June 16, 2014
By Michael Lewis
A DREAM FINISH
Brooks’ late goal lifts USA over Ghana in World Cup opener, 2-1
NATAL, Brazil -- John Brooks had a dream that he was going to score the winning goal and because it came true, the United States still has its dream of reaching the second round of the World Cup.
Brooks a second-half substitute, connected on Graham Zusi's corner kick in the 86th minute to boost the Americans to a dramatic and thrilling 2-1 victory over World Cup nemesis Ghana on Monday. The win gave the USA a fighting chance of getting out of Group G in one piece.
“It’s a great moment for me,” Brooks said. “Unbelievable. I had a dream [two days ago]. I told some teammates I dreamed I scored in the 80th minute and we win the game. And now it was the 86th minute and we won.”
After scoring, Brooks laid down on the field.
“I thanked God for the great moment,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it.”
Coach Jurgen Klinsmann might not go that far to thank a higher deity, although he might want to thank his team for putting in a gritty performance against the team that eliminated his side from the 2006 and 2010 World Cups.
“We just have to grind it out and push and push,” he said. “We have some great spirit.
“It was fun.”
Clint Dempsey, who became the first American to score in three World Cups, agreed.
"It's a huge three points," he. "We grinded it out. It wasn't our best game, but we showed a lot of character."
“Everybody played their hearts out.”
The Americans will need a draw against Portugal (June 22) or Germany (June 26) to secure a spot in the knockout round. The Germans trampled the Portuguese earlier Monday, 4-0.
They might have to play without two starters who sustained first-half injuries -- striker Jozy Altidore (strained left hamstring while running down the ball on the left flank in the 18th minute) and center back Matt Besler (tightness in his right hamstring). Besler was replaced by Brooks at halftime.
"We rely a lot on Jozy," midfielder Michael Bradley said. "That's no secret. To lose him at that point is difficult."
Vice President Joe Biden joined 39,760 spectators – there reportedly were 20,000 USA fans – to watch an entertaining and physical match.
Only 29 seconds after kickoff, Clint Dempsey gave the enthusiastic American fans something to cheer about.
Beasley started the scoring sequence with a throw-in to Dempsey, who returned the ball to the left back. Beasley passed to Jermaine Jones who sent the ball to Dempsey, who faked out defender John Boye in the penalty area and launched a left-footed shot from seven yards that bounded off the far right post past goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey.
It was the earliest USA World Cup goal in history and the fifth earliest goal in cup history as Dempsey became the first American to score in three World Cups.
"Jermaine Jones sent a good ball in," he said. "I cut back on the defender. Once I cut back, I saw some space. I just tried to hit it as hard as I could at the far post and it went in."
Dempsey was knocked out of the match when he was kicked in the face by Boye in the 33rd minute.
Dempsey said he went “as long as I could. I had trouble breathing. I coughed up blood.
"I felt fine and I kept going. I got a little tired. Hopefully I will be able to start breathing through my nose again before the next game."
Ghana just about laid siege to the U.S. goal for most of the second half and managed to connect for the equalizer in the 82nd minute on an Andre Ayes score past goalkeeper Tim Howard at the near left post.
"To get the goal a little bit early in the game caused us to be more on the defensive," Dempsey said. "I thought they played pretty well. I think we didn't help ourselves at times in terms of keeping possession. a credit to our game to keep fighting."
“I was still convinced we were going to win the game after the equalizer,” Klinsmann said. “I thought another two or three opportunities would come.”
Klinsmann was correct.
The game-winner was scored via a pair of second-half substitutes. Zusi, who replaced Alejandro Bedoya, floated in a corner kick to Brooks, who tallied his first international goal.