RUSTENBURG - The American dream ran out
of steam on Saturday as Bob Bradley's team exited the World Cup
with a 2-1 extra-time defeat to Ghana.
The U.S's strengths throughout this tournament have been
their work-rate, self-belief and determined spirit but those
proved not to be enough against the African team who also
knocked them out of the tournament four years ago.
Once again, a U.S side which twice gave up early goals in
the group stage, conceded before they had even got into their
stride and yet again they came back after Bradley astutely
changed things around at the break.
A Landon Donovan penalty brought the Americans on to equal
terms but this time it was their opponents who found the extra
something to come back from a setback - Asamoah Gyan's superb
strike in extra-time giving Africa just their third ever
The Americans, who fought back for draws against England and
Slovenia, couldn't make it back one more time.
Their legs looked tired, their play was imprecise and
somehow that fighting spirit that pushed them to a last minute
win over Algeria just was not quite enough.
The weaknesses of Bradley's side though go beyond conceding
early goals and the draining effect of playing three days after
the gruelling and emotional victory over Algeria.
The U.S midfield, with two defensive central operators and
two attack-minded wide players in Clint Dempsey and Donovan, was
over-run at times by the numerically stronger Ghanaian midfield.
That uneven battle was not helped by Ricardo Clark's wayward
performance, his yellow card and the subsequent need for Bradley
to replace him, with Maurice Edu, in just the 31st minute.
The U.S coach addressed the problem by bringing in Benny
Feilhaber to give him three genuine midfielders in the second
half with Clint Dempsey moving into a full attacking role.
The floating Donovan is the main creative spark in the U.S
team and in fact, with him not finding his touch, it highlighted
just how much the Americans rely on him for that little bit of
something out of the ordinary.
When Donovan doesn't deliver the U.S are far too predictable
going forward - needing a sharp turn from Clint Dempsey or a
burst of pace from Jozy Altidore - neither of which were
frequent features at the Royal Bafokeng stadium.
The full-backs, Jonathan Bornstein or Steve Cherundolo, were
solid defensively but didn't offer much of a threat from wide
positions - both found space on several occasions but were
unable to deliver dangerous crosses or get to the byline.
Up-front, for all their efforts, the American strikers
didn't have the sharpness or the clinical finishing displayed by
Ghana scorers Kevin-Prince Boateng and Gyan.
For the U.S to move from a decent qualifier from the group
stages to a team that can really threaten to make the latter
stages they need to address those limitations.
A midfield playmaker, a genuine winger and an international
class striker would transform them from a solid, workmanlike
team into something that their fans could get really excited
They have four years to find those players.
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