Thoughts and Recap of the USMNT's victory over Ghana
DEMPSEY WITH THE GOAL! Just like that the USMNT was on the board. In under a minute Clint Dempsey took a feed from Jermaine Jones into the box, used a nifty little touch to bring the ball around the defender, then cutting to the center Dempsey fired a low laser shot off the right post and into the net.
The USMNT had the lead and the moment against their rival Ghana. In that moment all of our pride and belief in this team was justified. Officially marked at thirty (30) seconds, Dempsey’s goal was the fifth fastest in World Cup history. With many of the other teams in the tournament getting off to slow starts and struggling with the temperature and humidity, the quick strike by the Americans resounded through our emotions as a statement that “We” were a legitimate threat in this tournament. For twenty minutes we as fans were riding this wave of euphoria, then came the crash.
A long feed to Jozy Altidore ends with him coming up lame. Altidore lying on the ground, holding his hamstring and screaming in pain, took the air from our sails. Altidore would have to be subbed off with a strained hamstring and the injuries began to spread. Eleven minutes later, Dempsey took a high kick to the face and landed on the turf with a bloodied nose. The momentum was fully with Ghana. Dempsey would remain in the game along with Aron Johannsson, who entered for Altidore, but neither would impact the rest of the half.
The USA defense was constantly on their heels as Ghana began to press. Big saves from Tim Howard and many remarkable recoveries from midfielders Jones and Kyle Beckerman helped keep the US in the lead heading into halftime. Matt Besler would be subbed off with a leg injury for John Brooks at the start of the second half.
Ghana continued their pressure throughout the second half. Little momentum was seen by the US side for the majority of the half but the defense was holding. Howard made a big save off a header, that may of being going wide, in the 56th minute and another off a set piece a few minutes later. The midfield was bending but there was no break in the score.
Midfielder Alejandro Bedoya was subbed off with apparent leg soreness or simply fatigue at the 76th minute for Graham Zusi. With no offensive pressure for the entire half and almost no possession time to account for the inevitable finally happened. A poor give away in the defensive zone and Andre Ayew struck home the equalizer for Ghana in the 82nd minute.
Four minutes later, before the crippling fear and depression another loss to Ghana was sure to bring could settle in, John Brooks headed home the game winner off a corner strike from Zusi putting the US squad up for good. The USMNT got the burden of losing twice to Ghana off their backs and placed themselves securely in the second spot in group with an enormous three points.
As far as overall performance goes, there is of course room for improvement. The loss of Altidore and the injury to Dempsey were certainly huge factors but the forwards need to create better chances in the offensive end. That means if Johannsson gets another start, he will need to be more creative with his runs into the zone and not simply rely on over the top passes and straight forward movement.
The midfielders Bedoya, Beckerman, Jones and Bradley did an admirable job for the pressure they were under but they will need to improve on their possessions as they advance the ball. Too often Ghana was able to regain control of the ball before it crossed the center line, keeping the US constantly on their heels.
Of course, hand in hand with that is the defense doing a better job clearing the ball to the midfield where they are in a position to hold the ball and get it up to the forwards for more offensive possessions. All of this works in concert with one another to create better chances for the team moving forward.
Despite their struggles, the USMNT did us proud today. An inexperienced backline, injuries to the forwards, and the nemesis of past World Cups all were overcome as the US squad earned a valuable three points.
Individually, Dempsey’s goal was phenomenal and makes you wonder what else he could have done had he not taken such a vicious kick to the face. Jermaine Jones also made his presence felt throughout the match. Bedoya played well but I felt he struggled too much with his free kicks. With Zusi laying in a perfect ball for Brooks to head home the winner off of his corner, Klinsmann may have a decision to make over who to start against Portugal.
In this game there were stretches were it looked as if Ghana was just far and away the better team but the US squad still earned the win. The USMNT needs to make some adjustments heading into Portugal but I would not look for anything too drastic. Maybe Wondolowski gets the start if Altidore is unable to go. Maybe Zusi comes in as a sub earlier if the offense gets stagnate.
Not the prettiest win, certainly an emotional roller coaster of a game, but a big step for the USMNT in Brazil.