The go-for-broke Americans finally ran out of comebacks tonight. A tremendous individual goal by Asamoah Ayan, who shouldered off Carlos Bocanegra and smashed a shot past Tim Howard in the first extra time period gave Ghana a deserved 2-1 win over a U.S. team that made one mistake too many. As they have done in this tournament—indeed as they did four years ago—the Americans fell victim to an early lapse that resulted in a goal from which they could not ultimately make repairs. “We were a little naïve tonight,” said Landon Donovan, whose penalty in the 61st minute leveled the game at 1-1 and sent it into extra time.
History repeated itself in Rustenburg five minutes into the game when Kevin Prince Boatang swiped the ball at midfield, stormed into the U.S. box, feinted past Jay DeMerit and fired a left-footed grasscutter past Tim Howard’s short side. From then on, Ghana’s fast and furious style proved difficult for a huffing and puffing American team that had a hard time slowing the game down enough execute its offense.
As he had in earlier game, U.S. coach Bob Bradley made a number of moves to offset Ghana’s advantage, yanking Clark for Maurice Edu in the first half, then inserting Benny Feilhaber to start the second. Those moves seemed to have produced a goal in the 61st minute after Clint Dempsey was hacked down in the box. Donovan kissed the penalty kick off the post and in, and the U.S had a lifeline.
But early into the first extra time period, Ayan ran onto a long clearance, bulled his way past Bocanegra and hit a blast past Howard. One commentator noted that it was the fifth goal scored against the center of the U.S. defense. “We were ready to go deep into this tournament, but tonight we didn’t get the job done,” said Bradley.
Across South Africa, the joy for Ghana was unrestrained, even though the U.S. had gained an enthusiastic following among South Africans after their own team had failed. The Ghanians earned a matchup with a vibrant Uruguayan team that bested South Korea 2-1. They’re a good bet for the semifinals. The U.S., a young team with more experience under its belt now, is a good bet to qualify for Brazil in 2014.