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Late Brooks header lifts USMNT to first World Cup win vs. Ghana

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Photo by John Todd/


NATAL, Brazil — John Brooks could not have picked a better time to score his first international goal.

Brooks lifted the U.S. Men’s National Team to a memorable and dramatic 2-1 win over Ghana in their intense Group G opener at Arena das Dunas on Monday night, scoring off a corner kick from Graham Zusi in the 86th minute.  The goal came four minutes after Ghana had negated a first-minute strike from Clint Dempsey and saw the U.S. defeat the Black Stars for the first time in three World Cup attempts.

The Americans jumped out to a 1-0 lead just 30 seconds into the match played in humid and dry conditions when Clint Dempsey finished a low effort, but the next 80 minutes consisted mostly of Ghana dominating possession and creating and wasting chances. When Andre Ayew finally converted in the 82nd minute, Ghana looked like it might pull out a late victory.

That mood changed when Brooks headed home a Zusi corner kick to give the Americans the lead for good and put them in second place of Group G behind Germany.

“I was still convinced we (were) going to win this game even after the equalizer,” said U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. “I had the feeling that another two, three opportunities will come, that we just need to use one of those opportunities, which happened. Definitely the start that we wanted, they worked hard for it and it’s just a good feeling to have those first three points.”

While the Americans got the three points they were so adamant about in the run-up to the physical match played in front of 39,760 fans, it came at a price. Both Jozy Altidore and Matt Besler, who Brooks replaced at halftime, left the game with hamstring issues.

Altidore suffered a non-contact left hamstring strain midway through the first half that forced him to be stretchered off, and Besler was taken off due to hamstring tightness in his right leg.

“We rely a lot on Jozy. That’s no secret,” said midfielder Michael Bradley. “To lose him at that point in the game is difficult. Obviously then having to make a second change right away with Matt at halftime means that we’re playing 45 more minutes and have one sub. In this heat and this humidity, you’re just kind of waiting to see how that goes.”

The U.S. got off to a dream start in the match, scoring 30 seconds into the affair to record the sixth-fastest goal in World Cup history.

DaMarcus Beasley passed a ball to Jermaine Jones, who flicked it into the path of Dempsey. The U.S. captain then dribbled into the penalty area and fired a low shot that caromed off the far post and in. The strike made Dempsey the first American to score in three World Cups.

“I was able to cut back and see if there was space,” said Dempsey. “I just tried to hit it far post and it went in.”

Ghana responded by trying to attack down the flanks, especially on the left side against veteran Beasley. But goalkeeper Tim Howard and the U.S. centerbacks were up for the task against the bevy of crosses that were whipped in.

“We made a point not to let them play through the middle and not to let them play over the top,” said Besler. “At some point, you’re going to have to pick areas that you give a good team the ball and we made the decision that the wide areas were going to be kind of be what we gave up. I think we defended those wide areas well tonight.”

The U.S. struggled to maintain possession for much of the opening 45 minutes, and they lost Altidore to a left hamstring injury in the 21st minute. Bradley played a ball over the top to Altidore as the Americans tried to hit on a counter, and the veteran forward went down in a heap of pain. Aron Johannsson replaced him two minutes later.

Ghana had a numerous chances to pull level, but Asamoah Gyan was unable to convert any of his looks. He was denied spectacularly by Howard in the 32nd minute and the Ghana striker headed high six minutes later.

“In some ways, getting the goal so early almost throws the game into a tailspin,” said Bradley. “It’s natural then at that point that we start to get drawn back a little bit and obviously then they start to be able to control a little bit of the game.”

The second half also saw Ghana hog possession, but it was more dangerous in the attacking third than it had been in the opening 45 minutes.

Midway through the second half, Sulley Muntari shot just wide past an outstretched Howard and Gyan nodded a chance high seconds later.

The Ghanaians got their reward when Ayew rifled a low shot to the near post to pull Ghana level, but Brooks came to the U.S.’s rescue and headed home a late corner to give the U.S. a dramatic win.

“It’s a special moment for the boy,” said Klinsmann. “He did well.”

