It was a decent showing in the World Cup for the United States, but that is for analysis down the road. Today, the taste of defeat is still just a little bit too bitter for that viewpoint. The United States survived the referees and the early goals in the opening round. The defensive issues proved too much of a deficiency for the United States to continue in the knockout stage, as they lost to Ghana on early goals.
In the 93rd minute (very early on in extra time) the United States’ sloppy play on defense haunted them again. It was a great finish by Ghana’s Gyan through two U.S. defenders and Tim Howard. A long ball bounced through, Gyan survived a couple of bumps and blasted a left footed rocket practically through Tim Howard. The United States would have twenty-some more minutes to answer once to send it to penalty kicks, or twice to win the match outright.
Memories of Landon Donovan’s last second heroics kept the U.S. fans cheering and hoping, but the United States was just too gassed to make it happen. The first 15 minutes of extra time ended with the United States looking tired and defeated. They dominated the second half of the game, but couldn’t take the lead. Ghana scoring so quickly in extra time that it appeared like it might finally take the last bit of wind out of the U.S. sails. As it turned out, despite a couple flurries, the United States ultimately had nothing left to give as Ghana ran out the clock pretty effectively.
As for the rest of the game, here is how we arrived at the dismal end.
In the fifth minute, the United States again conceded an early goal. After a turnover in the midfield by Ricardo Clark, Ghana struck. For the first time all tournament, some blame could be pointed at goalkeeper Tim Howard. Howard got beaten near post from about 25 feet or so. Ghana’s Boateng fired a long low shot past the late defense and diving Howard for a 1-0 lead very very early in the game. How many times can the United States survive early goals. Unfortunately the team was set to find out yet again.
In the 23rd minute, the United States finally started challenging after ceding the possession battle for the entire first 20 minutes. Donovan found Dempsey wide left who fed Bradley deep in Ghana’s goal box. Bradley attempted a good cross low and hard, but the Ghana keeper made a nice play on the ball before it could find its way to another United States foot.
In the 30the minute, the United States used on of their three subs very early in replacing Ricardo Clark with Maurice Edu. Coach Bradley spent some time talking to Clark as he was replaced. He could have been replaced for a few reasons. First, he had already gotten a yellow card. Another card would have caused the United States to play a man down for the remainder of the match. The other reason could have been because Clark almost single-handedly gave up the first goal with a poor poor turnover.
In the 35th minute, Robbie Findley had a great opportunity that was stifled by the Ghana keeper’s left foot save. Ghana turned the ball over in their midfield territory. The ball ended up on the foot of Findley who pushed it right and struck the ball hard and low straight into the Ghana keeper. The rebound could have provided another opportunity, but the ball skidded past the United States’ second rush.
In the 37th minute, Tim Howard saved the United States from going down 2-0. Kwadwo Asamoah got the ball deep on the left side as the ball skipped right by the U.S. defense. This time, Howard made a great play in closing the angle to the near post and deflecting it harmlessly out of bounds. Asamoah turned his ankle on the play with five minutes to go in the half and was clearly limping afterward.
The first half ended with the United States in a familiar position; trailing. The United States was very clearly outplayed in the first twenty or so minutes. They played much better in the remaining part of the first half, but they had already allowed too much damage and resigned themselves to playing from behind. If there was any bright spot it was that the United States wouldn’t be intimidated by playing from behind.
In the 47th minute the United States had a golden opportunity to equalize the match. The Ghana’s keeper again stood up tall in keeping the lead. Dempsey found Altidore in the center of the box. Altidore found a way to continue the cross to the recently subbed in Benny Feilhaber who attempted to put the ball to the far post with his outside foot. Ghana’s keeper was drifting to the near post and made a nice cross-body save to a ball headed to the far post to retain the lead.
In the 61st minute, the United States finally broke through and Dempsey was about to go 1 on 1 with the keeper. A reckless tackle in the box later and the United States had a penalty kick opportunity for Landon Donovan. Donovan put the ball away right as the keeper dove opposite. Even if the keeper had guessed correctly, Donovan put it off the inside of the post. At that point, the momentum was clearly in the United States favor. They had dominated the half to that point and finally broke through with a goal.
In the 81st minute Altidore had a beautiful chance on a high through ball to make up for a lot of his ham-handed first touches throughout the game. He ended up fighting off a defender, fell to the ground and still got a shot off that went wide right.
Regulation time ended and despite a scary corner kick for Ghana right at the end, so did the three minutes of injury time. The game was tied 1-1 and a 30 minute overtime period was forthcoming.
And with that overtime period mentioned at the beginning, the United States’ run in the World Cup ended. The continent of Africa would be able to ride Ghana as the last team left. The United States will ultimately be proud of the showing as I said, but their problems were clear and well-known and they still couldn’t manage to find a way to keep them from submarining them.
We will always have the images from this World Cup though. Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan and Tim Howard as heroes. Ultimately, this video will live on as probably the greatest moment in American Soccer. Maybe watching it again will make me feel a little bit better.