Revenge! Brooks’ blast lifts U.S. past Ghana

IMAGE, EMPIRE OF SOCCER

The U.S. Men’s National Team needed a hero. Lucky for them, John Brooks brought his cape to Natal.

The 21-year-old defender answered a late Ghana draw with an emphatic header, earning the U.S. a 2-1 victory, three hard fought points and a share of first place in the vaunted ‘Group of Death.’

The U.S. took an early lead encounter thanks to Clint Dempsey’s strike just :31 seconds into the match. The Yankee captain weaved his way past two defenders and beat keeper Adam Kwarasey to the far post with a beautiful strike inside the box.

Ghana pressured the U.S. throughout most of the match and finally broke through with an equalizer in the 82nd minute behind Andrew Ayew.

The U.S. looked set and settled for a draw until late-game substitute Graham Zusi fired a corner kick into the box, finding Brooks for the decisive goal.

The win came at a price. Striker Jozy Altidore left the match with an apparent strained hamstring. Matt Besler also fell injured and made way for eventual hero Brooks in a move the USMNT braintrust described as ‘precautionary.’ Worse still, Alejandro Bedoya spent the better part of the second half favoring his left side after challenging a header at midfield.

Despite all of those issues — and their own bout with history — the U.S. managed an unforgettable comeback that puts them alongside Germany as the only teams with three points in Group G.

Magic was in the air from the very first minute. Left fullback DaMarcus Beasley, who had a mostly forgettable performance, sparked the first U.S. attack, distributing a ball towards Jermaine Jones. The German-American midfielder flicked it on to Dempsey who dribbled through traffic, sending a beautiful strike in net over half a minute into the match.

Ghana responded with nearly 80 minutes of pure pressure, concentrating their attack on the left flank of Beasley. Asamoah Gyan and Sulley Muntari kept the Black Stars on the offensive foot. While the Puebla midfielder was consistently beaten, the U.S. centerbacks and keeper Tim Howard were up to the task, besting three shots on net and dodging 21 attempts throughout.

Substitutes Aron Johannsson, Graham Zusi and John Brooks provided stability in the face of unexpected danger. Altidore pulled up lame in the 23rd minute forcing Johannsson into the match. Besler took a knock and did not return at the half. Meanwhile, Graham Zusi provided a late game spark for the hobbled Bedoya.

The U.S. now look towards their second opponent — Portugal. Cristiano Ronaldo’s side suffered an embarrassing 4-0 loss to Germany, putting them in the unlikely position as the last place team in Group G. The sides will meet in Manaus on June 22nd in the second round of group action.


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