RUSTENBURG, South Africa – The US finally ran out of miracles on Saturday, and their thrilling World Cup run came to a crashing halt.
Asamoah Gyan scored in the 93rd minute and Ghana held on in extra time to win their Round-of-16 tilt 2-1 at Royal Bafokeng Stadium.
Once again, an early goal conceded forced the US to rally from another early deficit – which they did, courtesy of a Landon Donovan penalty kick in the 62nd minute. But the Americans wasted too many chances and couldn’t consistently put down Ghana’s athleticism and lethal counterattack, and for a second straight World Cup, saw elimination at the hands of the Black Stars.
Early on, it looked eerily like that 2006 encounter in Germany. Ghana again were the first to score off a bad US turnover when Kevin-Prince Boateng picked Ricardo Clark’s pocket in the fifth minute and rampaged on goal, powering the ball past Tim Howard to the near post.
That strike wasn’t only the third time in this World Cup the US had conceded first, it was also Ghana’s first goal from the run of play in the tournament. And it was a sign of things to come.
The Black Stars held a strong defense in the middle of the pitch as usual, but showed no fear of the Americans and went right at them. Wingers André Ayew and Kwadwo Asamoah wreaked havoc on a shaky US back line, while Boateng’s powerful surges upfield forced Bradley to lift Clark in the 31st minute for Maurice Edu.
The US finally got their first chance on goal in the 35th minute, when Clint Dempsey threaded a ball to Robbie Findley, but the Real Salt Lake striker put his shot right at keeper Richard Kingson. Ghana’s center backs John Mensah and Jonathan Mensah – unrelated, but equally imposing – stood strong, keeping the US out of the box for the rest of the half.
Bradley brought Benny Feilhaber in off the bench for Findley at halftime, which again pushed Dempsey up top for the third straight match. Those changes again sprung the US attack to life. Feilhaber put a shot on goal just after the break and created another chance for Dempsey 10 minutes later with a nice lead pass over the top.
In the 61st, the US got their breakthrough when Jonathan Mensah was yellow-carded for dragging Dempsey down in the box. That sent Donovan to the spot, and the US hero buried his penalty kick off the right post for his third goal of the tournament.
The US began to pick up steam, and Altidore nearly put them ahead in the 82nd when he muscled John Mensah off a long ball, but fired it wide left as he was dragged down.
But Ghana went back on top in the opening moments of extra time, and didn’t look back. In the 93rd minute, Ayew played a long ball over the top to the striker Gyan, who outraced Jay DeMerit and Carlos Bocanegra – his club teammate at Rennes – before firing it over an outstretched Howard.
The Americans made one final mad dash to equalize as the seconds ticked down in the second frame of extra time, but final sub Herculez Gomez, DeMerit and Dempsey all sent shots wide of goal.
Ghana now move on to face Uruguay in the quarterfinals on July 2 in Johannesburg. The US head home after a stirring run through the group stage that will be remembered for its drama and heroics, but ultimately ended in disappointment.
GHA – Boateng (5’)
USA ¬– Donovan (62’)
GHA – Gyan (93’)
United States: Howard, Cherundolo, DeMerit, Bocanegra, Bornstein, Donovan, Clark (Edu, 31’), Bradley, Dempsey, Altidore (Gomez, 90’), Findley (Feilhaber, 45’).
Ghana: Kingson, Inkoom (Muntari, 113’), Pantsil, John Mensah, Jonathan Mensah, Sarpei (Addy, 73’), Annan, K. Boateng (Appiah, 78’), Asamoah, A. Ayew, Gyan.