By Steve Clare
The big day came; June 16th. It had been a long wait for many fans. The long wait lasted just 36 seconds before Clint Dempsey started an unforgettable day.
A pass from Jermaine Jones allowed Dempsey to expose John Boye's defensive naivete. Using the post as his friend, the Texan finished beyond Adam Kwarasey, waiting for the upright to guide the ball into the inside of the rippling net.
Ghana, the youngest squad in the tournament, handled it well and did not crumble, and the USA resisted the obvious temptation to throw everything at them in case they really wobbled. It was a wise choice as even fully manned at the back, the US were backpedaling.
Christian Atsu at right wing seemed to have the better of DaMarcus Beasley and the task for the Yanjs was to deny him possession rather than risk the duel. The match became fruity rather than feisty.
Jordan Ayew scythed through the back of Kyle Beckerman shortly after Jozy Altidore's early departure. Beckerman shook it off but the loss of their center forward seemed to trouble the US emotionally. Alejandro Bedoya wisely tried a long range effort just thereafter, one suspected to keep heads up and ward of any Ghanaian idea of pouring forward too readily.
Beckerman crudely took Atsu out and got away with it. but Ghana were getting better and better as the half hour came and went. Rabiu took revenge for the straggly haired one's lunge on Atsu, and received just a yellow for an elbow which often engenders a red. (Seems like Neymar reversed that trend of red cards for raised elbows.)
Asamoah Gyan tested Tim Howard more severely than he had been and it seemed the Africans were knocking at the door. A second injury scare was to torment the Yanks.
Boye jumped high and while up there, raised his leg even higher. Some part of that leg kicked Dempsey in the nose and drew blood. It was all going horribly wrong for the Americans. Boye's shin was very high but it was dangerous play rather than malice, Nonetheless, it would have taken the second American starting striker out the game and used up Jurgen Klinsmann's second substitute.
BOYE ESCAPED A CARD. HE WAS A LUCKY BOYE.
Dempsey walked off the field and got plugged up but one wondered about his ability to breathe. Boye escaped a card. He was a lucky Boye.
[MORE SOCCERLY: Revenge in Natal]
The game was in a funk now. Ghana were full of anticipation and the Americans manning the barricades.
Jonathan Mensah proved too good for Aaron Johansson on a rare foray up the field for the Americans in the rocky spell.
Muntari's hacking of Jones was in fact the worst part of an overblown incident, and a yellow was the worst it should have been - but only for the original foul.
The Yanks made it to half time hanging on to their lead, but 45 minutes of hard hard work lay ahead.
Another blow followed for the US at halftime. Matt Besler had been having an excellent game but did not return to the field after the interval. John Brooks replaced him. He stood firm though to Gyan's antics and even convinced the referee he had been fouled. Two forced changes had already reduced Klinsmann's options for changes on a humid night.
Extra legs would be sorely needed late on, and Ghana still had six to bring. Bedoya seemed to twist a hip jumping for a massively overhit Michael Bradley pass. Muntari belted one well wide and US passes were increasingly being misplaced. Gyan headed over with the goal at his mercy. It was getting dire for the USA.
Howard clawed the next Gyan effort acrobatically around the post. For the corner, Kevin Prince Boateng arrived for Jordan Ayew. The Ghanaian passing was improving as quickly as the Americans was worsening but their shooting was poor. Andre Ayew cut down Johnson and allowed the US a respite and a rare effort on goal from Jones, which Kwarasey saved none too confidently.
Cameron blocked another Gyan effort but Prince Boateng volleyed the corner 20-feet over. Ghana's 13th shot was probably their worst.
Jones was growing and growing in stature and influence. Appiah threw in his biggest dog of all in Michael Essien, hoping he would change a game like his ex-Chelsea colleague Didier Drogba had for the Ivory Coast.
The tiring legs of Bedoya and Atsu were replaced by Graham Zusi and Albert Adomah on each side.
ALL THAT WAS GOOD ABOUT THE AMERICAN SOCCER PLAYER WAS ON SHOW TONIGHT.
With nine minutes to go, the walls finally fell in, Andre Ayew recieved a wonderful flick back from Gyan, and he was too close to Howard to allow the keeper a chance to react to a well hit shot. In truth, Ghana throughly deserved their reward.
But the drama was not over. Brooks rose highest to a right wing corner after escaping the lax attention of Boye five minutes later. The Yanks seemed to have stolen it at the very very end.
It was an epic encounter and an epic struggle. All that was good about the American soccer player was on show tonight.
The job had been done. They USA had their revenge on Ghana and the glitter and glory of qualification so much closer, especially if the lion roars in the Amazon jungle where they will mett Portugal in six days time.