The Americans will now gear up for their next match on June 22 and will look to build on a crucial win when they take on Cristiano Ronaldo and a Portugal team that needs a win after suffering an embarrassing 4-0 defeat to Germany earlier on Monday. The match will be played at Arena Amazonia in Manaus.


  1. epic win. USMNT does it late again. it’s a truly awesome quality so many teams only wish they had!

    Michael subpar. Much more to that analysis tho imo

    to play that way thru him will need some adjustment. need 2-3 options to develop for him every time he’s on the ball in there because all will key on him, like Ghana did, to disrupt everything. the options must ‘develop’ because guys need to get open as the ball is arriving to Michael so he can make a decision and get rid of it super quick. Another option would be to play to other outlets and counter that way hard core, up the flanks maybe? at least scare back the attackers

    JJ showed why he’s a stud as many here have always known

    Beckerman showed the MLS proud! Zusi too. love that stuff, hope they can keep it up

    super bummer about Jozy

    • beachbum, I think you hit on the real problem for Bradley yesterday: he is THE bottleneck for every play going forward. Each and every team will try to strangle him. He not only needs multiple options to pass to (“triangles, kids, triangles!”), but there needs to be a second and third playmaker who can make teams pay for doubling up against Bradley.

      It’s nice to have other outlets up the flanks—Jones, FabJo, Bedoya—but if that’s our only solution then we’ve given up the middle; i.e., exactly what our opponents would like. We need someone who is comfortable pushing right up the middle, into traffic, and making passes. Who is that? Dempsey, Aron, or Mix.

      Our CDMs, Bradley, Jones, and Beckerman, are all good passers, but I think they do better withdrawn a bit from the action.

      • hey King, re. the guy to push up on thru, that’s what I’m saying except that it needs to be en masse and not solo; has to be a group thing to work and others must be open when he gets the ball, not working to get open once he has it…too late. re. playing up the flanks, not only is there more pace but it helps to loosen that middle up instead of giving it up

        anyway, always appreciate thoughtful replies, thanks

      • beachbum: I think we’re in agreement. Just to be clear, what I am saying about the flanks is if that is our *only* attempt to freeing up Bradley then it doesn’t work. Yes, action down the flanks can free up the middle, but only if the opponent responds by trying to shut down the flanks. If the opponent says, “Okay, go ahead and have the flanks—but Bradley is going to be strangled,” then that’s when we’ve lost the middle.

        So to really work, we need to have something still threatening in the middle. I agree that it is a group thing. People need to get open and 1-2 players need to step up and be the playmaker when Bradley is double-marked.

        If Bradley were as skilled as Pirlo or Xavi then a) it would be easier to get open for him, because he would be able to thread or drop passes almost anywhere, and b) we wouldn’t need a second playmaker because he’d work his magic at the speed of Pirlo/Xavi; i.e., fast enough to overcome double-marking.


      • fwiw: I hope to see Beckerman step into this role—become our pseudo-Bradley. It will require excellent coordination because he needs to protect the back four, but it can work.

        To be effective though, Beckerman will have to be like Jones: truly threatening with his passes, not just a decoy.

  2. Very happy for the win but I haven’t seen us play this bad since the Ukraine game. Our passing was so bad that it took down our possession to 40%. Micheal Bradley was one of the worse, giveaway after giveaway. If the US wants out of the group they will have to pass the ball like they did against Nigeria. I am hoping it was just nerves.

  3. The US had a tough struggle, but they prevailed! This US squad is so mentally tough and they proved it tonight. I wasn’t happy that Brooks was selected for the squad, but he not only scored a beautiful goal, he played strong defense. That’s why Jurgen is the Coach and I’m not. Bradley had an off game, but he’ll bounce back . The defensive four plus Jones and Beckerman were strong. Howard was outstanding in the keep!

  4. USA won’t qualify! Mark it here. Portugal will get a win. And Ghana will make it hard for the Germans they are wounded making the USA – German tie a final.

  5. While most of you wallow in negativity (are we English?) I’m just gonna enjoy this one ’til Sunday.

    Good night, Debbie Downers.

  6. Fabian Johnson’s hustle to win a corner kick for Zuszi was the reason Brooks had a chance to head in the winning goal. Can’t say enough about hustle and finishing all your plays. The Swiss scored a game winner yesterday due to hustle and getting up after a clear yellow card foul. Love when players finish the play and don’t pull up or stay down for fouls. The US and Swiss embody all out soccer and will to win.

