The U.S. won its World Cup opener in dramatic fashion, as German-American John Brooks was the hero in Natal.
We take you through the highs and lows of the Americans' performance against one of their biggest rivals.
John Brooks: The 21-year-old’s contribution to the U.S. could be neatly summed up by a late two-minute stretch. There was, of course, the dramatic header that won his team the game, but almost as important was the following corner kick. This time at the other end, Brooks got up to block a goal-bound Ghana header, potentially saving a goal.
Many U.S. fans were understandably concerned when the untested Brooks entered the game at halftime for the injured Matt Besler. Aside from an early hiccup though, the Hertha Berlin center back was immense, providing a number of key clearances and interventions. In the match that cap-tied him to the U.S., Brooks proved that he’ll be a big part of the team’s future for a long time.
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Michael Bradley: This one is rather inexplicable. Bradley had a tremendous three-game send-off series, and appeared poised to lead his team in Brazil. Instead, he was tentative, careless and sloppy with the ball against Ghana. At times he appeared to dither on the ball, waiting too long to play that killer pass he’s become known for. Other times, his passes were simply wayward. He recovered a bit in the end, but it was clearly an off night. Luckily, the U.S. got the result it wanted, so Bradley can chalk it up to a bad day at the office and move on.
Jozy Altidore’s injury: Altidore played all but 10 minutes of the USA’s send-off series, showing how indispensable he had become for his team. As the highest U.S. player up the field, his hold-up play is key for nearly anything the U.S. attempts to conjure offensively. His hamstring injury was excruciating to watch for the U.S., as he was in obvious agony on the field and had to be stretchered off. His return to the World Cup appears to be an unlikely proposition.
His absence was clearly felt in the second half, with the U.S. under siege by a rampant Ghana side. Altidore’s replacement Aron Johannssonn is not nearly the physical presence that the Sunderland man is, and he was muscled off the ball several times when the U.S. needed him to keep it. The Americans managed to defeat Ghana, winning the battle on the night, but they may have lost the war with Altidore’s injury.