COSTA MESA (CBSLA.com/AP) — About 30 miles south of Downtown Los Angeles, as the NHL Champion LA Kings celebrated their second Stanley Cup in three years, fans of the United States Men’s National Team gathered at a pub in Costa Mesa, not far from the residence of U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann, to witness USA defeat Ghana 2-1 in their first match of the 2014 Wold Cup.
Fans at the Harp Inn, wearing red, white and blue, and many with painted faces, were rewarded early, with American forward Clint Dempsey scoring the first goal for USA just 32 seconds into the match.
“It’s what we had to do,” fan Jennifer Luchesi said. “It was perfect; a perfect goal, a perfect play. We need a lot more like that.”
The game served as something of a grudge match between the USA and Ghana, with Ghana knocking the Americans out in their two previous World Cup appearances.
“I came here today because the World Cup is a big deal,” fan Blair Milewski said. “I want to be back. Me and all my buddies here, we went to the World Cup in Germany a few years back, and we’ve seen Ghana beat us before, so you’ve got to do what you can, hoping things come out better this time around.”
Not everyone at the pub was cheering for Team USA, however.
“I don’t want them to win,” Ghana native and soccer fan Peter Ngugi had told CBS2’s Michele Gile. “I’d love for them to win, but of course Ghana is going to win.”
Ngugi’s prediction would ultimately be incorrect.
After 90 minutes of end-to-end action, the Americans emerged with a thrilling 2-1 win over Ghana.
U.S. fans were screaming for revenge Monday after the Black Stars eliminated the Americans from the last two Cups.
They got it. At a price.
Clint Dempsey scored a shocking goal a half-minute in, but the U.S. couldn’t make it stand up. Andre Ayew tied the score in the 82nd minute after a brilliant back-heel pass from Asamoah Gyan, who had eliminated the U.S. four years ago.
And then, just four minutes later, 20-year-old John Brooks rose to head in Graham Zusi’s corner kick from 8 yards — the first substitute to ever score for the United States in 30 World Cup games over 84 years. The defender, an unexpected addition to the American roster, was so overcome he fell to the field and was unable to move even after teammates climbed off the dog pile. He had made his national team debut only last August, and Brooks hadn’t scored in four appearances.
U.S. players ran onto the field to celebrate at the final whistle, jumping as supporters chanted “U-S-A! U-S-A!” Now the Americans are in good position in Group G, where Germany opened with a 4-0 rout of Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal.
Klinsmann had said this would be like a final. Jozy Altidore was hoping it wasn’t his finale.
The forward was carried off on a stretcher after his left hamstring gave out in the 21st minute when he tried to control a long ball. He awaits tests that will determine whether he can return for this World Cup.
Dempsey went down too on a balmy late-autumn night but stayed in the game. The U.S. captain ended the first half with a tissue up his nose to stop the bleeding after John Boye’s kick to his face during a battle for a header in the 31st minute, and he was struggling for breath in the second.
Matt Besler came out at the start of the second half after feeling tightness in his right hamstring. It was his replacement, Brooks, who scored the winning goal. Zusi was also a sub, coming on for the hobbling Alejandro Bedoya in the second half.
By the time of the final whistle, the U.S. lineup had Brooks in central defense and a virtually invisible 23-year-old Aron Johannsson at forward.
Now the odds favor advancement. But that might depend on which players are able to make it on the field for Sunday’s game against Portugal in the hot and humid Amazon rain forest capital of Manaus.