From Clint Dempsey’s opening-minute goal to Jozy Altidore’s injury to 80+ minutes of clean-sheet defending to John Brooks’ goal in the 86th minute – this after the U.S. squandered a 1-0 lead just four minutes earlier – the United State’s first World Cup match had everything.
Including three points for the U.S., which earned a hard-fought 2-1 win over Ghana on Monday.
“Wow, it was a fantastic finish,” former U.S. men’s national team player Jeff Agoos said on The MoJo Show. “I thought the team really deserved the win, and we were very resilient tonight. I’ll tell you what, three points puts us in a great position, especially with the result in Germany/Portugal earlier today (a 4-0 Germany win). I can’t be prouder of the guys than I am today. They had a magnificent game plan and executed.”
Dempsey beat Ghanian goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey less than a minute into the match to give the U.S. a stunning 1-0 lead – a lead the Americans held until the 82nd minute. Andre Ayew tied the game at 1 to set up Brooks’ heroics.
“We knew we were going to be under some pressure (and that) it was going to come down to one or two plays in each end, and I think we made those plays,” Agoos said. “A little unlucky on the goal, (but) give a lot of credit to Ghana. They played a nice combination play to get their goal, but again, we’re resilient. We came back.”
Brooks, who replaced the injured Matt Besler at halftime, became the first U.S. substitute to score in World Cup history, heading home a corner kick from Graham Zusi.
“Just fantastic for those guys,” Agoos said. “And now it’s time to do the hard part, which is not celebrate too hard, move on and we’ve got a big game against Portugal.”
The U.S. plays Portugal on June 22 and Germany on June 26. The Americans will need at least a point from one of those two matches to remain in contention to advance.
But does beating Ghana – which knocked the U.S. out of the last two World Cups – prove that Jurgen Klinsmann’s style is working?
“I think they’re still evolving,” Agoos said. “He’s been with the team for four years and it takes some time for that to happen. I thought we did a decent job controlling the ball. I would’ve liked to have seen more chances created but I think we defended well. Ghana really came at us down the flanks, put a lot of balls in and were dangerous on some set pieces, but I think we held the line, and I think we did what we had to do to get the three points.
“This isn’t about style of play anymore. It’s really about results – and we got the result.”
Yes, but it was costly. Altidore exited in the 21st minute with a strained hamstring and was replaced by Aron Johannsson.
“It’s a big loss because Jozy’s a guy that can hold play up; he’s a target forward,” Agoos said. “And I think when you saw Johannsson come in, he’s a different type of player, he gives you a different type of look. And we’ve been playing Jozy up front for really all of qualifying, so it really changes our look – not in a bad way, but just in a different way. I’m not sure how familiar we are with that look, but I think Johannsson will do well.”
Either way, the show must go on. In fact, it already did, as fans throughout America gave the U.S. a standing ovation Monday.
Agoos was happy to see that, but he wasn’t surprised.
“We’ve seen how big the sport is around the world, and it’s really starting to catch on here in the United States,” he said. “You’ve got so many different styles of play to begin with and so many different cultures coming together. It really is a celebration – not only of the sport, but of the cultures of the people. Where politics may divide, sports brings people together. I think that’s what the tournament is all about.”