It began in an all too familiar fashion for the United States. An early goal put the US behind once again in the 2010 World Cup and American fans were left scratching their heads. The United States were once again put in the position of chasing the game and looking for the equalizer. It was another valiant and hard-working effort by the team in the red, white and blue. The end result was not to the liking of the Americans. Let’s take a look at what went down in South Africa.
The starting eleven for the US differed from the side that was able to pull out a win over Algeria during the week. Manager Bob Bradley placed Ricardo Clark in the midfield next to Michael Bradley and put Robbie Findley up top alongside Jozy Altidore. The choice of Clark over Maurice Edu left many wondering if a training injury may have kept Edu on the bench. Clark had not seen action since the first-half of the England match which opened the tournament for the US. Edu had seemed to prove his worth against Slovenia and Algeria has a defensive midfielder who allowed Michael Bradley to open up the offensive attack. Findley returned from his one match ban against Algeria to make the start.
The inclusion of Clark instantly became relevant as the midfielder lost possession at the center line and the ensuing Ghana break led to the first goal of the match. A replay of the incident showed Clark foolishly attacking two Ghana players and being moved off the ball. Bradley’s choice was compounded by a poor tackle by Clark that drew a yellow card. Edu was subbed in for Clark after just 30 minutes of play. Findley nearly made Clark’s mistake a distant memory as he attacked the Ghana goal. However, a lack of finishing ability proved to be the difference as his shot was knocked clear. The early Ghana goal seemed to spur the American attack as was the case throughout the World Cup. The Americans opened the second half looking like a different team. The attack was fluid and the American players were connecting well. It was no surprise that a catalyst for the improvement was the half-time introduction of Benny Feilhaber. In fact, the superb play of Feilhaber raised questions as to why he was never given the starting nod. Clint Dempsey found the Ghana defense lacking as he slice his way into the box. Dempsey was taken down and awarded a penalty. Landon Donovan came through for the Americans and knotted the match at 1-1.
The moments immediately following the goal in the 62nd minute, the Americans seemed to have numerous chances to take the match. However, last ditch defending and a few missed passes kept the US out of the net. The match would go into extra time. Fittingly, it would be another lackluster performance by the American back line in the opening minutes of extra time that would seal the fate of the US squad. Asamoah Gyan muscled pass defender Carlos Bocanegra and slotted home a great left footed finish past a sprawling Tim Howard. The US offered a valiant final effort to equalize and send the match into penalty kicks. However, the Ghana defense would prove too much for the Americans. Deflections and proper alignment kept the Ghana goal clear of an equalizer.
As the final whistle blew on the American hopes in the World Cup, the players fell to their knees in pain. The result may not have been the desired outcome, however the effort was world-class. The US squad may have lost the match, but they gained respect from the soccer world for their hard-work and never say die attitude. There is nothing to be ashamed of for the American team. They have provided the world with exciting soccer and memorable moments.
Thank you to the United States Men’s National Team for their brave efforts in South Africa. You have all earned our respect and admiration.