What a start and finish for the United States in its opening game of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. A late headed-goal from defender John Anthony Brooks was the difference maker as the U.S. edged Ghana 2-1 and picked up all three points in an extremely difficult Group G.
Facing a Ghana side that had already knocked them out in the last two World Cups, the United States kicked off their 2014 campaign with a bang and then ended it with an even bigger one, a pair of goals on either end of the game proving the difference over the opposition from Africa.
Clint Dempsey, Captain America himself, picked up a throw-in only 25 seconds into the match and turned over his marker with a cheeky flick. He then burst through the defensive line before curling a passed shot around the Ghana goalkeeper, giving the U.S. a 1-0 lead on the 32-second mark.
It was the fifth fastest goal in World Cup history, and the fastest goal in U.S. soccer history, and gave the U.S. a precious lead to defend early in the match. Defend, the U.S. did, taking on wave after wave of Ghanaian pressure, but the smart defensive work of Kyle Beckerman and Jermaine Jones, coupled with the instruction of Michael Bradley in midfield, provided the U.S. with a sturdy core to counter with.
Still, the U.S. suffered, especially in the first half when Jozy Altidore pulled up with a hamstring injury and dropped to the deck. He was subbed off for Aron Johannsson but his absence will be felt for the U.S. in the next two matches. Dempsey also picked up a bit of an injury when he was kneed in the face and suffered a broken nose in the process.
Alejandro Bedoya picked up a knock later in the match, too.
But, injuries aside, the U.S. persevered, showing a strong defensive discipline and counter-attacking well on occasion. That defensive wall took cross after cross, shot after shot, and finally broke with 10 minutes to go, when Ghana found an equalizing effort.
Tied 1-1 and with only minutes left on the clock, the U.S. won a corner kick, which Sporting Kansas City midfielder Graham Zusi ran over to take. He swung the ball into the box and connected with the head of Brooks, who couldn’t believe it himself when the net rippled right after. The scenes of jubilation and the sounds of the U.S. faithful echoed from Brazil back home in the States, and while the five minutes of added time made for a nervy end, the U.S. held on to secure a valuable three points in the Group of Death.
The U.S. next takes on Portugal, then Germany. Portugal will be without two key defenders in Pepe (red card suspension) and Fabio Coentrao (hamstring), and a win over the Portuguese would put the U.S. through to the next round. It’s a great start for manager Jürgen Klinsmann’s men, the final score on the night, 2-1 for the USA.