The United States end Monday, improbably, in position to qualify for the knockout round from Group G. They turned in a mostly terrible performance against Ghana, but the 85 minutes between their two goals were ultimately irrelevant. Jurgen Klinsmann's team pulled out a 2-1 win despite the Black Stars dominating possession, and it was about the most American game that anyone could have possibly dreamed up.
USA Vs. Ghana
USA Vs. Ghana
Clint Dempsey scored the fastest United States goal in World Cup history, and everything from that moment until the 86th minute was awful. The United States was disjointed, a shambles in defense, couldn't keep the ball and lost two players to serious injury as well as seeing several players develop more minor complaints. The match was a disaster until Andre Ayew scored in the 82nd minute, at which point it was a super disaster. A Ghana winner seemed imminent.
Then, John Brooks struck.
Three months ago, John Brooks looked like a donkey. He was awful in the United States' March friendly against Ukraine and looked nowhere near ready to start a World Cup game. When he was picked for the 23-man squad over more experienced options like Clarence Goodson and Michael Parkhurst, some fans wondered if Klinsmann knew what he was doing. But, forced into action due to Matt Besler's hamstring injury, Brooks came up huge, scoring the winning goal and becoming the first U.S. substitute to score in a World Cup in the process.
Goals for USA
Those two goals -- Dempsey in the first and Brooks in the 86th -- were the only moments of real brilliance for the United States. They did not outplay Ghana by any stretch of the imagination. For at least 80 minutes of the game, they were clearly second best, making awful decisions on the ball and defending in a fashion that was more chaotic than composed. But Ghana didn't take their chances, Tim Howard made a couple of big saves and there were pieces of surprising and valiant last-ditch defending from the U.S. midfielders.
It was more of a Bob Bradley or Bruce Arena performance than a Jurgen Klinsmann one, in that the U.S. had no composure on the ball but everything seemed to come together in the end. It was frenetic, terrible soccer, nothing like the stuff the U.S. played in the Hex and warm-up friendlies, but it was very, very American. They found a way to gut out a win with physical midfield play and great finishing on their limited chances, despite playing very poorly for almost the entire match.
Even though Klinsmann has tried to bring a new style to this team, they're still the USMNT. They're still a wreck in these situations, but they're a productive, results-oriented wreck. They scored when they had chances, they made sure Ghana didn't, and their repetitive turnovers didn't matter in the end.
The United States are getting so good at doing this that we can't call it luck anymore. Winning ugly, gut-wrenching soccer games is the American way.