireless in defense.

    • skjln - Jun 16, 2014 at 8:56 PM

      Hopefully he was saving it for Portugal. Definite substitution material if not for the injuries.

    • geejon - Jun 16, 2014 at 9:28 PM

      Embarrassing display by Bradley. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. He’s supposed to be our “Pirlo” but he looked more like “payaso” out there. Sheesh.

    • godsholytrousers - Jun 16, 2014 at 10:51 PM

      He will bounce back. We may be changing formations against Portugal to exploit their injury situation and hiding ours. Either way, Bradley will be essential in the biggest match of his career. We win, we’re in to the knockout round.

  2. medic0nduty - Jun 16, 2014 at 8:51 PM

    Take a bow, John Anthony Brooks.

  3. sparkydelong - Jun 16, 2014 at 8:57 PM

    New name for Dempsey. Iron Man.

    “Go ahead, try to knock off my nose with your shin, I ain’t leavin’ the pitch!”

  4. heelfans - Jun 16, 2014 at 8:57 PM

    Hard not to give Brooke’s MOTM, but for me it’s Jones and Bedoya!!

  5. midtec2005 - Jun 16, 2014 at 9:07 PM

    They didn’t score, but I’m so glad you included Jones/Beckerman the way you did.

    Who to start? Both. OUTSTANDING!

    And yeah, Dempsey nose is super broken.

    • midtec2005 - Jun 16, 2014 at 9:10 PM

      And lets not forget how good Zusi looked coming in late. He was energetic and had the winning assist.

  6. tridecagon - Jun 16, 2014 at 9:16 PM

    Jones was outstanding, although I thought he was about to earn his customary yellow card near the end there. Bradley (and the US in general) too often looked foolish going forward straight into the teeth of the defense. We’ll have to be better against Portugal – but I think we can be.

  7. sburns20 - Jun 16, 2014 at 9:41 PM

    I as well thought Bradley has a sub par game, but even in doing that the us still got a victory! Sort of scary how lack of ball control the us had and how limited the offensive attack was minus Jozy. Hopefully he can come back. Johanson I think is best served coming in as a sub not being the main forward at his age now.

  8. dws110 - Jun 16, 2014 at 10:45 PM

    I give Jones grief, but he was absolutely MASSIVE against Ghana. He and Beckerman were the mortar in the wall today. Fantastic game from both of them.

  9. mknow406a - Jun 16, 2014 at 10:48 PM

    It definitely was not Bradley’s best game. The sloppiness in possession and in his passing was very uncharacteristic. Worse still was the mental errors we haven’t seen for a few years. He wasn’t helped by the fact that Beckerman’s lack of pace meant MB had to drop to the bottom of the diamond for long stretches to try to help the US build from the back. That’s not intended to be a knock on KB, but every time he touched the ball, Ghana pressured him and he did not have the athletic ability to escape the pressure. Hopefully, MB will bounce back. Jones was the best midfield player out there today. While Bradley and Beckerman looked overwhelmed at times, Jones was solid… especially given how awful Beasley looked and how much he had to cover. (Don’t be surprised to see Chandler starting on Sunday… Beasley looked horrid against an athletic winger… and CR7 isn’t a step down.) Brooks came up big. There’s been a LOT of bashing of JK for bringing in the youngsters, but Brooks delivered. And think about it. When you face Bayern Munich, Dortmund, Leverkusen, etc, all season are you REALLY going to feel any more intimidated facing Ghana? There is no way Goodson, Parkhurst or Bocanegra could come off the bench and play that well… too bad the JK haters will never admit that.

  10. jdfsquared - Jun 16, 2014 at 11:29 PM

    Bradley really looked out of character. But he seemed so unsure on the ball. In the last few matches, he’s really had an eye for the whole field and he sees the chance before anyone else. He looked behind today.

    I have confidence he’ll bounce back.

