In Group G's epic must-not-lose game, USA took three points off Ghana and exacted revenge on the Black Stars for knocking them out of the last two FIFA World Cups.
Clint Dempsey stabbed home in the opening minute and the U.S. held on, but Ghana's dominance eventually paid off, as Andre Ayew converted a neat team move.
Minutes later, though, Graham Zusi's corner was headed home by substitute John Brooks to seal a historic three-point haul.
Formations and XIs
Ghana lined up in their usual 4-2-3-1 with Mohammed Rabiu in defensive midfield, Kwadwo Asamoah at left-back, Christian Atsu on the right and Asamoah Gyan up front.
USA chose a deep-set 4-4-2 with a surprising selection or two. Kyle Beckerman played as a holding midfielder, Jermaine Jones played left-midfield and Geoff Cameron slid inside to centre-back.
The formations each side used were unclear for the first five minutes, as Dempsey's goal after 32 seconds threw early tactical planning into the abyss.
The U.S. started relentlessly, pressing hard to win the ball and attacking down the left side. Dempsey received the ball quickly after a throw-in and dribbled into the box, rinsing John Boye and rifling a shot into the far corner.
That gave Jurgen Klinsmann's men a shot in the arm, and a fast-paced six or seven minutes ensued as the Yanks hunted down every loose ball and looked to fashion goalscoring chances.
Jones at left-midfield
Jones was placed at left-midfield despite playing as a holder during qualifiers. His replacement, Beckerman, is not the natural anchor Michael Bradley is used to partnering.
The reason for placing him wide was to help DaMarcus Beasley, as it became evident from the off that Ghana were willing to forgo their best player—left-back Asamoah—and attack almost exclusively down the opposite side.
Left-back was the U.S.' biggest concern heading into the tournament, so it was no surprise to see Kwesi Appiah attack and test it. But where Jones, on paper, provides defensive cover, he was at his most effective going forward.
The Besiktas man isn't a playmaker, but his willingness to play first-time passes and force tight, risky balls into dangerous areas created two good chances in the first half—one of which Dempsey put away.
The importance of Jozy Altidore
Altidore went down early in the first half clutching his hamstring, and while Aron Johannsson is a fine goalscorer, no one can replace what the Sunderland man brings to this side.
He runs the channels, holds the ball, chases longer, clears punts and links exceptionally well with Dempsey. The U.S. are not a possession-based side and don't pretend to be; they need the reprieve Altidore brings.
Ghana grew more and more into the game following his departure, able to stitch together prolonged spells of pressure and possession and put the defence under intense scrutiny.
The U.S.' goal threat simultaneously vanished.
Introducing Kevin-Prince Boateng
At 60 minutes, Appiah rolled the dice and brought on Kevin-Prince Boateng for Jordan Ayew. The formation became...loose, but in essence the former Milan man joined Gyan in attack and began powering forward from midfield.
Centrally, Ghana had been pretty timid for the first hour, with Beckerman and Bradley tracking very few runs in between the lines. Boateng drove at them with the ball at his feet and broke beyond the lines to create options; the complete opposite of what any other Black Star had offered up to that point.
Brooks sealed the victory with a thumping header from a corner, and for their resilience, work-rate, cunning and tactical nous, Klinsmann's men deserved the victory.
"We have a great spirit; the US team has a great spirit. We fight till the last second," the USA boss said live on TV after the match. "We were shocked when Jozy [Altidore] left and at half-time we had to replace [Matt] Besler. It was a grind, but a wonderful win."
Ghana, meanwhile, must reload and pull up some big, big trees in order to get out of this group.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!