USA 2-1 Ghana: United States Man of the Match rankings

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The United States played a heart-stopper against Ghana, and came out victorious 2-1.

It was a game of emotional ups and downs, early goals, devastating injuries, and young heroes.

I was only planning on doing a top-3 for Man of the Match, but there are no less than five deserving mentions, broken down into four segments.

Take a breath, enjoy the moment, and let’s hand out some prizes.

4. Tim Howard

The man who just earned his 100th cap for the United States was enormous in the first two-thirds of the game.  With Ghana looking to score late, the defense made more plays than Howard, but he was instrumental early as Ghana pressed, especially in the first half.

Howard is a man of continuity, and he didn’t shine, but he was essential in palming away Ghana early. Overall, he weathered 21 Ghanian shots, although only three were on target.  He made his biggest save on a powerful 31st-minute shot by Asamoah Gyan.

[ MORE: Brooks wins it late | Man of the Match | Injury update ]

3. Clint Dempsey

The man who scored the fifth-fastest goal in World Cup history was enormous in Jozy Altidore’s absence. He was all over the field…up top, on the wing, down the middle, and everywhere in between.

Obviously the early moment was his finest, but for someone who absolutely broke his nose halfway through, Dempsey is the definition of toughness and determination. He went wire-to-wire in a match where so many others flamed out with exhaustion or injury.

2. Jermaine Jones/Kyle Beckerman

These two men weren’t very good going forward, giving the ball away too much, but once the US went early the instructions from Klinsmann were clear: defend, defend, defend. They were crucial in snuffing out Ghanian attacks before they became too dangerous, completing 9/12 tackles attempted.

Jones was also 6-of-8 in aerial duels, again proving how huge he was in his defensive roles. The German-born player had to cover for DaMarcus Beasley who was less than stellar on an island on the left, and even for Michael Bradley who struggled mightily above him in the advanced midfield.

This pair needs to get better in their advances forward, proving a bit too inaccurate, but defensively they were strong, and that was the most important after going ahead early.

[ RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly ]

1. MAN OF THE MATCH: John Brooks

21 years old. One of the last men on the roster. A surprise selection. Thrust into the spotlight unexpectedly.

John Brooks is the perfect storyline, heading in the winner for the US in the 87th minute, and his celebration was a perfect example of why. He flat out couldn’t believe what had just happened.

Having decided to play for the United States over Germany, many people criticized his selection onto the roster over the much more experienced Clarence Goodson.  Brooks was thrown into the fire after an injury to Matt Besler, and in that kind of situation, many youngsters would crumble.  Not Brooks. His defending was brilliant both before and after he scored.

Brooks’s stats on the day: 2/2 tackling, 2 interceptions, 2 blocks, 7/7 clearances, 9/10 passing. That’s outstanding for a 21-year-old inexperienced kid.

But don’t take my word for it. Here’s his Wikipedia page right after the final whistle:

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[ RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly ]