It was coming, and somewhere deep inside we all knew it. Ghana was going to score, even if we deluded ourselves into thinking that it wouldn’t happen until after the final whistle. When Andre Ayew scored, at the end of an admittedly beautiful move, it sucked the hope out of me. It seemed at the time that the only question was whether the U.S. would hang on for a draw or concede a second. Even Taylor Twellman, in the commentary booth, was of the opinion that the U.S. should try to cling to what it had. But Jurgen Klinsmann does not think the way you, Taylor Twellman, or I think.
The game sprung open again, much to my terror. The focus and plaudits will go to Graham Zusi’s corner and John Brooks’ header, but Fabian Johnson deserves credit for creating the corner. It was a play that happens countless times, usually without much end result: a defender shielding the ball from his opponent while it rolls slowly out for a goal kick. Johnson did not win the ball with his pressure, but he forced a touch from the Ghanaian defender before the ball cross the end line. His bit of endeavor made all the difference.
This game has been a weight on my shoulders since the draw, slowly increasing in size until kickoff. I had barely exhaled my deep breaths before Dempsey scored. That goal shaped the game; the next 80 minutes were played in its shadow, and as long as the scoreline was 1-0 I had hope. John Brooks restored that hope when all was lost. And now, in the safety after the final whistle, I have more hope than I know what to do with.
That win, in addition to exorcising certain demons from the past, carves a path through the group of death that previously would have been thought an optimist’s dream. A draw against Portugal may very well see the USMNT through. That doesn’t seem like too big an ask.
It’s entirely possible, still, that the U.S. will lose to a vindictive Portugal and dominant Germany and exit after three games. But right now even that doesn’t seem so bad. There were people who predicted the U.S. to go home without a point, without even a goal. They’ve already been proven wrong, and in my mind, Klinsmann has already justified his contract. We beat Ghana. Whatever happens over the next 10 days, the worst has been avoided.