The United States put itself in one too many jams.
The underdog team whose rallies over the first four games had a soccer-apathetic nation go World Cup crazy could not come back against an athletic Ghana team, and ended its tournament run today.
"Soccer is a cruel game sometimes," Landon Donovan said after the game, the only American to score. "One minute, you're on top of the world, and in another, you are at the bottom of the mountain."
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After giving up a goal at the very start of the match, Donovan and the American team battled back into the second half to even the score and send the contest into extra time. But the American defense and goalie Tim Howard let another quick goal sneak in at the beginning of the extra period, and that score would prove to be too much for the team that seemed to have nine lives
"At that point, with everything we put into the game, physically, we just didn't have enough after that," said U.S. coach Bob Bradley.
Two minutes into the extra time, Ghana, wearing bright red and yellow uniforms, lobbed a high pass in from midfield. Ghana striker Asamoah Gyan showed great concentration to control the ball as it fell in a slot between two all-white U.S. defenders. Gyan ran through the seam and loosed a shot that skimmed the tops of Tim Howard's outstretched hands on the way into the net. It was the winning goal in the contest.
Just as the United States play in this tournament had been characterized by terrible starts, they were true to form by playing inspired in the second.
After halftime, the team put up a flurry of offense, finishing with 21 shots on goal and putting a dominant Ghana attack on its heels.
Despite a number of great chances near the net, the U.S. forwards could not find a way to finish. The lone goal came off of a penalty shot.
Clint Dempsey took a pass from Benny Feilhaber and streaked into the teeth of the Ghana defense, drawing a foul for a tackle. Landon Donovan, making his 12th appearance in a World Cup match, handled the penalty kick. While Kingson sprung left, Donovan knocked it just inside the right post. It was his 5th goal in World Cup play.
In the first half, the last remaining team from the African continent in the tournament gave the Americans all they could handle.
Ricardo Clark, who was swapped into the lineup for Maurice Edu, made a terrible turnover in the fifth minute that led to Ghana's first goal. Speedy Kevin-Prince Boateng stole the loose ball and sprinted straight to goal, blasting a shot inside the left post past U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard.
The quick score seemed to have thrown the American team out of synch, and Ghana, nicknamed the Black Stars, kept the ball offensively for most of the first 45 minutes of play.
The United States had found itself in an unlikely swoon for their underdog World Cup team, and this match came with tremendous anticipation.
Former president Bill Clinton, NBA star Kobe Bryant, and Rolling Stones rocker Mick Jagger were all spotted among the vuvuzelas in a droning Royal Bafokeng Stadium, in Rustenberg, South Africa.