Clint Dempsey scored the sixth fastest goal in World Cup history, and John Brooks scored a remarkable late goal to lead the Americans past Ghana 2-1 in their World Cup Group G match opener in Natal on Monday.
It was an incredible result, made of equal parts attrition and magic, and it took the USA to second-place in the group of death, tied with Germany on points, and behind only on goal difference.
“We needed to push and push and just grind it out,” Jurgen Klinsmann told ESPN after the match. “We have a great spirit — the USA always has a great sport. It was a little bit of shock that Jozy got injured, we had to to take [Matt] Besler out because we disn’t want to lose him too, so it was a grind but it was a wonderful win at the end of the day.”
Klinsmann added: “Well undoubtedly there are things we need to do better. We had problems keeping the ball, we need to get into more into the game, but a lot of that is the merits of Ghana, they are are a good team who grind you. At the end of the day we got the three points we so badly wanted and we can move on.”
Brook’s header in the 86th minute was astonishing, and not because it was his first for the national team, nor because it was the first scored by an American on his debut in the World Cup for 12 long years. It was, in fact, a straightforward header off a fine corner kick sent in by Graham Zusi that caught Ghana flat.
No, what was remarkable about it is that Ghana had pinned the Americans on the ropes for a solid hour after a series of injuries depleted the USA, and Andre Ayew had looked as if he was about to lead the Black Stars all the way back, having scored just minutes earlier.
Instead, out of nothing but heart, the Americans went all the way down the field, willing themselves forward in the steam of Natal, won a corner — and finally exorcised the memory of two bitter defeats suffered at the Africans’ hands