Coaches have a simplistic saying: Goals change games. The USA’s first-minute goal changed Monday’s World Cup game against Ghana.
What a great goal. As usual, Clint Dempsey showed the ability to look like he is about to lose the ball and then chop one way, chop the other, past two players and a great finish.
The goal gave the United States confidence and shocked Ghana, but that only lasted about 10 or 12 minutes. Ghana slowly began to get back in the game, and the middle part of the first half was dictated by Ghana.
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• The loss of Jozy Altidore was a key blow. Aron Johannsson replaced him, but he is a much different player than Altidore. Johannsson is more technical but not as physical, and Dempsey is better when partnered with a player who can mix it up a little.
• The USA started to go forward again during the last 10 minutes of the first half and became more aggressive defensively. That attitude helped us create chances. Ghana had its best chance late in the first half and badly misplayed it.
• The USA lost Matt Besler to start the second half and turned to John Brooks, who ended up being the hero. But the half was a bit of a struggle. The USA forced Ghana wide through Christian Atsu on the right and Kwadwo Asamoah on the left, which helped the U.S. defend. As the half went on, however, we had to hold on. USA could not find Michael Bradley and could not maintain possession to take the pressure off.
• It was nice to see Tim Howard play the ball out as the USA tried to build from the back. But the second half had little going for the USA until the Graham Zusi sub. I have great respect for Zusi’s service, and his corner to Brooks provided the difference.
• Once Ghana scored in the 82nd minute, the game looked like it might tip in its direction. Ghana carried the game to us, especially in the second half. We lacked possession in the final third, and Bradley can be more involved. Jermaine Jones was superb on defense, and Kyle Beckerman gave everything he had. Although Bradley was not involved on offense, his work and fitness at the end were vital.
• It was a grind. We can and need to play better. We lost Altidore, Besler and possession. Yet a staple of our play has always been set pieces, and it was a great corner-kick goal that won it for us. The USA has great attitude and fight, which carries through difficult moments.
Enjoy the victory.
Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid will be analyzing key matches involving the U.S. for The Seattle Times throughout the World Cup.