    Portugal looks wounded but I won’t look past them especially with injuries of our own. Must get at least a point from the match and hope Germany beats Ghana. Then the US will be sitting pretty.

  7. one thing i think we need to start Tim Chandler at lb next game. If the switch Ronaldo to the right i think beasley will get his ankles broken again

  8. Jermaine Jones carried the USMNT on his back tonight. When the US needed a stop, a blocked shot, or an attacking chance–Jermaine accomplished the task. He was able to draw penalties and get free kicked. He seemed to be everywhere. When others looked tired, Jermaine summoned the energy to continue to hustle. When Bradley couldn’t make a pass, Jermaine led the attack. He was AMAZING tonight.

  9. In the spirit of a lot of the negative comments regarding the USA’s play. What about the Germans< surely they could have scored 6 or 7 goals, only 4 against 10 hot, tired opponents for nearly 90 minutes? Sure Mueller had a hat trick, but he needed a PK to get it, hardly inspiring! If Ronaldo were not crippled Portugal would have scored 4 or 5 goals. Really a disgusting under-performance by the Germans, replace the starters for the next match!

    • haha. we really do need to take a deep breath and remember that we just beat freakin Ghana, not some CONCACAF minnow. We just won an epic battle. We went to war and survived to fight again. We will assess, regroup and carry on.

      • Well said. What a result. Tomorrow, we regroup and start to figure out how to set up without our main man Jozy.

        He’s done. We can’t afford him to pull a Diego Costa and try to start only have have to be subbed after 10 minutes.

    • You’re right. Germany is rank #2 and Portugal is #4. So that means Germany is like twice as good as Portugal.

      Mats Hummels got injured so you know Low messed up by leaving Mario Gomez off the roster.

  10. why are people complaining about Johnson not having a great offensive game………….he is a defender first his attacking ability is just a plus. Why would he over exert himself on the offensive side of the ball and become a liability on defense, he did his job.

  11. I have to say I am happy we won but I feel a little empty.

    It felt like we just out willed them tonight and I want us to out soccer a team. Let’s be real, Ghana wa all over us and they are not a very good team. Poorly coached and with little soccer brainpower.

    JK deserves credit for a lot of things but I just shake my head at so many things that he does. Too long of a list to go into.

    My big concern is that we have no idea on how to develop players. We put next to nothing into paying for good coaches in our development system. JK may 2 million a year and a US technical director makes 60k. We have ONE coaching education director. National staff coaches who are not full time make a $125 per day. How can we call ourselves professional
    Our academy is better than what we had before but I watch academy games every weekend.
    We are not developing players that can compete with Germany, Spain etc.

    We should be proud. Our guys gutted it out tonight but before I leave this earth I want to see us put a team on the field that doesn’t have to play like we did tonight.
    If you disagree then your standards for good soccer are not high enough
    See you in the morning guys. I am an old man who needs more sleep than Essein

  12. Ok guys. Rumor has it. Fifa alows one player from the initial 30 man roster be activated if a injury takes place but a fifa doctor has to verify its an importan injury i hear its landon donovan

  13. Am I alone in the opinion that Aron didn’t have such a bad game at all and had some very nice spells of possession that calmed play down considerably. Yes, he should have imposed himself on the game a bit more and come to the ball as an outlet but, honestly, would Wondo have been better? He did force the game-winning corner and he had a very nice diagonal pass (to I think Bedoya but can’t remember) during one of our few threatening attacking sequences.

  14. We all seem to agree on a few key points…

    Bradley was well off his game. We’ve seen him play, we know why he’s there, we know what he’s capable of. It was a bad game, a very bad game, but not the end of his USMNT career. A terrifically bad game to be sure, but still. An atrocious, astoundingly terrible game, but still. Hopefully he will bounce back and be in form for Portugal.

    Dempsey is a monster out there. Up here in Canada, nearly everyone I talk to about the sport laments the diving, rolling around, etc. He broke his nose and kept playing, something most North Americans in general can really get behind. Try your best, give it your all, etc. He truly did tonight.

