Don’t blame Bob Bradley for wishing USA played their second half first.
For the third time in four games, they were left chasing inside the first quarter. For the third time in four games, the USA equalised.
Benny Feilhaber and Joze Altidore could even have killed this pre-quarter final before Asamoah Gyan put Ghana on Cloud Nine with a blinder.
“I think we put ourselves in that spot one time too many. It’s a hard lesson. We put a lot of effort into making it 1-1 and Jozy also got a chance. At overtime, we felt good physically but again gave up a goal so quickly. That’s when you start thinking it’s going to be hard to get back,” said USA coach Bob Bradley after Saturday’s 1-2 defeat.
Given the disaster of a first-round exit in 2006, this was an improved showing from Bradley’s boys, who stunned all by conquering Spain before losing 2-3 to Brazil in the Confederations Cup last year. Ranked 14th in the world among FIFA’s 202 affiliates, the USA were also World Cup quarter-finalists eight years ago.
Not bad going for a country where soccer struggles to be a third sport.
“As a national team we are always responsible to show how far the game has come in the USA. We moved things along with the Confederations Cup but in the World Cup, it comes down to every match. We will continue to try and move the game,” said Bradley, coach since December 2006.
Ghana changed from four backs to three central defenders and used Samuel Inkoom as a wingback.
Inkoom gave them the width on the right and with Hans Sarpei too moving up, the West African team always had the option of playing the ball left or right of centre.
Kevin-Prince Boateng struck through the inside left, aiming for the near post at Tim Howard’s end, after USA delayed closing him down after Ricardo Clarke gave away the ball. Michael Bradley then should have done better firing a cross intercepted by Richard Kingson in the Ghana goal.
Robbie Findley then shot into Kingson after breaking clear as the even contest ebbed and flowed with Kwado Aasmoah being denied by Howard.
Like against Slovenia, Bradley rang in the changes at half-time and after Feilhaber again couldn’t get past Kingson’s legs, Landon Donovan converted a penalty awarded after Clint Dempsey was felled by Jonathan Mensah.
Having beaten the off-side trap, Michael Bradley then shot into Kingson. Soon after Carlos Bocanegra made a crucial interception but as the game went into overtime was outpowered by Gyan who then shrugged off Jay DeMerit’s challenge to fire a super left-footer.
That ended a great American dream one which even the presence of Bill Clinton in the stands couldn’t rekindle.