The 21-year-old U.S. national team newcomer could not have picked a more dramatic time to score his first international goal.Entering this World Cup, dual-citizen defender John Brooks wasn't even cap-tied to the USA. Now he is an American soccer hero.
A halftime substitute Monday for Matt Besler, the 21-year-old center back made just his fifth international appearance since debuting in August — and his first in a competitive match. His mere presence on the roster caused controversy last month when he was chosen over steady veteran Clarence Goodson. His inclusion versus Ghana over Omar Gonzalez was similarly polarizing.
It's safe to say Jurgen Klinsmann's faith has been vindicated.
Four minutes after Ghana drew level late, it was Brooks who rose to nod down Graham Zusi's corner kick. The contact was strong. The bounce stayed on target. As the ball rattled around the back of the net, Brooks threw his hands in the air in disbelief, then collapsed to the turf. The 86th-minute strike — just the fourth of his top-flight career for club or country — gave the USA a 2-1 triumph over Ghana.
Clint Dempsey's goal and grit provided the USA with some life. Tim Howard's poise between the posts was crucial as well. Jermaine Jones and Kyle Beckerman made a slew of timely tackles in midfield. But Brooks was the standout against Ghana.
Stepping into a match as heated and physical as this USA-Ghana clash was an imposing task on its own. Doing so in his World Cup debut amplified the pressure. Yet Brooks, aside from one shaky moment, performed with confidence that belied his age.
Partnering with Geoff Cameron, Brooks held his own while helping deflect a constant stream of Ghanaian attacks. He delivered seven clearances, two blocks and two interceptions, and completed 9 of 10 passes. As the Americans protected the lead after his goal, he came up with a crucial deflection of a Michael Essien header.
With this victory, the Americans now have five World Cup triumphs in the modern era. The players who have scored game-winning World Cup goals after 1950: Earnie Stewart. Brian McBride. Landon Donovan.
And now, John Brooks.