USA vs. Ghana: In World Cup 2010, Americans eliminated by Ghana

By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 27, 2010

RUSTENBURG, SOUTH AFRICA -- The United States had found extraordinary ways throughout this stirring World Cup experience to recover from early deficits. But when the Americans conceded a goal to Ghana in the opening moments of overtime in their round-of-16 game Saturday night, there were no answers.

No bumbling goalkeepers to let them back into the match. No heroic comebacks or late uprisings.

After Asamoah Gyan scored less than three minutes into the extra period, the Americans' desperate measures fell short, resulting in a 2-1 loss to the Black Stars before a Royal Bafokeng Stadium crowd of 34,976 that included former president Bill Clinton, Mick Jagger and Kobe Bryant.

With smoke from nearby grass fires ominously hovering over the arena in this distant outpost in the northern part of the country, the U.S. campaign came to a numbing end.

"We kept pressing our luck," captain Carlos Bocanegra said. "We put ourselves behind the eight-ball too many times in this tournament. It eventually ran out tonight."

Ghana, the only African team to reach the second stage of the tournament, will face Uruguay in a quarterfinal Friday in Johannesburg.

The Americans, ousted by the Black Stars four years ago in Germany, had forged so many memorable moments in finishing ahead of England and winning their first-round group, and after recovering from an early deficit against Ghana, they appeared on course for another riveting finish.

In overtime, Ghana's André Ayew served a booming long ball over the top of the U.S. defense. Gyan accelerated and positioned himself to shield the ball from Bocanegra, his teammate at French club Rennes.

Gyan chested it down and away from the defender. Before Jay DeMerit could provide cover, Gyan rocketed a 15-yard shot over goalkeeper Tim Howard. "He absolutely crushed it," Howard said.

Added Bocanegra: "It was too easy. I ran with him, but he just outpaced me toward the end."

The comforting part of allowing a goal early in a match is that there is plenty of time to respond. The United States fell behind England in the fourth minute and answered late in the half en route to a 1-1 draw. It had conceded two first-half goals to Slovenia before surging after the break and earning a 2-2 tie.

But in overtime, the window narrows. Physical exhaustion and mental strain sets in. The opponent is trying to kill off the match.

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