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Avengers Assembled: the USA stuns Ghana with a late Brooks header
by rick olivares
It began with a stone cold stunner and it ended with an even more stone cold stunner.
The much-anticipated match between Ghana and the United States in the 2014 World Cup ended with the red, white, and German-Americans of Jurgen Klinsmann in their Captain America-type kits, finally exorcised the ghosts of Ghana past with a remarkable 2-1 win at the Estadio das Dunas in Natal, Brazil.
Clint Dempsey took a pass from Jermaine Jones up the left side and ditched defender John Boye with a feint and he found himself with acres of space to advance with nary a Ghanaian defender in sight. He dribbled once then fired with his left foot towards the far right way past the extended arms of keeper Adam Kwarasey. The goal, scored in the 29th second and the fifth fastest goal ever scored in a World Cup match, put the Americans ahead.
The Americans looked to build on their lead with a few counters but not soon after, the Black Stars got their bearing and began to control the match.
With supreme control of the midfield, the Black Stars began to make raids deep in American territory. Noted American killer Asamoah Gyan and Sulley Muntari fired scorchers at American keeper Tim Howard who held fast. Ghana’s efforts paid off in the 72nd minute when midfielder Andre Ayew took a sumptuous back heel pass from Gyan and like Dempsey in the opening minute, blasted one from close range that Howard was unable to keep out. Looking for the kill, Ghana pressed forward.
With his players dropping from exhaustion and injury, US coach Jurgen Klinsmann sent in John Anthony Brooks for Matt Besler (46th minute) who felt tightness in his right hamstring and Graham Zusi for Alejandro Bedoya (in the 77th minute) and the two conspired for the magical match-winner.
With four minutes left in regulation, Zusi’s inswinger from the right corner dropped towards Brooks who won the aerial battle against Michael Essien and Boye for a stunning header and an improbable 2-1 lead.
It was stunning reversal that rescued the US put them in a prime position to steal the three full points and stay in step with Germany that earlier crushed Portugal, 4-0.
That fact that two of Klinsmann’s new players were involved will help bolster support for his bold new direction for American soccer.
And maybe it should be given considering that Germany’s current form have the former Die Nationalmannschaft striker’s imprints. Klinsmann famously took charge of Germany’s 2006 World Cup team and changed their style of play and fitness and conditioning program. That was also the first World Cup where players of different ethnicity suited up for the national team. That team had David Odonkor and Gerald Asamoah both who are German-born Ghanaians and Polish-Germans Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose.
He led them to a third place finish in that World Cup and went on to manager Bayern Munich but left after a dispute with management.
“It was a grind but a wonderful win at the end of the day. There are undoubtedly things we need to improve on. The US team always has great spirit,” marveled Klinsmann who has come under fire for submitting a very young lineup with a lot of foreign-born Americans from Germany in Jermaine Jones, Fabian Johnson, Timmy Chandler, John Brooks, and Julian Green and Norwegian-American Mikkel Diskerud and Icelander-American Aron Johannsson.
In 2010, it was Ghana that struck early when Kevin Prince Boateng scored in the fifth minute. Landon Donovan equalized in the 62nd minute on a penalty kick won by Dempsey. Then in the 93rd minute, it was Andrew Ayew who fed Gyan with a long ball in the 93rd minute for the match-winning goal. Ayew outraced defenders Carlos Bocanegra and Jay Demerit for the ball; took a bump from the latter but had the strength to fire the match winner past Howard.
During the 2006 World Cup in Germany, Ghana also dispatched the US in the group stages with a 2-1 win with the marginal goal scored by Ghana legend Stephen Appiah off a penalty during extra time of the first half.
It was perfect symmetry as the all the results ended in a 2-1 scoreline. In the three matches between the USA and Ghana, the Black Stars’ Gyan and Muntari were present. Essien played in 2006 but was unable to participate in 2010 due to injury.
The victory, however, came at a price. Forward Jozy Altidore, one of the few five World Cup veterans left on the squad (that includes Dempsey, Howard, and midfielders Michael Bradley and DaMarcus Beasley) went down in the 23rd minute and is possibly out of the tournament with a hamstring injury. Besler and Bedoya also went out hobbled while Dempsey took a shot in the nose from an errant John Boye overhead kick.
The Americans, who have made a habit of scoring late goals (see the 2010 World Cup where they scored late goals against Algeria and Slovenia), will next face a wounded Portugal who took it on the chin against powerhouse Germany and will be missing mainstays Pepe who will be suspended for the next match on a straight red card and possibly Fabio Coentrao who over-extended his leg while trying to keep the ball in play.
If the Germans’ domination of Portugal was stunning none was more so than the Americans’ gritty win over Ghana where they were pounded and on the ropes for much of the game but displayed verve in the endgame that Portugal would do well to note.
“We fight to the last second,” emphasized a relieved and happy Jurgen Klinsmann as his team dodged a bullet and managed to make a statement at the same time.
Klinsi’s Avengers do all right.
And what a stone cold stunner to start their World Cup campaign.