They did it once, they did it twice, even three times for awhile, but the US National Team failed to come from behind as they fell to Ghana 2-1 in overtime Saturday.
For the third time in this tournament, the US fell behind from an early goal, having to chase that game-tying goal just to stay alive in the 2010 FIFA World Cup. In the fifth minute of action, former Houston Dynamo Ricardo Clark gave up the ball carelessly in the middle of the field. The rest of the US defense was slow to react to the ball, and Ghanaian striker Boateng put his shot past the outstretched arms of Tim Howard.
The US couldn't get any offense going in the fist half, as Ghana dominated possession early and often. But the second half was a change of fortunes for the Americans, as they began to push the tempo of the game and control the possession.
The Americans received a break in the 62nd minute when they were rewarded a penalty from a poor defense tackle on Clint Dempsey. Landon Donovan came up to take the shot, as he's done successfully over the years for the US, and nailed it just off the right post.
The US had leveled the game at 1-1 and had momentum on their side.
Unfortunately, they couldn't find the go-ahead goal in regulation and the teams had to go to overtime. In the third minute of overtime, poor defending once again helped Ghana take the lead. On a fluke aerial pass, Asamoah Gyan bounced off US captain Carlos Bocanegra and shot a rifling ball over Howard to make it 2-1 Ghana.
The US tried to comeback yet again, but failed to knock in the equalizer. Hell, they couldn't even get control of the ball.
When the final whistle blew, many of the American players stayed on the field, knowing that they blew a chance to make the semifinals for the first time since the inaugural World Cup in 1930.
Key questions now face the US squad going into the next four years. First, there's the question of Bob Bradley's job; did he do a good enough job in this his four years as coach? Most people would argue that he didn't, that he never had a real style of play for this team.
But it's kind of hard to argue with results. Under Bradley, the US made it to the finals of Confederations Cup in 2009, and made it to the knockout stage of World Cup.
But I would argue that US can still do better. The time is right for the US to go out and find a coach that can lead this team to loftier expectations. The US Soccer Federation needs to go out and find a European coach than can install a good offensive style of play with this team; they need to stay away from hiring another MLS-based coach.
Then there's the question of age. Donovan and Dempsey will be in their 30s for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, so will most of the core group on defense and so too will Howard. There are some promising youngsters like Jozy Altidore, Charlie Davies, Stuart Holden, Benny Feilhaber, Michael Bradley, and Jonathan Spector; and don't count out Freddy Adu just yet.
Will the right coach bring in a young group of players to the national team in the coming four years, or will he rely on this aging group and fail miserably in 2014, like France and Italy did this year?
Although the dream is over for the US, Ghana will look to become the first African team to reach the semifinals when they face Uruguay on Friday.
Hmm, makes you wonder just how bad an opportunity the US just squandered to make the semifinals.
What could have been.
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