NATAL, Brazil (AP) — After Clint Dempsey's historic early goal, the United States spent more than an hour struggling to hold off wave after wave of Ghana attacks. It was no surprise when Ghana tied the game in the 82nd minute.
Once again, the Black Stars — who had eliminated the Americans at the past two World Cups — were poised to ruin the tournament for the U.S.
With two starters out with injuries, the U.S. barely threatened in the second half until a corner kick in the 86th minute. Graham Zusi lifted the ball into the penalty area, where fellow substitute John Brooks rose above the defense and headed it in for a 2-1 victory, putting the U.S. atop the group with Germany.
"I couldn't believe it. ...I just ran in the box and hoped that the ball would hit my head and it did," said Brooks, a 6-foot-4 defender who is brought forward for set pieces.
The loss put Ghana at the bottom of Group G with Portugal — the Americans' next opponent. The top two teams in the group advance.
At the final whistle, coach Jurgen Klinsmann, the German hired to transform the U.S. from mere World Cup participant into a potential power, threw his arms to the sky and roared.
"The U.S. team always has great spirit," Klinsmann said. "I said it to the bench minutes before we're going to get some chances still. So we are still in the game after the equalizer, we just need to kind of push and push and grind it out. That's what they did. Here comes a set piece we trained over and over and over that stuff. And (Brooks) puts it in, so well deserved."
The U.S. lost striker Jozy Altidore to strained left hamstring injury in the 21st minute and his status for the rest of the tournament wasn't immediately known. Dempsey had his nose broken with a knee to the face.
"I was coughing up blood a little bit. Hopefully I'll be able to breathe through my nose again before the next game," Dempsey said.
Dempsey's goal made him the first U.S. player to score in three different World Cups and ranks as the fifth-quickest goal in World Cup history.
Both U.S. goals were surprising. Dempsey's showed the kind of technical flair seldom seen from a squad that typically scores through set pieces. Brooks' game winner rescued the Americans just when the U.S. likely would have been happy to escape with at least a draw.
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