By Mike Woitalla
The 31-year-old Clint Dempsey, playing in his 106th U.S. game and third World Cup, scored 30 seconds after kickoff. The Americans gave up an 82nd minute equalizer, but 21-year-old John Brooks, making his fifth U.S. appearance and first in a competitive game, headed the gamewinner four minutes later in a 2-1 U.S. win over Ghana.
The Americans produced nearly no other offense, but earn high grades for battling to a golden win to start off its 2014 World Cup campaign. In its previous six World Cups, the USA had won only four games.
RATING PLAYER (TEAM) GP/G
7 Tim Howard (Everton/ENG), 101/0.
Came off his line to snatch balls from Asamoah Gyan’s feet. Made a diving save on Gyan effort in 32nd minute -- the only one of Ghana’s many long-range efforts that seriously threatened. Caught all crosses. Andre Ayew’s equalizer on a close-range blast looked unstoppable.
7 Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim/GER), 23/1.
The right back prevented the Ghanians from attacking down the left wing. Stayed home most of the game but surged forward in the 78th minute to set up a rare chance for the USA -- Dempsey’s shot that was saved easily by keeper Adam Kwarasey. And then won corner kick that led Brooks' winning goal.
6 Matt Besler (Sporting KC), 18/0.
Had to be subbed at halftime with a muscle injury after a steady first-half performance in central defense.
7 Geoff Cameron (Stoke City/ENG), 28/1.
Central defender blocked shots and intercepted passes.
7 DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla/MEX), 117/17.
Left back had his hands full, especially with Christian Atsu, as Ghana chose the right wing to launch most of its attacks, but nothing lethal ever came from his side.
7 Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake) 38/1.
Shook off a couple knocks he took in first half and swept competently in front of the central defense, leaving Ghana to launch numerous innocuous shots from long distance. Of a night with lots of sloppy U.S. passing, he also came through with lots of clean passes.
8 Jermaine Jones (Besiktas/TUR), 43/2.
Made the pass to Dempsey on the first goal. Covered acres of ground as he partnered with Beasley on the left side. Launched a couple of late-game forays to take Ghana out of its rhythm.
5 Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), 87/12.
Mis-played far more passes than usual. Didn’t create the offense one expects from a central midfielder. His energy did help stifle Ghana in the waning minutes
7 Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes/FRA), 29/1.
The most active U.S. midfielder in first half offensively. Helped set up a chance for Altidore. Started limping in the second half and lasted until the 77th minute when replaced by Zusi.
7 Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders) 106/38.
Took three smooth touches with his right foot, the second leaving John Boye in the dust, then smoothly finished with his left foot to give the USA a 1-0 lead 34 seconds after kickoff. Got kicked in the face and suffered a broken nose from a kick by Boye in the 33rd minute. Battled on as subs were more desperately needed for others. Became first American to score in three World Cups.
NR Jozy Altidore (Sunderland/ENG), 71/23.
Left the field after 23 minutes with hamstring injury. Had a wide header and shot blocked in penalty area before that.
RATING PLAYER (TEAM) GP/G
5 Aron Johannsson (AZ/NED), 9/2.
Barely saw the ball after replacing Altidore in the 23rd minute. But had one deciding pass: through ball to Johnson that won corner before Brooks' goal.
8 John Brooks (Hertha Berlin/GER) 5/1.
Came in for injured Besler at haltime. After he scored the gamewinner winner with a header off Graham Zusi’s corner kick, blocked with his back a goal-bound header from Michael Essien in an aerial battle.
6 Graham Zusi (Sporting KC), 24/3.
Entered in 77th for Bedoya and struck the perfect corner kick, which Brooks headed home.
(1=low; 5=average; 10=high)