Monday, the USA pulled off a stunning 2-1 World Cup victory after an agonizing battle with Ghana in the two nations' 2014 debut in Group G action at Estadio das Dunas in Natal, Brazil for a crowd of 39,760. Ghana knocked the USA out of World Cup in 2010 and 2006 and made a brutal attempt in 2014, but the tenacious and sometimes ragtag U.S. squad persevered. The USA's future is now a lot brighter as to advancing out of Group, especially now that Germany whopped Portugal 4-0 in the other Group G match today.
An early goal by Clint Dempsey, assisted by Jermaine Jones in the 34th second - the sixth fastest goal in all World Cup history - put the U.S. Men's National Team ahead 1-0 and sprang an early urgency by Ghana. But the United States suffered a crippling setback when target forward Jozy Altidore pulled up with a hamstring injury in only the 21st minute.
Young Aron Johannsson stepped in for the U.S. striker, but was overwhelmed by the ferocity of the opponent and no real replacement. Ghana attacked with vengeance. An ugly tackle broke Dempsey's nose with a kick to his face - and went unsanctioned - and shortly after, centerback Matt Besler began to grab his leg. The exultation of the go-ahead goal quickly transformed into a stomach-churning nightmare with the injuries and USA falling back to defend with slender midfield presence, despite stars Michael Bradley and Kyle Beckerman. Rugged Jones, above all players, kept the USA in the game.
Fans bit their nails and threw back a couple extras in anticipation of the seemingly inevitable implosion of the U.S. National Team, but the tenacious squad hung on - minute by grueling minute - in an awkward struggle for survival. They lasted till the 82nd minute when Andre Ayew, assisted by Asamoah Gyan, put in the equalizer and the result looked grim as Ghana continued to attack. But four minutes later, Besler substitute John Brooks, in his fifth all-time appearance, connected with a Graham Zusi corner kick and soared skyward to head in the game-winning goal, sending fans over the top. With the game-winning goal, young Brooks become the first USMNT substitute to ever score a goal in a FIFA World Cup.
Despite the makeshift line-up, the USA slayed the dragon of Ghana and now move on to face Portugal in Group G action on Sunday, June 22, who will be without defender Pepe, red carded in their 4-0 loss to Germany. The USA now stand second to Germany in Group G, followed by Ghana and fourth Portugal. Only the top two teams in Group advance to the Quarterfinals.
Dempsey became the first USMNT player to score in three separate FIFA World Cups and also ties for third on the USA list with Brian McBride. Goalkeeper Tim Howard broke the USMNT goalkeeping record for starts with his 100th on Monday, surpassing the previous record of 99 held by Kasey Keller. Defender DaMarcus Beasley became the first U.S. player to make an appearance in four World Cups (2002, 2006, 2010, 2014).
Monday's starting group featured left back Beasley, right back Fabian Johnson and center backs Geoff Cameron, who played like a lion, and Besler. The midfield consisted of Jones, Alejandro Bedoya, Beckerman at defensive midfield and Bradley at the top of the diamond with Altidore and Dempsey on top.
The USA is now 32-11-8 all-time under Klinsmann.
The USA faces Portugal in the second game of Group G play at the 2014 FIFA World Cup at 6 p.m. ET on Sunday, June 22, at Arena Amazonia in Manaus, Brazil. The game will be broadcast on ESPN, WatchESPN, Univision and ESPN Radio
Venue: Estadio das Dunas; Natal, Brazil
USA - Clint Dempsey (Jermaine Jones) 1st minute
GHA - Andre Ayew (Asamoah Gyan) 82
USA - John Brooks (Graham Zusi) 86
USA: 1-Tim Howard; 23-Fabian Johnson, 20-Geoff Cameron, 5-Matt Besler (6-John Brooks, 46), 7-DaMarcus Beasley; 11-Alejandro Bedoya (19-Graham Zusi, 77), 15-Kyle Beckerman, 13-Jermaine Jones, 4-Michael Bradley; 8-Clint Dempsey (capt.), 17-Jozy Altidore (9-Aron Johannsson, 23)
Subs Not Used: 2-DeAndre Yedlin, 3-Omar Gonzalez, 10-Mix Diskerud, 12-Brad Guzan, 14-Brad Davis, 16-Julian Green, 18-Chris Wondolowski, 21-Timmy Chandler, 22-Nick Rimando
Head Coach: Jurgen Klinsmann
GHA: 12-Adam Kwarasey; 4-Daniel Opare, 19-Jonathan Mensah, 21-John Boye, 20-Kwadwo Asamoah; 17-Mohammed Rabiu (5-Michael Essien, 71), 7-Christian Atsu (14-Albert Adomah, 78), 11-Sulley Muntari,13- Jordan Ayew (9-Kevin-Prince Boateng, 59); 3-Asamoah Gyan (capt.), 10-Andre Ayew
Subs Not Used: 1-Stephen Adams, 2-Samuel Inkoom, 6-Afriyie Acquah, 8-Agyemang Badu, 15-Mohammed Awal, 16-Fatawu Dauda, 18-Abdul Majeed Waris, 22-Mubarak Wakaso, 23-Harrison Afful
Head Coach: James Kwesi Appiah
Stats Summary: USA / GHA
Shots: 8 / 21
Shots on Goal: 6 / 3
Saves: 4 / 3
Corner Kicks: 3 / 7
Fouls: 12 / 10
Offside: 1 / 5
GHA - Mohammed Rabiu (caution) 30th minute
GHA - Sulley Muntari (caution) 90+2
Referee: Jonas Erikkson (SWE)
Assistant Referee 1: Mathias Klasenius (SWE)
Assistant Referee 2: Daniel Warnmark (SWE)
Fourth Official: Norbert Hauata (TAH)