What. A. Match!
From the opening score, the 5th fastest in World Cup history, to the final whistle, the United State's bout with Ghana, the team who had knocked them out of the World Cup each of the past two go-arounds, was an exciting, nerve racking, roller-coaster ride of emotions. After it was all said and done, the Yanks got a crucial trio of points, and now sit second only to Germany in Group G.
But it wasn't the best way to earn those points.
After Clint Dempsey drilled home the opening goal just 34 seconds into the match, the Ghanaians used their speed and athleticism to relentlessly attack the US over the next 80 minutes. During that time, both Jozy Altidore, the main point of attack for the Americans, and Matt Besler, a crucial cog in the USMNT defense, both left the game. Both left with hamstring injuries and left some huge questions about depth going forward while all but halting the US attack.
When the Black Stars did break through, they did so with style. A beautiful back-heel touch to Andrew Ayew left Tim Howard in no-mans land as the Ghanaian drilled home the tying goal at the near-post. The goal was not so much surprising at that point, with the Americans looking hapless against the Ghanaian attack, but rather heart-breaking for a country hoping to grab a crucial three points.
But just when it seemed like the US might only come out with a single point (or at times none at all), a Graham Zusi corner kick found substitute John Brooks in the 86' for the game-winning goal, sending Americans around the world in a frenzy. Howard and his defense did the rest to hold off the Black Stars en route to the 2-1 win.
So what does it all mean? What about DeAndre Yedlin?
Well, Yedlin didn't get to see any action on Monday due in large part to the fact that Jurgen Klinsmann had to use two of his subs before the start of the second half, and used his third to help alleviate the Ghana attack by putting in Zusi to help counter-attack. That said, with Besler's injury an unknown severity (most think it's minor) and DeMarcus Beasley and Fabian Johnson looking out of form, Yedlin could very well see time in Manaus against Christiano Ronaldo and Portugal.
Some other things to consider as well:
- Portugal looked pathetic on Monday in their 4-0 loss to Germany. You can say that word choice is harsh, but it's true. For the #4 team in the world to get pummeled like they did, pathetic is proper. Even after a red card.
- In said game, Ronaldo was held in check using a ghost defense (think of it like the Diamond and One defense in basketball.), Pepe was sent off for head-butting Thomas Muller, and Fábio Coentrão exited with a hamstring injury of his own. That all could be huge because. . .
- The Portuguese are rattled. That trio of Ronaldo, Pepe, and Coentrao are easily their three best players, outside of Nani, and they could be without two of them leaving Ronaldo out there to possibly get a lot of defensive attention on him. Oh, and the US might park the bus as well and stick to counter-attacking if Altidore can't go.
So what is at stake? Well, if Klinsmann can rally the troops to beat Portugal, it secures a bid to the 2nd round, barring a Ghanaian miracle win over Germany (highly unlikely). A tie would be ideal as well, assuming the Germans down the Black Stars as everyone expects them to.
Why? Well should the US and Portugal tie, and Germany wins, the table (or group for you non-soccer people) would have Germany at 6 points, the US at 4, Portugal at 1, and Ghana eliminated with 0 points. Also, the US would have a commanding +5 goal differential on the Portuguese and would have a +2 on goals scored as well, the first two tiebreakers after points.
With that said, if the US somehow tie or beat Germany, they'd advance (and even win the group with a win!). Even if they lose, if they keep it respectable, and Ghana doesn't let Portugal run all over them, the Yanks should advance, because a pair of 2-0 games would still give the US a -1 goal differential, but Portugal would have a -2. Savvy?
And how does Yedlin factor into all of this? Well, he's younger and the climate in Brazil has clearly taken a toll on the Americans. Keeping fresh legs out there will be huge and Yedlin's legs will be about as fresh as they come heading into the Amazon. It's highly unlikely he'll start, but if Ronaldo starts to go wild, he might be inserted to help lock up the reigning Ballon d'Or winner.
Everything will be decided though on Sunday at 6 pm, when the Rumble In The Jungle takes place.