    Beasley was hammered all night. He should probably have stopped overlapping when it became clear how much defensive work he would have to do. He should have just stayed put all night. He did a good job applying pressure, but let Ghana get in each and every cross. Don’t overlap unless you have the space!

    Hamstring problems all around the pitch. What in the flipping heck is going on here?! Did they all do massive leg curls the night before? Were they sleeping with their ankles ties to their glutes? Did Klinsmann make them do deep lunges the entire plane ride to Natal? Is that part of this mystical system of fitness Klinsmann has been preaching?

    Pure class on the refs part for allowing Jones and the Ghanian player (sorry don’t know his name) to sort out their tussle and continue on without so much as a yellow card. I really liked that.

    And the most important point of the match…

    Ghana had very poor accuracy with their crosses. If they had connected just a few of those numerous crosses Beasley was letting in, we would have been beaten.

    • Good points, but you may have missed a the mark on Beasley and the crosses.

      DMB seemed to be shading more towards the touch line than the the goal. Attackers were prevented from cutting in by KB or JJ supporting from the center. It seemed that the tactic was to keep the wingers from gaining the end line and sending crosses back into the goal area. Most of the crosses that came from his side came from higher up, which allowed JAB/GC/MB to be facing away from goal when the crosses came in.

    • He looked so confused, so I thought for a second the goal had been called off. He just really couldn’t believe that he’d just scored in the world cup.

      • I was just waiting for the goal to be called off. I was like its Slovenia all over again…. and then …. and then it was real.

      • I don’t know if he was praying, crying, wasting time, catching his breath, soaking it in or what but seeing him just fall (and stay) to the ground and lay there for so long was just priceless.

  15. The US won but quite frankly i dont feel like we deserved it. Bradley played absolutely awful, reminded of the days when his dad was coaching and he absolutely should not have started. He has played poorly in the past couple of games.

    Beasley was bad, he was getting beat and getting caught out of position the ENTIRE match.

    Dempsey did nothing for 88 minutes of the game, he is a prima donna and i cant stand his attitude.

    I wonder if Klinnsman is feeling the weight of leaving Donovan at home. We have absolutely no depth at forward now. He should have at least brought Eddie Johnson, but with Donovan he also would have had an option to replace Bradley which right now is impossible with our roster

  16. I love it that we beat Ghana and have so much to complain about:

    Jones: wow
    Bradley: you are better than that
    Dempsey: animal, disappeared after he got socked in the face
    Refs: thank you for not screwing us. Ghana had a red or two that could have happened
    Klinisi: Like a lot of what you have done. Still wish Landon was there, he can fill six of the 11 spots in a pinch.We were and may be in a pinch. But really I’m not bringing this issue up. Really I’m not. Ok I am.

    • yeah it looked like it might be over training out there. but then it also looked like it might adrenaline, it seemed like players may have been injuring themselves in their exuberance/desire to leave everything on the field.

  17. like most, I agree they were lucky to get out of Natal with 3 points.
    considering MB, played a very sub standard game for him. Jozy and Besler going down,
    Bedoya?. everybody is going to have to step it up,
    Brooks, was that something unexpected tonight.
    Will we find out if Yedlin, has a little Raheem Sterling type magic?.
    and will Green, be at the ready when and if he gets his chance?.
    and what will Wonderwow do?
    No matter what they got 3 points almost a week to rest, reflect, prepare,
    eat some Bananas, do some yoga, tai chi, swimming, isometric anything.
    The Rumble in The Amazon Jungle is coming,
    so welcome to the Ama-zone.

  18. Landon Donovan.

    That’s who we needed to come off the bench for Altidore. You cannot tell me that Donovan on the field, with all of his experience, wouldn’t have instilled more confidence than Aron Johannsson.

    He would have slowed the game down and kept possession – and you know it.

      • If it would have prevented his oh so stellar tv commentary at halftime I just might agree with you. Dear God man, lay off the beta blockers next time.

      • Fun fact: his suit was carved out of solid granite, then overlaid with fabric to create the illusion of flexibility.

      • You apparently miss the point. Donovan could be expected to orchestrate an attack that did not require a target forward to be effective. Dempsey, Donovan and Bedoya, with the usual Bradley behind them, would be a rather formidable attacking team — no target forward required. But that is not an option Klinsmann has given himself.

