Typical. Sunderland’s one man at Brazil 2014 – we can no longer count Ki – sees his first game and presumably his World Cup end after 20 minutes. Poor Jozy Altidore. After a rotten season, his goals in the warm-up had given hope. He had one chance before his hamstring injury and, though not clearcut (the ball ran behind him), ought have done better with it.
In the end, the USA, ahead in the first minute but pegged back by a late equaliser created by Asamoah Gyan, whose performance deepened the disbelief that he should have chosen lower-league level football and desert gold over the Premier, snatched a dramatic win. It was fitting that a country chosen by Salut! Sunderland as their honorary second team in Brazil should make a winning start. Our Californian Dreaming columnist Grant Tunkel, a Sunderland supporter out west, was over on the Eastern seaboard to share the delirium of fellow Americans in a NYC bar. Yep, bar …
It’s the only word I can think of to describe the 2-1 victory over Ghana in Natal.
How else would you describe the ebb and flow of the Americans’ most dramatic World Cup victory since, well, their last one?
The evening began with pure joy.
Just a half-minute in, Clint Dempsey dribbled gorgeously through the box and buried a perfect shot into the net to put the US up. I had barely settled into my position in a New York City bar (serious question: does anyone call it a bar in England? Or is it only a “pub?”) when Dempsey delivered. [We prefer pubs but bar has crept into the drinkers’ lexicon as surely as Britons now ask “can I get a latte?” – Ed]
The building erupted with unchecked happiness. It seemed as if the weight of eight years and two losses to the Black Stars had been lifted in one fell swoop.
Just a few minutes later, the place was ready to explode into euphoria. Jozy Altidore stood and turned at the top of the box, much like he did for his first (and thus far only) Premier League goal for Sunderland. But this time his shot was deflected and saved.
Sadly, it was his best highlight of the night.
When the American striker was carried off in the 21st minute with a hamstring injury, the joy-bordering-on-euphoria turned to an unquestioned sadness. Say what you want about his Premier campaign and supposed lack of confidence, Altidore is as important to the Americans in Brazil as any other player on the roster. I expected big things from him against Portugal and potentially Germany. Now: his future at this competition is in doubt.
So joy-bordering-on-euphoria turned to sadness and then turned to concern. Legitimate concern for the US against Ghana. As if a switch had been flipped, the African side came at the red, white and blue with everything they had.
Soon after the restart, here was Asamoah Gyan in the 56th minute with a shot toward goal that just missed. There was Gyan in the 58th with an attempt stopped by Howard. Six minutes later, a shot blocked. One minute past that, a shot saved.
Gyan was the best player on the pitch for either side, something that will certainly leave Sunderland fans wondering about what could have been. (He was certainly the best Black Cats forward either past or present, though Altidore didn’t have much time to make a case). [Must ask Grant to clarify that – Ed].
Gyan’s forays finally paid off and the feeling was complete dejection. Ghana had leveled the match, and the way things were going, another goal wasn’t out of the question.
That latter statement was true. I just didn’t expect it to come from the United States.
Which brings us back to square one: pure joy. Perhaps, even, that euphoria.
John Brooks’s header found the back of the net and there was that weight lifted again. Somehow, some way, the United States had found a winner.
So, Salut! Sunderland readers, you have picked the US as a side to support in Brazil. I must say, Monday night was golden. Germany throttled Portugal, the Americans secured three points, and Cristiano Ronaldo’s side could have multiple missing pieces. (As will the US, perhaps.)
But if Monday’s thriller vs Ghana – [or Tuesday’s given the unearthly French time at which it kicked off – ED] – was any indication, buckle up. The next week (and, hopefully, longer) will be a wild ride.
* NB: American spelling preferences not altered.
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