Dempsey at the gun, Brooks at the death deliver victory for the U.S., 2-1 over Ghana

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The fastest goal in the team’s World Cup history looked like it would unrewarded, but thanks late heroics from a halftime substitute, the United States has its first opening game victory since 2002. Heading home a Graham Zusi corner in the 86th minute, 21-year-old John Brooks gave the U.S. a 2-1 win over the Black Stars, exorcising some lingering demons in the process.

The U.S. was eliminated by Ghana from the last two World Cups, with the Black Stars’ 2-1 in extra time at South Africa 2010 sending the nation to its first quarterfinal. On Monday, however, the U.S. led for 85 minutes, with only André Ayew’s 82nd minute equalizer giving the four-time African champions hope of salvaging a result.

That equalizer came after Clint Dempsey set a U.S. record 34 seconds in, finishing from just outside the six-yard box to give his team an early 1-0 lead. Four minutes before the end of regulation time, Brooks restored the U.S.’s advantage, giving the team its first perfect start since defeating Portugal at World Cup 2002.

[ MORE: USMNT Man of the Match | Six talking points | Injury update ]

With Germany defeating the Seleccao earlier on Monday, the U.S. moves into a tie atop Group G, labeled by many as Brazil 2014’s Group of Death. Goal difference gives the favored Germans the edge among the two perfect teams, but with a hobbled Portugal up next, the U.S.’s win over Ghana represents a huge step toward securing a spot in the tournament’s final 16.

That match will take place on Sunday in the Amazonian city of Manaus, where conditions should mimic the 78 percent humidity that slowed the Americans tonight in Natal. Ghana, in the meantime, will face Germany in Fortaleza, with tonight’s loss meaning the Black Stars will in all likelihood need a result from the 2010 semifinalists.

With the first attacking movement of the game, the U.S. were on the board. Pressuring the Ghanaian defense into an early turnover, the U.S.’s quick throw-in from the left gave captain Clint Dempsey a chance to go one-on-one against central defender John Boye. Leaning left before cutting right, Dempsey moved in on goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey, who was left to kick in vain at a left-footed shot that found the far corner. After 34 seconds, with the sixth-fastest goal in World Cup history, the U.S. was up, 1-0.

Come the half-hour mark, the game assumed the posture it would take into halftime, with a U.S. defense that congested the middle of the park forcing the Ghanaians to play from high and wide. Sharp reads from Tim Howard stifled attempts to pass through the defense, while the Black Stars had no luck getting behind fullbacks DaMarcus Beasley and Fabian Johnson. Come halftime, the U.S. had retained its 1-0 lead, with both teams registering one shot on target.

Along the way, however, the U.S. lost starting striker Jozy Altidore to injury, with the Sunderland forward replaced by Aron Johannsson after going down with a left hamstring injury in the 21st minute. In the middle of the half, a leg to the face of Dempsey from Ghanaian defender Jonathan Mensah left the team’s captain with a bloody nose, while another hamstring problem, this time afflicting defender Matt Besler, saw Brooks come on at halftime. By the 46th minute, Jürgen Klinsmann had used two of his substitutions.

source: AP
United States’ Clint Dempsey leaps as he celebrates after scoring the opening goal  between Ghana and the United States. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan)

Despite the changes, the second half began as the first ended, with Ghana left to probe the edges to the U.S. defense, with their sequences usually ending with a ball rolled to Howard. Ten minutes into the half, a long-range shot from Sulley Muntari and an open header for Asamoah Gyan gave the U.S. its first scare, with a 17-yard header from Gyan two minutes later drawing a diving save from Howard.

By the time Ghana’s captain forced a 64th minute block from Geoff Cameron, the effects of Besler’s loss were clear. The U.S. defense, particularly after the introduction of Ghana’s Kevin-Prince Boateng, had lost control.

In the 82nd minute, Ghana’s work paid off when Gyan dragged Cameron away from goal to create a chance for Ayew. Laying the ball off for the Marseille attacker, Gyan created space between the U.S. center backs for the one-time shot, with Howard beat inside his right post for the late equalizer.

Four minutes later, the U.S. had restored its lead, with two substitutes delivering victory in the sauna of Natal. Off a corner from the right, Graham Zusi’s out-swinging ball found Brooks at the edge of the six-yard box, with the Hertha Berlin defender heading down and into the Ghanaian goal to deliver full points.

[ RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly ]

When the ball reached the back of Kwarasey’s net, the fight left the Ghanaians. Lifted to its crest four minutes earlier, the team that’d vanquished the Americans in Nuremberg and Rustenburg had seen the tables turn, with a U.S. side they’d expected to beat landing the final blow. Not only was Ghana’s mastery of the Americans over, but the Black Stars had lost suffered a major blow to their knockout round hopes.

The U.S., on the other hand, sit even with Germany at the top, and although Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal await, the players can take a moment to savor a moment their predecessors could not. A nemesis has been fallen, and in the process, the U.S. may have laid the groundwork to improve on its 2006 and 2010 results.