      • When has the US show the ability to play with out an effective target forward against non CONCACAF minnows? I respect Donovan and expected him to make the team, but let’s stop acting like he is some kind of magical fixer of all the US problems. Frankly, EJ and Boyd’s exclusions are a little more glaring after Altidore’s injury.

        Also if we had the ‘Usual Bradley’ in the Ghana game then the US would have look more effective in possession.

      • Your point is certainly reasonable. If it’s true that the only way we know how to play — and the only way we can succeed — is with a target forward, the omission of a target-forward backup for Josy was colossally stupid. On the other hand, I think that Dempsey and Donovan, supported by Bradley, Bedoya and Zusi, have the talent and mix of skills to succeed without one. We’re about to find out, since Josy is down and there’s no other target forward in sight. Unfortunately, Donovan is also missing.

  19. Altidore went down with possibly a tourney ending injury, subbed by a guy who is anything but a suitable replacement for the role Altidore plays in the current system.
    Besler, who was playing a monster of a game, is subbed out for another injury.
    Bradley was both a bit off his game and pressured into ineffectiveness by the Ghanian gameplan.
    Fabian Johnson was fairly silent offensively tonite.

    And we still won.
    I’ve got nothing but love and respect for this squad and their coach tonite. Anyone who can’t sit back and soak this in and appreciate it for the landmark it represents will NEVER be happy with this team.

  20. Stop giving Bradley the pass people.

    He was TERRIBLE. No excuses. He is a multi-million dollar athlete with years of experience in top flight leagues. He was garbage all night. I saw him make ONE decent pass all night. Apart from that he was a turnover machine and generally useless.

    He isn’t your boyfriend. He is supposed to be our engine. Our General. He wasn’t even our Private tonight.

    You may love the man or whatever, but based on this performance, I wouldn’t play him again.

    • Not sure anyone is giving him pass; basically everyone has said Bradley played one of his worst games on the international level. But it is kind of silly to say he shouldn’t play anymore this tourney. The squad is basically built around him, and I feel confident he can bounce back. Jozy going down really hurt tonight; you gameplan to play one way based on his physical style, and you have to trash it after just 20 minutes. That is going to throw a lot off concerning rhythm, strategy, etc. There was a good bit of adversity involved and the U.S. still fought hard and got 3 points. Of course they need to improve, but this was still a success.

      • I hear what you are saying Ben. C. Thanks for being cool.

        My general point is this: If Bradley has been ANY OTHER player, people would be calling for his head.

        He was beyond useless. He did nothing, defensively or offensively, and was more in the way than anything.

        There are too many fanboys on here. He wasn’t “fine”, whatever you want to say. He was garbage.

        If he played that way for any other team, he would get benched. But he must be the scared cow for the majority of US fans.

        At the end of the day, it’s just soccer but it shocking how they let a performance like that slide.

      • But Bradley is the most consistent player on this team. One bad performance doesn’t erase dozens of fantastic ones. CHILL. He will boss the midfield against Portugal.

      • But Bradley is NOT that consistant. Every 3 games he goes on a good run and then drops into nothing again

      • First off, I’d estimate that 95% of posts that have mentioned Bradley have noticed that he was a vending machine to the Ghanaians. If that’s “giving him a pass,” I’d hate to see what happens when people decide to call him out.

        Second, let’s say you get your wish and he’s dropped from the squad next match. Who replaces him? Mix? Green? Bedoya? Do you move Dempsey back and play AJ and Wondo? It’s one thing to say, “Bradley played badly; drop him,” but you’ve got to replace him in the squad.

      • Bradley is a scared cow.

        Some typing errors are delightful.

        Anyways, C. Ronaldo was not even close to his normal self against Germany. Should they drop him? Xavi and Iniesta really did nothing for Spain in Game 1 – DROP THEM. Frankly, I thought Shinji Kagawa looked invisible against Ivory Coast, so HE’S OUT OF THE LINEUP.

        Bottom line, sometimes really good players have bad games. Gimme a break on the Bradley stuff.

      • It’s almost as though people are relying on more than a single data point in projecting future performance. Radical idea, doubt it gains traction.

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