Americans With Huge Win, Unlikely Hero in First Match
The day began with Germany demolishing Portugal 4-0. It continued with the tournament's first tie game-- and only scoreless match. It ended with Team USA exorcising their demons of the last two World Cups, in Ghana.
The match began with the fastest World Cup goal in United States history-- and fastest of the 2014 tournament, so far. Clint Dempsey beautifully weaved his way past a defender and knocked the ball in the back of the net for the quick 1-0 lead for the Americans; a mere 34 seconds into the match. The Americans continued to move the ball around until Jozy Altidore, who looked to have beat his defender, pulled up a strained hamstring and was quickly out of the game in the 21st minute.
After Clint Dempsey took a kick to the face, breaking his nose, the match began to shift completely in Ghana's favor. Over the rest of the match Ghana was constantly on the attack, pressuring Tim Howard and the American back line. As we reached the end of the first half, Matt Besler-- a key member in U.S.'s defense-- began having leg issues and would not return to start the second half.
Enter John Brooks, who would end up making a big impact late in the match. Throughout the second half, Ghana continued to dominate possession and the attack with no luck in getting the ball into the net. That was until the 82nd minute, when Gyan placed a beautiful pass back to Ayew who launched the ball into the net to tie the match. It seemed the American defense, who had been living dangerously throughout the match, had finally cost the United States three points and would have to settle for a single point.
Just four minutes later, the Americans earned themselves a corner kick. In stepped in the unlikeliest of heroes. Enter John Brooks. The 21-year old center back from the Bundesliga's Hertha BSC was a late addition to the roster for the Americans. He was also one the young, inexperienced players picked by Klinsmann that led to a lot of criticism by the many pundits in the media.
Graham Zusi launched the corner kick toward the middle of the penalty box, and, in a split second, John Brooks headed the ball past the Ghanaian goalkeeper to secure the victory-- and important three points-- for the Americans. Just like that, Brooks went from a pariah that many felt didn't deserve to be in that position to a hero to live on in American lore.
Now the Americans find themselves in a great position to advance into the knockout stage of the World Cup, and history is in the Americans favor. The only times in their World Cup history that the United States has won or tied their opening match, they advanced to play in the round of 16-- that includes 1930, 1994, 2002, and 2010.
The Americans will now face Portugal, who have the biggest hole in the group, on Sunday, June 22, in the Amazonian city of Manaus. Win and they clinch a spot to the knockout phase, tie and, while tougher, they still stand in a great position to advance. However, a loss could turn what is currently jubilation into utter agony. In any case, the doors have been kicked wide open for the United States to find themselves in the round of 16.