[USA-GHANA] Once again, the USA went out of the World Cup to Ghana, again falling 2-1, this time in overtime Saturday at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace outside Rustenburg. Only expectations this time were higher. A lot higher. The Black Stars dominated the first half by a wide margin, the USA took the second half, but Ghana again had the edge in overtime.
Four reasons why Ghana won ...
-- Asamoah Gyan was too much for the U.S. defense to handle. He shrugged off the challenge of his Rennes teammate Carlos Bocanegra to a long ball and then beat Jay DeMerit before volleying the winning goal past Tim Howard. Gyan is only 24 but competing in his second World Cup.
-- Richard Kingson didn't play a single game for his English club, Wigan, last season but you'd have never known considering the way he played against the United States. He made key stops in each half on Robbie Findley and Jozy Altidore and was outstanding on U.S. set pieces into the penalty area -- a key factor in their earlier success.
-- Ghana's youngsters came up big in the biggest match of their senior international careers. The Black Stars started six players 23 or younger, including three players from their 2009 Under-20 World Cup championship team.
-- Ghana coach Milovan Rajevac's relations with his veteran stars had been stormy, dating back to World Cup qualifying, but the former New York Arrow indoor player's move to bring on Stephen Appiah in the second half was a key. The USA looked like it was set to pull ahead, but Appiah, who had only played 17 minutes in the tournament, helped stabilize the Black Star midfield.
Four reasons why the USA lost ...
-- Midfield turnovers -- a problem throughout qualifying -- came back to haunt the Americans. Kevin-Prince Boateng's goal in the 5th minute was eerily similar to the one Carlo Costly scored for Honduras five minutes into the Catrachos' game against the USA in Chicago a year ago. Then it was Clint Dempsey who coughed the ball up. This time it was Ricardo Clark who turned the ball over in midfield. Then Costly beat Howard to the near post. This time, Boateng also scored to the near post, only from closer range.
-- The U.S. central defense didn't get the job done. DeMerit had a shot at closing down Boateng on the first goal but got turned around. On the second goal, Gyan beat both Bocanegra and DeMerit.
-- The Americans failed to hold possession in response to the pressure from the Ghanaians. Most of their chances came not from concerted attacks but because of sloppy play by the Black Star defense. Only when Benny Feilhaber came on at halftime was there some order to the U.S. game but it was not enough.
-- Just like at the 2006 World Cup, the U.S. forwards failed to score a goal. Jozy Altidore wasn't the force he was in previous games, and the other U.S. forwards -- Robbie Findley and Herculez Gomez -- were ineffective.