2010 FIFA World Cup: USA Takes On Ghana in Knockout Round of 16
Funny how fate works isn't it? Fresh off its thrilling stoppage time winning goal that sent them through to the knockout round, Team USA watched Ghana fall to Germany and Serbia choke against Australia, setting up a rematch with Ghana.
If you choose to remember, in 2006 Ghana knocked the Yanks out of the World Cup in the final group stage match. Everyone on the American side remembers the embarrassing showing in the group stages in 2006, and will look to capitalize on winning their group for the first time in 80 years.
As much as people are saying the USA have a somewhat smooth road to the semifinals, they better not sleep on Ghana, the only African team to make it through. The Black Stars will have the support and confidence of an entire continent.
Ghana has played excellent defensively, giving up only two goals in three matches. The Black Stars played admirably against top Euro power Germany, but failed to take advantage of the chances they created in the attacking third.
John Mensah is the catalyst of that defense, and will look to hold off an American attack that has been surprisingly well-organized. The matchup everyone will be watching is Jonathon Mensah (different person) and Jozy Altidore, both of whom have been playing exceptional for there sides.
While Landon Donovan has yet to affect a game for the entire 90 minutes, he is still making his presence felt, scoring possibly the two biggest goals of his life.
With the chips down and the USA needing anything against Slovenia—down 2-0 after an abysmal first half—Donovan's powerful drive to the roof of the net early in the second half gave the team confidence that they can do anything on that end of the pitch.
Again with everything on the line against Algeria, Donovan placed a brilliant through ball to Altidore on a counter attack and followed the play with the most dramatic goal in US Soccer history, scoring in the 91st minute to take the lead.
The play of the midfield has been particularly impressive, especially from Michael Bradley, Maurice Edu, and Benny Feilhaber.
Feilhaber came on in the second half of the Algeria game and completely controlled possession in the middle. He set up several chances that the team failed to capitalize on, but his play was impressive nonetheless.
Edu and Bradley had their way with the Slovenian defense in the second half of their matchup, with Bradley controlling possession and playing exceptionally in the defensive midfield. He saved the team with a fantastic goal on a volley.
Edu made his mark in attack, scoring what many believe was the game winning-goal off a set piece, that was disallowed for an unknown reason.
As much as they have been fluid in the attacking third, the Americans still have missed on several chances, particularly those by Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore.
Dempsey was set up at the top of the box against Algeria with a chance to be a hero. Instead of ripping it past the keeper, he hesitated and placed a finesse shot off the post. When the rebound trickled his way, he blasted it high and wide of an open net.
Altidore also had his chances, especially in the first half. One in particular he probably wishes he could have back was a rebound that fell into his lap at the six-yard line, which he proceeded to blast over the crossbar.
Despite that aggravating missed opportunity, Altidore has played brilliantly from the second half of the Slovenia game, on. Despite not getting on the score sheet, he has affected play and applied pressure on opposing defenses like we all knew he could.
It's only a matter of time before one hits the back of the net.
Looking back on the Algeria game, it's hard not to think that the drama was almost planned. The way the team missed such easy chances it was almost as if to say, "Hey America, time to get sucked in."
Tim Howard said it best: "That's probably going to capture more people's attention than if we won the game 3-0 and it was easy. That emotion, that passion is what American sports fans thrive on."
He could be on to something; maybe soccer is here to stay in America.
It's about time.
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