On its third World Cup attempt, the United States finally defeated Ghana, but the Black Stars didn’t go down without a fight. Almost literally.
The game opened with a lightning bolt. In the first 30 seconds, Jermaine Jones on the left wing found Clint Dempsey streaking toward the goal.
Dempsey split a couple of defenders and drilled the ball into the corner of the goal. It was the fifth-fastest goal in Cup history, and it also bestowed on the striker the distinction of becoming the first American to score a goal in three World Cups.
For the next 20 to 30 minutes, the U.S. looked like the far better squad, but then a series of unfortunate incidents took place, starting with Dempsey’s fellow-striker, Jozy Altidore falling to the ground with a hamstring injury that will almost certainly keep him out for the rest of the tournament.
A horrible twist for a highly-respected player who had only recently started breaking out of a year-plus goal-scoring drought.
A few minutes later, Dempsey battled with John Boye for a ball in the air and got kicked in the face for his troubles. After a few minutes of medical attention with blood streaming down his nose, Dempsey got back in the game with some cotton wedged in his nostril.
"I just had trouble breathing," Dempsey told the Associated Press afterward, his nose swollen and cut. "I was coughing up blood a little bit. Hopefully I'll be able to breathe through my nose again before the next game."
ESPN interviewed Landon Donovan at halftime, and the one-time team star who coach Jürgen Klinsmann controversially left off the roster, made an understatement when he said, “The U.S. team looks like a boxer who’s been hit a few times.”
After the half, the Ghanians pressed forward and dominated the time of possession, 60-40 and generated more offensive opportunities, including some sharp saves by U.S. keeper Tim Howard.
But the U.S. hung tough, and in the 82nd minute, just as it looked as if the game would end 1-0, their personal nemesis, Asamoah Gyan back-heeled a pass in the penalty area to André Ayew who drilled it into the goal over a sprawling Howard to tie the game.
Less than four minutes later, however, on one of only three corner kicks the U.S. offense generated, Graham Zusi centered the ball into the front of the goal, where Dempsey missed it, but defenseman John Brooks didn’t.
His header bounced off the ground and under the arm of Adam Kwarasey for the game-winner.
Coupled with Germany’s 4-0 pounding of Portugal, the win puts the U.S. in second place, based on point differential.
Dempsey wasn’t counting any chickens before they roosted. "This win means nothing unless we're able to build upon it the next two games," he said.
Possibly having his two most experienced attackers down with a hamstring and playing through a likely broken nose, Klinsmann may yet come to regret his decision to leave Donovan, who has scored the most goals in U.S. Men’s National Team history, behind.
Should Altidore be out for the duration, Klinsmann will have the chance to replace him on the U.S. roster.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.