The 2014 World Cup has featured fast starts and big finishes. The USA soccer team took that to extremes on June 16, as it had one of the fastest World Cup starts of all time before struggling for the next 85 minutes. But in the 86'th minutes, when the U.S. looked like it would be lucky to tie Ghana, substitute John Brooks connected on the header heard around America to deliver a 2-1 escape.
Clint Dempsey made it look easy for the Americans very early on, scoring just 29 seconds into the match. But from then on in, the U.S. got more unlucky. It lost Jozy Altidore to a hamstring injury, before Dempsey himself got his nose broken with a knee to the face. With the squad banged up, coach Jurgen Klinsmann had to put Brooks in, despite how this was only his fifth match with the USA soccer team.
This is where not bringing Landon Donovan to the World Cup could have come back to bite Klinsmann and the Americans, if only because of the need for depth. Not having Donovan's offense worked against them as well, with Ghana holding most of the possession time. Yet it took until the 82'nd minute for Ghana to finally equalize the match, as Andre Ayew seemed to doom the U.S. to a damaging tie,
Ghana finished off the Americans in the first round of the 2006 World Cup, then knocked them out of the second round in 2010 after Donovan's late miracle goal against Algeria. But this time around, Brooks joined Donovan in USA soccer lore with a late miracle goal, only it was in the 86'th minute on a header.
This goal didn't put the U.S. into the second round, as it was only the first game. But in a group where the Americans have to play top 5 ranked reams Portugal and Germany next, even a tie might have doomed them to early elimination. Instead, despite its various injuries and being outplayed in long stretches by Ghana, Brooks gave the USA three points and a tie for first in Group G with Germany.
With Portugal getting blown out by 4-0 to Germany and getting a red card to Pepe, the U.S. may now have the opening for the win or tie it needs over the Portuguese on June 22.