Maurice Edu on the pitch after Team USA's 2-1 loss to Ghana.
Our boys left it all on the field.
On the field where they beat Algeria, sadly. Sadly, because the U.S. 2010 World Cup team made a great run and gave us a great effort until the final whistle blew them out.
A fourth miracle comeback in one World Cup was not to be.
After the mega-drama of their group-play games, the Americans just didn’t have enough left for a strong, athletic and hungry Ghanaian side. Except for a long spurt in the second half, the Americans were outplayed and out-hustled at almost every juncture.
Would it have been different if the U.S. had conquered its Shakespearean fatal flaw – The Early Goal Against?
They had a chance early. At just 1:20, Captain Landon played a dangerous, well-aimed cross, but there was no one to finish, no early hero. Then Ricardo Clark just four minutes later gave up the ball to Kevin Prince Boateng who blew past a snoozy Jay DeMerit and hit a shot that Tim Howard has been stopping all year.
But not today. It was awful.
For the next 20 minutes, Ghana dominated. They snatched every loose ball. They were running with the ball after every collision. They were crisp and strong and organized and everywhere.
Robbie Findley had one clean opportunity but couldn’t capitalize, and the U.S. never really looked in the game in the first 45 minutes.
Benny Feilhaber, who has brought the foot of Lazarus to the Americans in South Africa, came in at the half, and the U.S. was instantly a fresh, inspired team. After several decent chances, the beloved Landon Donovan nailed a penalty kick in the 62nd minute.
After that the U.S. side looked pumped, but not at all lethal. Bradley and Altidore both missed fine chances. They just couldn’t seal the deal.
And three minutes in, it was over.
The fatal flaw, again: The Early Goal Against.
In the crucial opening minutes the U.S. defense broke down and let in a dumb goal. For the rest of overtime, the Americans, as gutsy as they are, looked spent.
And now the team that has brought more drama and more highlight heroics to the World Cup so far is out. They met the goal of getting out of their group and they almost went further. They gained a little world respect, I hope.
And if they had to lose to any team, I for one am glad it was Ghana – the only team left from Africa, a young team playing without its star, Michael Essien.
Bob Bradley brought the Yanks far. Full credit and hats off.
But why oh why did he start Ricardo Clark? Clark was responsible for England’s goal at the top of THAT game. Maurice Edu had played nicely in the center with Bradley the Younger all the time he was in. And Feilhaber made things happen whenever he was in. Why didn’t one of them get the nod? Didn’t Bradley really need to be a little creative in overcoming the fatal flaw?
So it’s heartbreak for this young country. Better luck in four – FOUR??!! – years. But unlike any prior Cup, the Americans now have many players who will play important roles for top European teams: Bradley, Onyewu, Spector, Howard, Dempsey and, hopefully, Altidore and Donovan. One thing they don’t have is a top young striker to play with Jozy.
For the rest of the tournament, I think I’ll be rooting against Old Europe. I do like Spain and Holland. And Portugal, too. But I’ll be pulling for a non-Euro final of Brazil and Argentina. At least until I change my tragedy-addled mind.