World Cup Day 5: United States vs. Ghana 2nd Half Notes

*First 15 minutes…

-Ghana has continued to maintain the greater offensive pressure of the two teams; nevertheless, the Black Stars have yet to develop a unified attack once inside the offensive zone of the field

-Bradley has still failed to establish his attacking creativity in the game, in addition to his subpar touch on the ball thus far

-starting at around the 54-minute mark, the Ghanaians develop two dangerous chances, the first a strike that nearly enters the top-left corner of the goal, and the second a header from another cross that sails above the goal; shortly after, another cross finds a Ghana player up top in the goalmouth who heads a ball wide of the goal–at this point, the team is itching for a goal (it just feels that a goal is approaching), and the U.S. will be very lucky to hold this score for the rest of the match

*Minutes 15-30…

-Jermaine Jones at last fires a shot on goal for the United States–the first one in a long period of time–coming at the 63rd minute

-the strain of playing defense for the majority of the game, and doing so in the humidity of Natal, has progressively worn out the entire USA squad–even the forwards, who have languished up top

-67th minute: Team USA grabs control of the ball, passes around among its defenders and then to Tim Howard in the back, who inexplicably lofts it ahead out of bounds near the midfield-line; the Americans must build off any instance of possession they have, and not stick to such an exhausting defensive mindset that includes clear-outs rather than constructive passes to teammates

-instead, a few minutes later, it seems that the American players have embraced this defense-first strategy; midfielders have retreated back to buffer the defensive line, adding to the persistent and effective challenges by the back four

-moving up and down the field on the right side, midfielder Alejandro Bedoya has acted as somewhat of an unsung hero in this all-important match, valiantly fighting through obvious pain to remain on the field, until subbed out at the 77th minute

*Last 15 minutes…

-Ghana finally strikes on the 83rd minute, developing a nice run from the left side–where Dempsey netted a goal 82 long minutes ago–with nifty ball movement that leaves holes in the American defense for Andre Ayew to knock in the equalizer

-86th minute: when all hopes looked lost, the U.S. earns a corner amid a weak offensive push–the Graham Zusi corner finds substitute John Brooks at the top-center of the goalie box, who takes a quick step towards the ball and stunningly heads it into the back of the net, shocking himself as much as the USMNT faithful in the Natal stadium


Brooks (center-left) (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Brooks (left center) rescued his team four minutes after it yielded an equalizing goal to Ghana. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

End-game thoughts: In retrospect, Dempsey’s first-minute strike may have set the U.S. back, despite attaining a crucial early lead, as it prompted the Americans to play more complacently, and adopt a wholly-defensive mindset. Preservation of the lead was of top priority thereafter, suppressing any chances of employing creativity or experimenting on the offensive side. Luck played a significant factor as well, or at least the mediocrity of touch by Ghanaians on offense (which they had plenty of time on), as USA’s opponents completely lacked precision in crosses into the box and on shots; the Black Stars edged the U.S. in shot total (21-8), but in terms of those on target, the Americans had more (4-3), making such an effort by Ghana atrocious upon considering their 62-38% possession advantage. The USMNT should feel pretty fortunate to escape with a 2-1 mammoth victory on the heroics of defender John Brooks, as substandard performances by some players, as well as the questionable state of the Americans’ collective fitness, will introduce several concerns leading up to June 22nd’s match against Portugal. Michael Bradley, the midfield maestro supposed to lead this American squad, must take a bigger role in the U.S. attack with more touches, and better impose himself on and settle into future games. Also, Team USA will have to anxiously monitor the health of Jozy Altidore, who left the match with a strained hamstring, in addition to keeping an eye on left centerback Matt Besler, who was subbed out at halftime due to a hamstring injury as well.

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