  11. zobe19 - Jun 17, 2014 at 12:30 AM

    Bradley left a lot to be desired from unfortunately. He had a couple good tackles in the defensive third, but only after he had already given up the ball… JK was brilliant in his last substitution, giving Zusi the nod, allowing the US a set play specialist who is also competent on the defensive end.
    john brooks, I don’t know what to say. Have yourself a f7&$:’ng night.
    I will never forget that match, and it literally brought tears to my eyes when brooks nodded it home, unbelievable.

  12. lyleoross - Jun 17, 2014 at 8:38 AM

    Arrrgggghhhh. Great, Brooks scored a goal, so he goes from goat to god. For most of the game he wasn’t marking anyone. And frankly, anyone was beating him. Yes, great goal, but man of the match?

    Michael Bradley stunk, his non-involvement meant that our front wasn’t involved hardly at all. Now, that may not have been his fault, Ghana’s strength is their mid, and they dominated. What I couldn’t understand was why our counter was so poor? As good as their mid is, their backs stink. The one game when you should go long you don’t, in fact, you don’t do much of anything.

    If your measure of success is a win, well, we had success. If your measure of success is did we play like JK wanted us to, the answer is no. If your measure is did we play the kind of play that is necessary to get out of Group, the answer is no, and if your measure is did they look good in any fashion other than for the first minute of the game, the answer is no.

    BTW – player of the game was Jermain Jones IMO. In a game that the referee let get out of control, he stood up and dominated in the mid-back. He did more than any other single player as a whole. Yep, I concede Dempsey’s goal, it was brilliant, but Jones contributed a full game. I know, he was rough, but Ghana was dishing it out, and he responded.

    • Kyle Bonn - Jun 17, 2014 at 9:54 AM

      That’s funny, because according to FIFA rules, the measure of success is scoring more goals than the other team.

      So instead of being a massive downer, let’s appreciate that, in the tournament where winning is all that matters, the US WON.

      You don’t get to advance because you played the way your coach wanted.

      • lyleoross - Jun 17, 2014 at 11:57 AM

        It’s great that we won, but labeling that game as anything but poor play is a reach. Are we trying to build a credible program or win a couple of games? One of the largest criticisms of football in the US is that parents are so focused on winning games that they set aside proper development that leads to long term success. The skills pursued in youth players at 5 to 8 that help them win games are just the opposite of what is needed to win games long term. That plays all the way up to the national level (if you spend years learning bad technique, it’s hard to shake it). JK has taken on, not only the task of rebuilding how the national team plays, but also how we develop players. The style he wants them to play is consistent with what the best players and systems in the world are pursuing. The MNT played his way for the last year, but when the rubber hit the road in a real test, that all went out the window. The notion that we can win against Portugal, or Germany playing like that is probably mistaken.

        I don’t want a win or two, I want a system that people look at like they look at the Germans. Ignoring that for a win or two, well, woo hoo! I’d like to develop a system where people don’t think it’s a fluke if you get to the quarters, but where they say you failed if you don’t.

  13. alexd873 - Jun 17, 2014 at 9:34 AM

    When teams are fairly evenly matched competition in high level sports comes down to exploiting your opponents weakness. Victory doesn’t come from looking stronger, ‘dominating the pitch”, or fancier footwork. It comes from scoring!. On the soccer pitch that means the ball hitting the back of the net! So the Ghanaian players and coach can talk all they want about how much better they were, blah, blah, blah. But if they are so gosh darn good compared to we lowly Americans, then why did it take soooooo long for them to score? Did the American side have to work doubly hard to cover weak spots YES. But they did it!

    No one needs reminding that Dempsey scored within 32 seconds of the start of the match, thus exploiting a weakness. On top of that Brooks answered their equalizer within 4 minutes.

    If winning is exploiting weakness, and we were the weaker side, maybe Ghana isn’t as good as they think they are.

  14. granadafan - Jun 17, 2014 at 2:44 PM

    Winning hides and masks flaws. I’m thrilled to death that we won. Our boys came up huge on defense and taking advantage of opportunities when presented. That said, our fundamentals were lacking which can and will come back to bite us in a bad way in the next few games if not addressed ASAP. The passing to our midfielders was just awful. Way too many turnovers from errant passes. Germany and Portugal will destroy us if we continue to make these simple mistakes.

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