BOSTON (CBS) – Eyeballs around the country were tuned in Monday afternoon for USA-Ghana and the match did not disappoint.
Clint Dempsey recorded the first goal just 32 seconds in, which was the fastest goal for an American and fifth fastest all time in World Cup history. The lead held until Ghana’s Andre Ayew tied it up in the 82nd minute after dominating possession for most of the game.
Team USA substitute John Brooks netted the game winner on a header in the 86th minute to give them a 2-1 victory and 3 points towards the standings in Group G.
New England Revolution head coach Jay Heaps joined 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich show Tuesday morning to discuss the win and preview Sunday’s match against Portugal.
“It was a tough one,” said the third year Revs coach. “It was a good result but it wasn’t the best that we played. The way we started the game was off the charts. I thought the US team dug in hard [after Ghana tied it up].”
Center back Matt Besler was unable to return to action after halftime when his hamstring tightened up, so replacement John Brooks was tasked with filling that void.
“When Matt Besler came out at halftime I was really concerned because the center backs haven’t really had a lot of reps together. Matt Besler and Geoff Cameron over the last few weeks have formed a really good partnership. The key to any team is the center backs and their partnership, so when he went down they brought in John Brooks. He hasn’t played many games with the national team and he looked shaky right away, but he really settled in and actually became the MVP by scoring the game winning goal.”
Another player hampered by a hamstring was Jozy Altidore, who pulled up limp in the 21st minute and was carted off the field on a gurney never to return.
Heaps said it would be “a big blow” if Altidore is unable to play again in the tournament because he’s really the only powerful striker they have. Heaps added it would be a good time to have Landon Donovan, who was notably left off the roster by head coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
Now the US looks ahead to Sunday where they’ll face Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal team at 6pm. Portugal was blown out 4-0 by Germany and now face a must-win against the US if they hope to advance.
“[Portugal losing to Germany] bodes well for the US in the standings because you wanted one team to separate from the other a little bit so there’s a bigger goal differential going into the last game, but I also think there’s going to be a reaction now. Portugal — that was not their best stuff against Germany.
“I still think it’s going to be a real difficult test for the US. If you lose a game you want to come back stronger, so I think Portugal is going to come out flying,” said Heaps.
Ronaldo did not look to be at full strength according to Heaps, which could prove to be a check mark in the US column.
Heaps also commented on the play of Tim Howard and thought he played very well. As one of the top three goal keepers in the world, Heaps put a lot of onus on Howard to carry the US and their inexperienced defenders, adding, “You can really ride a hot keeper all the way through.”
For the layman watching Monday’s game versus Ghana, the glaring takeaway is the amount of ball possession by the Black Stars. That was obvious to Heaps as well, and he says there’s plenty of room for improvement in that area.
“We still haven’t found our exact rhythm. We do have to possess the ball better. Our key players have to play a little bit better in possession. I thought Clint Dempsey changed the game obviously when he scored the goal, but he has to be better with the ball and so does Michael Bradley — I thought he had an off game.
“I think that the US is only going to get better because I think that Dempsey and Bradley had an off game with the ball. That said, I think going forward if those guys connect and play well the US has a whole another gear,” said Heaps.