World Cup 2014: 3 takeaways from USA 2, Ghana 1

June 16

 


Substitute John Brooks scored the game-winning goal in the 86th minute of the United States’ 2-1 win over Ghana.

Never in doubt, right? While the U.S. secured the three points — and finally exacted revenge against Ghana —  the Americans certainly found a way to make it interesting. Here are some talking points.

What’s next for the stars and stripes? After Portugal hit the self-destruct button in its 4-0 loss to Germany it looks like the U.S. may have a path out of Group G after all. But coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s decision to leave strikers Terrence Boyd and Eddie Johnson at home could come back to haunt him, depending on the severity of Jozy Altidore’s hamstring injury. Without a true target man up top, the U.S. will have to rely even more on Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey to provide an outlet to relieve defensive pressure. Backup strikers Chris Wondolowski and Aron Johannsson were expected to be no more than impact subs — will one of them be able to fill Altidore’s shoes?

Jurgen Klinsmann has spent his entire tenure as U.S. coach trying to remold the team into a dynamic attacking force. But against Ghana, the team reverted to the style fans are familiar with — defending for its life and capitalizing on set pieces. John Brooks, the 21-year-old center back, may have German roots, but the header he thumped in to give the U.S. a 2-1 lead in the 86th minute was distinctly American. Graham Zusi should start simply for his free-kick prowess.

Some on Twitter were worried that the U.S. “scored too soon” after Dempsey’s first-minute strike. Scoring an early goal is usually the key to unsettling a counterattacking team like Ghana, but not in this game.  The Americans allowed Ghana attackers too much time and space, and when the U.S. did get the ball, its counterattacks were poor. Bradley, who the team is built around, had an uncharacteristically poor game passing the ball, while Johannsson struggled to hold the ball up top and bring teammates into the game. Ghana wasted a lot of crosses in dangerous positions; Portugal and Germany are unlikely to be as forgiving.

Man of the match: 

Tim Howard, U.S. goalkeeper

No, he didn’t have too many difficult saves to make, and no, he didn’t come close to saving Andre Ayew’s equalizer, but against wave after wave of Ghana attacks, with a makeshift center back pairing in front of him, he was in total command of his penalty area. In an uneven performance by the U.S., Howard stood out because of his consistency.

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