Lineups:

Ghana: Kwarasey; Opare, Mensah, Boye, Asamoah; Rabiu (Essien 71′), Atsu (Adomah 78′), Muntari, J. Ayew (Boateng 59′); Gyan, A. Ayew

Goals: A. Ayew 82′

United States: Howard, Johnson, Cameron, Besler (Brooks 46′), Beasley, Beckerman, Jones, Bradley, Bedoya (Zusi 77′), Dempsey, Altidore (Johannsson 23′)

Goals: Dempsey 1′, Brooks 86′

Schedule for Premier League giants on US tours

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Four Premier League giants are heading to the USA and it all kicks off this week.

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Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur are all heading Stateside to prepare for the upcoming 2018/19 PL campaign, with Liverpool clashing with both Manchester City and Manchester United over the next 10 days.

We will keep you up to date right here at Pro Soccer Talk as to how their preparations are going in the USA.

Here’s where you can watch all of the Premier League teams in action Stateside this summer.


Liverpool
22 July v Borussia Dortmund (Bank of America Stadium, North Carolina)
25 July v Manchester City (MetLife Stadium, New Jersey)
28 July v Manchester United (Michigan Stadium)

Manchester City
20 July v Borussia Dortmund (Soldier Field Stadium, Chicago)
25 July v Liverpool (MetLife Stadium, New Jersey)
28 July v Bayern Munich (Hard Rock Stadium, Miami)

Manchester United
19 July v Club America (Phoenix University Stadium, Arizona)
22 July v San Jose Earthquakes (Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara)
25 July v AC Milan (Rose Bowl Stadium, LA)
28 July v Liverpool (Michigan Stadium)
31 July v Real Madrid (Hard Rock Stadium, Miami)

Tottenham Hotspur
25 July v Roma (SDCCU Stadium, San Diego)
28 July v Barcelona (Rose Bowl Stadium, LA)
31 July v AC Milan (US Bank Stadium, Minneapolis)

PHOTOS: 2018-19 Premier League jerseys

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There are just 24 days to go until the new Premier League season kicks off and 19 of the 20 teams have released at least one new jersey.

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With so many fresh kits out there, it’s tough to pick a favorite but take a good look through all of the new threads below.

These are all of the confirmed new Premier League jerseys for the 2018/19 campaign.


Arsenal


Bournemouth


Brighton & Hove Albion


Burnley


Chelsea


Cardiff City


Crystal Palace


Everton


Fulham


Huddersfield Town


Leicester City


Liverpool


Manchester City


Manchester United


Newcastle United


Southampton


Tottenham Hotspur

Not yet released


Watford


West Ham United


Wolverhampton Wanderers

How can Chelsea, Arsenal challenge for the title?

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There are just 24 days until the 2018/19 Premier League season kicks off.

So, now seems like a good time to continue to focus on what the big boys need to do in order to challenge for the title and the top four.

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We’ve already focused on the top two from last season and what each of Manchester City and Manchester United need to do to get better, and Tottenham and Liverpool’s quest to remain among the top four.

But what about London giants Chelsea and Arsenal? They both finished outside the top four last season and they both have new managers heading into the new campaign.

Will Maurizio Sarri and Unai Emery adapt quickly to life in England? Or will the London rivals struggle to rebuild and reach the top four as they’ll both play in the UEFA Europa League?

Below we analyze the situation for both Chelsea and Arsenal and their biggest needs for the season ahead.


Chelsea


Arsenal

Perisic, Rebic linked with moves to Man United

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Following their superb displays for Croatia at the 2018 World Cup, Ivan Perisic and Ante Rebic are being linked with moves to Manchester United via a report from the Sun.

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It’s no secret that Jose Mourinho is a big admirer of Perisic as he tried to buy the left winger from Inter Milan last summer but saw plenty of bids turned down as United missed out.

Perisic, 29, then went on to become one of Croatia’s star performers this summer as he scored three goals and grabbed two assists combined with tireless displays on the left flank. Perisic grabbed 11 goals and added nine assists last season as Inter qualified for the UEFA Champions League.

[ MORE: Alisson to Liverpool back on?

Rebic, 24, also had a fine tournament with his powerful surges forward from the right flank as the Eintracht Frankfurt star scored in the win against Argentina and went close to scoring in the World Cup final but his drive was saved by Hugo Lloris. He also committed more fouls than any other player at the tournament as he tracked back and dug deep in Croatia’s best-ever finish at a World Cup.

Do United really need these two attacking wide men?

Mourinho loves to add pace and power to his teams and they certainly fit the bill in that regard, with the likes of Juan Mata, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and even Alexis Sanchez not out-and-out wingers. The transfer values of Perisic and Rebic will have soared due to Croatia finishing the tournament as runners up with Perisic valued at around $63 million and Rebic at $57 million.

Perisic only signed a new contract at Inter last season but given United’s long-time pursuit of him, he may feel like this could be his last chance to move to the Premier League, if that’s what his heart desires. While Rebic only just arrived at Frankfurt on a permanent deal after scoring twice in their German Cup final win last season, helping them win their first trophy since 1988.

If one or both of these players arrive at Old Trafford, serious doubt will be put on the future of Martial and Rashford as neither will seriously challenge Romelu Lukaku for the central strikers role.