RUSTENBURG, South Africa (AP) - Life on the edge came to an
exhausting and crushing end for the United States against a
Ghana sent the U.S. packing from the World Cup - again -
eliminating the Americans in the second round Saturday night.
Asamoah Gyan scored 3 minutes into overtime, leading the Black
Stars to a 2-1 victory that ended a thrilling but ultimately
unfulfilling World Cup for the United States that was watched by
record audiences back home.
"A stinging, tough defeat," U.S. coach Bob Bradley said. "We
knew Ghana was a good team and we didn't get the job done."
Asamoah Gyan scored 3 minutes into overtime, and this time there
was no magic left in the Americans.
Kevin Prince Boateng put Ghana ahead when he stripped the ball
from Ricardo Clark in the 5th minute and beat goalkeeper Tim Howard
from 16 yards.
Once again, the U.S. came back, and Landon Donovan tied the
score with a penalty kick in the 62nd minute after Jonathan Mensah
pulled down Clint Dempsey streaking in. But no matter how much the
Americans pressured after Gyan scored, they couldn't tie it again.
"We had already expended a lot of energy at that time,"
Bradley said. "I think we put ourselves in trouble with giving up
the early goal again."
In the first-ever extra time World Cup game for the U.S., Gyan
got the winning goal when he took a long ball from Andre Ayew over
the defense and beat U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra, his teammate on
the French club Rennes. Gyan let the ball bounce, took a touch with
his chest, and with Jay DeMerit vainly trying to catch up, scored
over goalkeeper Tim Howard with a left-footed shot from 16 yards.
"We've made everybody proud," Gyan said. "Not Ghana alone,
but all of Africa."
There was nothing to equal Donovan's injury-time goal against
Algeria that moved the Americans into the second round. The closest
the U.S. came to tying it again was in the 98th minute, when
Maurice Edu's header off Donovan's corner kick went wide.
With Howard pushed up, DeMerit's desperation long shot in the
final minutes went over the crossbar. Then Dempsey sent a header
At the final whistle, Howard consoled Bocanegra and Maurice Edu
collapsed to the ground. Donovan exchanged jerseys with a Ghana
player and walked off the field, put on a coat, sat on the bench
and hung his head.
"This is a terrific group and we're proud," Bradley said.
"We're also disappointed that we couldn't take it further."
Ghana, the only African team left in the tournament, celebrated
moving into the quarterfinals against Uruguay on Friday in
Johannesburg. In their second World Cup appearance, the Black Stars
bettered their 2006 team, which lost to Brazil 3-0 in the second
round. That team beat the Americans 2-1 in the final game of the
opening round to send the U.S. home.
"We did it before," Gyan said. "We did it in 2006."
While the U.S. came from behind to draw England 1-1 and Slovenia
2-2 in the first round, the Americans looked ragged this time. They
go home pondering a World Cup that could have been so much more.
They thrilled the large number of Americans who were the largest
group of overseas ticket buyers, but failed to do as well as the
2002 team, which reached the quarterfinals in the best U.S. finish
The defense allowed the first goal in three of four games, and
the Americans kept up their record of never coming from behind to
win in 29 World Cup matches.
With Donovan, Dempsey and Howard in the primes of their careers,
the U.S. had high expectations coming off a first-round exit four
years ago. Because a growing fan base watched on television in
record numbers, the loss was even more stinging for a team still
struggling for recognition both in the soccer world and among
sports fans in America.
"Soccer can be a cruel game," Donovan said. "Sometimes you're
at the top and sometimes you are at the bottom of the mountain."
Ghana's only two goals in the first round had been penalty kicks
by Gyan, but Boateng, whose half-brother plays for Germany, quickly
put the Black Stars ahead from the run of play. After stealing the
ball from Clark at midfield, he sprinted in on DeMerit, cut to the
outside and turned the defender around as Clark chased in vain.
Clark, who hadn't played since the opener against England, was
replaced by Maurice Edu in the 31st minute.
The best U.S. chance of the first half came in the 35th minute.
Michael Bradley, the coach's son, intercepted a pass and Robbie
Findley, back from a one-game suspension, had an open shot. But
goalkeeper Richard Kingson got his left hand on the shot.
Benny Feilhaber replaced the ineffective Findley at the start of
the second half, with Dempsey moving up to forward. Feilhaber
immediately had a chance when Jozy Altidore tipped the ball to him,
but a sliding Kingson got a hand on it.
The U.S. had conceded six straight penalty kicks since John
Souza converted against Chile in 1950 before Mensah took out
Donovan kneeled down behind the ball in concentration, then
clanked it in off the far post for his American record 45th
international goal. With his third goal of the tournament and fifth
in World Cup play, he surpassed Bert Partenaude (1930) as the
American career leader.
"When we got to 1-1, I thought we could do it," Michael
Herculez Gomez replaced Altidore at the start of overtime as Bob
Bradley used his last substitution for fresh legs on offense.
Former President Bill Clinton, who watched Donovan's goal
against Algeria lift the U.S. to a 1-0 win and into the knockout
phase on Wednesday night, stayed around and watched from the VIP
area once again. This time he wore a blue U.S. team warmup jacket,
and Mick Jagger sat next to him.
The early Ghana goal quieted American fans, some in red, white
and blue wigs and Uncle Sam hats. One even a brought a life-size
cutout of President Barack Obama, who called the team to
congratulate players after the Algeria win.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)