CHRISTOPHER ANDERSON - Saturday, June 26, 2010
United States vs Ghana
World Cup - Saturday June 26, 2010
Royal Bafokeng Stadium
Two ghastly defensive errors ended the US' World Cup hopes, as their spirited run came to a screeching halt, eliminated for the second successive time by well-organized Ghana.
Continuing a trend in this appearance in the tournament, the US found themselves down early after a Kevin-Prince Boateng tally, before yet another comeback with a Landon Donovan penalty, but an immediate gaffe in extra time was too much for the Americans to overcome.
In his starting eleven Bob Bradley opted to continue with Jonathan Bornstein instead of Oguchi Onyewu in the backline, and Ricardo Clark in the midfield instead of Maurice Edu, a choice that would prove to be costly.
The squads moved the ball forward in the opening five minutes with the US channeling up the right side with Robbie Findley and Landon Donovan for a cross that found no target.
Ghana responded four minutes in with the first shot of the game after Asamoah Gyan found Samuel Inkoom on the right, but the FC Basel striker was off-target.
The Africans jumped out to the lead in the fifth minute following a horrific Clark giveaway in the midfield that popped out to Kevin-Prince Boateng. The Portsmouth forward streaked down the left side, eluded Jay DeMerit, and slotted past a helpless Tim Howard for the early lead.
In frustration, Clark who also coughed up England's goal in the World Cup opener, was incredibly lucky to just see yellow a minute later for a foul on the goal-scorer from Portsmouth.
The US tried to organize offense and created another opportunity in the 12th minute, but Jozy Altidore was unable to get a good foot on his blast from 25 out.
The Ghanaians dominated possession and dictated the tempo for much of the first quarter-hour. Focusing their offense on Andre Ayew put pressure on left back Steve Cherundolo, who saw yellow in the 18th minute after a studs-to-thigh foul on the Arles midfielder. The ensuing blast from Gyan from the corner of the box was punched away by Tim Howard.
The US tried to work their way down the field with a breakaway in the the 20th minute, but Ghana foiled their attempt. Two minutes later, a Boateng foul on Cherundolo set up a Donovan free kick from right side, leading to a Michael Bradley cross from left. Wigan Athletic backup keeper Richard Kingson stood strong in goal and was there to pounce on the dangerous delivery.
Still looking for another goal, the ever-dangerous Boateng got off a pass to the right in the 28th minute after drawing DeMerit and Cherundolo. Kwadwo Asamoah was there for the cross but just a a touch too strong.
Just past the half-hour mark, coach Bradley made a rare early substitution turning to Edu to stand in for the brutal Clark.
"We go through the same process before every game," coach Bradley said after the match. "We felt that fresh legs in the center of the field would be a good idea."
"I was concerned about the card. I told him that the decision was solely based on the card. Ricardo is such a good man. He felt badly about the ball he lost, and I simply said 'that's part of soccer.'"
Neither side looked threatening until the 35th minute when, after a series of giveaways, Dempsey found Findley for a shot in the box that Kingson kicked to safety.
Asamoah posed a threat of his own a few minutes later, getting past DeMerit after a long goal kick and unleashing a shot that required a save from Howard.
The US looked for more ideas to break through the Ghanaian defense, but a free kick set piece from 40 yards out failed to find a head.
The first half came to a close with a clear advantage for Ghana who outshot the Americans 9-4.
For the second half Benny Feilhaber entered for Findley, thus shifting Dempsey up top with Altidore, as the US had started for the second half in the game against Algeria.
The US came out of the gates on all cylinders with a drive downfield and a near miss. Donovan crossed in for Altidore in the penalty area, who laid off to Feilhaber at the goal box, but Kingson got a hand on it.
"Benny's was a great chance, but he's having to stretch forward," Tim Howard later said about the chance. "Nothing was set forward for us perfectly."
In the 53rd minute Bornstein pulled off a nice feed through the box, but no one there for the taking. Their next time down the field US surged forward again with Donovan swinging in a cross, but too high for Altidore and to fast for Dempsey at the back post.
The pressure finally paid off for the Americans just over the hour mark after Dempsey nutmegged John Mensah cutting through the box. Twenty-year old Jonathan Mensah caught up with the Fulham midfielder, but brought him down and earned a yellow in the process.
Landon Donovan stepped up for the penalty and coolly pinged inside the right post for the vital equalizer.
Largely transparent in the second half, Ghana finally orchestrated an attack in the 68th minute and earned a Bocanegra yellow for a foul. On the ensuing free kick, Asamoah unleashed a blast that Howard cradled with ease.
Ghana coach Milovan Rajevac swapped defenders in the 73rd minute with Lee Addy entering for Hans Sarpei.
The Black Stars indeed did not look like they were through, moving forward with an Asamoah delivery in for a Gyan header over the bar.
The US then saw a few big chances to take the lead. In the 77th minute, Altidore spotted Michael Bradley slipping through the defense onsides for a shot, but Kingson managed to cover.
After Stephen Appiah entered for Boateng a minute later, Bornstein found Altidore with a long ball who, while muscling down John Mensah, managed to get a shot off while on the ground that dribbled inches from the right post.
With the end of regulation in sight, Ayew received a yellow for tripping up Altidore while sprinting down the sideline, and earned a yellow from Kassai's pocket.
Herculez Gomez came on for Altidore with the start of the added extra time, in hopes of jumpstarting the US offense.
Yet, Ghana only needed a three minutes to find the go-ahead goal courtesy of Asamoah Gyan. Outrunning his Rennes teammate Bocanegra, Gyan shook off DeMerit and fired home a left-footer beyond the reach of Howard for the winner.
"We put a lot into getting this game to 1-1 and we had one very good chance before regulation finished," Bradley commented. "In the overtime we felt good about where were physically and where we were in the game. The fact that we gave up a goal so quickly... there's not much time. It's going to be hard to get it back."
The US tried nonetheless to create chances, including a Bornstein cross through the box in the 98th minute that fell to Feilhaber for a strike, but deflected out.
Nearing the 110 minute mark, Inkoom tugged at Bornstein's jersey, earning a 30-yard free kick for Donovan that Kingson punched out.
Running out of steam and unable to penetrate the solid Ghanaian defense, the Americans accepted their fate and the 2-1 scoreline, bringing an end to an otherwise memorable World Cup run.
"You have to play over 90 minutes and we didn't to it," Howard said about what went wrong. "We should have won the game, or at least taken it to penalty kicks. We got ourselves behind the eight ball. When guys get inside and around the heart of the defense and penalty spot, you're asking for trouble."
"We played a pretty good game," Donovan added. "[We] just made a couple of mistakes and got punished for it."
As for the Ghanaians, they continue their run bearing the pride of Africa with a quarterfinal date with Uruguay, 2-1 winners over South Korea earlier in the day.