USMNT Report: The American Way of Winning

Late game heroics play a role as the United States brushes off a World Cup demon and rival in its opening game
by Herb Scribner   |   Tuesday, June 17, 2014

USMNT Report - coverage of the United States Men's National Team

Within seconds, everything looked great for the United States Men’s National Team. An early goal, a raucous crowd and a motivated squad all looked like makings of a magnificent showing by the USA.

Time ticked on. Players fell to injuries. Ghana kept attacking, and scored off a brilliant pay. All looked lost. All looked familiarly ominous.

But then, in yet another familiar play, the USMNT found victory with a vicious cross from the corner that found the head of John Brooks, who scored the USA’s winning goal in the 2-1 decision over Ghana, putting the Americans in a prime position with powerhouse Portugal approaching.

POST GAME REACTIONS: Brooks was quick to point out who he thinks helped him with the goal.

“I thanked God for the great moment,” Brooks said. “I dreamed that I scored in the 80th minute and we won the game. It’s unbelievable.”

USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann commented on Clint Dempsey’s opening goal — good for sixth all-time in fastest World Cup goals — and said it might have hurt the US as much as it helped.

“If you score after a minute, you think you can’t have anything better than that,” Klinsmann said. “But maybe overall it wasn’t so good to us because then we kind of sat back a little too much instead of taking the game to them.”

MAN OF THE MATCH: Kyle Beckerman — No one played as hard and as consistently good as Beckerman on Monday night. Beckerman kept the defense composed and he strengthened the midfield. In a game that had a bunch of Ghana attacks and few USA chances, Beckerman stayed poised and content, saving the Americans from letting up some easy chances at goals.

ANALYSIS: This 2-1 win over Ghana was exactly the start the United States wanted in its opening game of the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

Ghana, an assured demonic thorn in the side of the United States over the last few years, was finally exorcized and washed away, putting the USA in an excellent position to try and advance. Gaining 3 points in the easier game allows the USA to try and settle for a draw in the next match against Portugal and then see what happens against Germany. This is exactly where coach Klinsmann wants to be.

But the win didn’t come easily.

Clint Dempsey’s opening goal was fantastically done and is a testament to how well the Seattle Sounders forward has done so far this year. Once suffered a hit to the nose during the game off a reckless challenge from Ghana, a he was near invisible for the USA.

The same holds true for the offense. Once the Americans got their opening goal, they parked the bus and allowed multiple threatening attacks to come in from Ghana. Michael Bradley couldn’t string passes together for the majority of the match, Alejandro Bedoya couldn’t get good chances into the box, Jozy Altidore couldn’t finish before he went down with a jarring hamstring injury. Aron Johannsson came onto the pitch cold and nothing came from him, either. The USA’s offense had little fight or fire.

Unfortunately for the Black Stars, their finishing was off. Asamoah Gyan and Sulley Muntari were blasting shots miles from the net, despite their continued exposing of the USA’s weaker defensive structure. Ghana continued to pressure up the USA’s left side, exposing DaMarcus Beasley’s lower defensive abilities and aged wheels. Ghana’s lone goal by Andre Ayew in the 82nd minute was one of the prettiest team goals of the tournament, though, showing that this Ghana team is surely capable to putting on an impressive performance when necessary.

What the Ghana victory shows more than anything else is that the USA is not immortal, and that a good team — like Germany or Portugal — will have an easy enough time sneaking through the backline and finding their way towards the net. The USA only escaped this game because Ghana couldn’t put away its chances. Had it not been for the late heroic goal by John Brooks, the Americans likely would have found themselves in a more precarious position heading into the Portugal affair.

What the USA needs to do now is move past this Ghana game and find a way to get some points against Portugal. Portugal didn’t do well against Germany, and Cristiano Ronald’s side is on the brink of a self-implosion based on some of the play seen earlier on Monday. But the team will be hungry — starving even — for some points as their World Cup dream is on the line. The USA will have to remain poised and cool-headed and try to string together a better set of passes.

But for tonight, fans and the team alike should celebrate the victory. It’s been 4 years since the USA last played Ghana, and 4 years the team has been waiting for revenge. Now that the Black Stars have finally been conquered, and the USA has taken the best step possible for advancing in the group, the Americans should take some time to reflect on the fact that all the build up and preparation to show the world that the USA is no going down without a fight was a success.

And nothing can take that away from the USA.

NEXT UP:  June 22 — World Cup: United States vs. Portugal, Arena Amazona, Manaus, Brazil. 6 p.m. EST, ESPN, WatchESPN, Univision.


UMass Amherst
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SN managing editor and award-winning journalist, Herb has always been known as "The Soccer Guy" wherever he goes. He's a leftback in most outdoor and indoor leagues. He also writes for Deseret News National.