World Cup Day 5: United States vs. Ghana 1st Half Notes

Dempsey (8) capped a lively opening-game spurt for the U.S.  with a goal. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Dempsey (8) capped an opening-game spurt for the U.S. with a goal. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

*First 15 minutes…

-Team USA offense pushes quickly upfield first, and finding the Ghanaian defense flat-footed, Clint Dempsey maneuvers his way from the left side straight towards the net and perfectly slots away a 1st-minute goal; the goal marks as about a perfect a start–and not a sluggish one like in past games–that the USMNT can have

-it simply cannot be stressed enough the significance of such a fantastically explosive start, and even though 89 more minutes remain, it appears that this starting XI [presents the best combination of players

-the Black Stars gradually begin to push back towards their offensive third of the pitch, but the American back line has resisted well so far with effective clear-outs, well-timed tackles, and proper positioning

-Ghana has possessed the ball much more after facing a deficit, and as a result of the quick ball distribution among their players, has already penetrated the U.S. goalie box a few times

*Minutes 15-30…

-the Ghanaians have really increased pressure offensively, seeking to create chances through crosses into the box

-19th minute: USA’s midfielders have fed balls to the flanks excellently so far in this game (an area of the field covered during a run that ended with the first goal), and a ground pass from the right wings find Jozy Altidore, who stutters a little too long to release a strong shot

-21st minute: off a tackle and then smart clearance moving upfield by Michael Bradley, Altidore sprints ahead to control the ball through the air, but apparently pulls his hamstring in the process and gets carried off the field in a stretcher–Aron Johannsson replace him in the right striker role, and American soccer fans hold their collective breath

-a worrying sign for Team USA, Ghana has now really grabbed control of this game and its tempo; a good amount of the action has occurred at the top edge of USA’s goalie box

*Last 15 minutes…

-Dempsey sustains a shot to the nose from a Ghanaian player’s leg (somewhat of a high kick, but interestingly not called a foul) and his subsequent bleeding delays the game; U.S. forwards have not exactly stayed healthy during this game

-right fullback DaMarcus Beasley has disappointed mightily in his area of the field; he has neither showed an adequate touch with the ball at his feet, nor has he pressured the attackers he’s marked well, allowing them space to have good lucks at the goal–furthermore, all the crosses by Ghana have come from the right flank where Beasley plays, signifying that he’s not patrolled his area well enough; later in first half stoppage time, Beasley moves ahead to attack, but leaves his man unchecked once Ghana counters (fortunately, no serious opportunity results)

-at the 42nd minute, the USMNT fields a nice counterattack, that creates a buzz among its supporters in the crowd, but concludes with a weak Johannsson shot that trickles into the hands of the Ghanaian goalkeeper

-over the entire course of the first half–notably apart from the first, extraordinary minute of action–the United States has barely produced any chemistry or cohesive ball movement in their offensive third, in large part due to insufficient time of possession in this side of the pitch; Ghana’s 60-40 possession percentage advantage feels larger on the field than in the boxscore, suggesting the need for midfielders–like the team’s fulcrum in Bradley–to better control the ball

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