Breathe, USA fans. Breathe.
John Brooks delivered us all from some serious heartache on Monday, scoring in the 86th minute – just four minutes after Ghana’s Andre Ayew equaled Clint Dempsey’s first minute opener – to give the U.S. an insane 2-1 win over the Black Stars. So close to being in serious trouble in Group G, the Americans are now in the best position they could’ve hoped for, sitting in second in the group, trailing leaders Germany on goal differential.
Real Salt Lake Captain Kyle Beckerman went the full 90 for the U.S., turning away what felt like hundreds of Ghana attacks in an absolutely wonderful performance at the holding midfield spot. We’ll have more on Beckerman’s solid effort later.
Sadly, the U.S. could not get through Monday’s win unscathed, as forward Jozy Altidore went down in the first half with what looks to be a rather serious hamstring injury and defender Matt Besler had to be removed at halftime with a knock of his own.
Dempsey gave the U.S. a shocking lead just 29 seconds in, slaloming down the left side, weaving through several Ghana defenders and burying a left-footed shot off the far post and in to give the Yanks a 1-0 advantage. The goal was the fifth fastest in World Cup history and gave Dempsey a goal in each of the last three World Cups.
From there, the match was all Ghana, as the Black Stars controlled possession against a U.S. side that completely failed to hold the ball. While the Americans were terrible in possession, they did do a number on defense, completely blocking off the middle of the field and forcing Ghana to attack almost exclusively from the flanks. That tactic worked until the 82nd minute, when Ghana finally broke through with Ayew. The goal finished off a wonderful move, with Ayew and forward Asamoah Gyan playing a lovely give-and-go in the left side of the box to set Ayew up for a nice finish from 10 yards out.
Things looked rather grim for the U.S. after Ayew’s equalizer, with Ghana seeming more likely to find a winner than the previously listless Yanks.
That all changed in the 86th however, when two American substitutes combined to give the U.S. all three points. Sporting Kansas City midfielder Graham Zusi – a second half entry for starting midfielder Alejandro Bedoya – whipped a corner in from the right side and Brooks got himself on the end of it, rising above the Ghana defense and to bounce his header off the turf and in to give the U.S. the 2-1 victory. It was the first career international goal for the German-American Brooks, who had come on at halftime for the injured Besler.
The U.S. saw out the remainder of the match without too many problems, finally earning a win over longtime nemesis Ghana.
The Americans will return to action on Sunday, taking on Portugal – which was smashed 4-0 by Germany earlier on Monday – at 4:00 p.m. MT on ESPN in Manaus. A win on Sunday and the U.S. will likely book its passage through to the Round of 16.
What a ride. Let’s keep it going.