We made it. You can exhale, America, and unclench your collective undercarriage. Even with a 1-0 loss yesterday, the United States managed to earn a spot in the round of 16 thanks to gritty results against Portugal and Ghana, a plane full of money, Cristiano Ronaldo, and a mediocre performance against Germany.
We'd grown accustomed to such theatrics from the United States at this World Cup—stoppage time equalizers, first minute goals, world class finishes—that every moment of every game was like mainlining adrenaline, all senses turned up to 11. The gulfs between the peaks and valleys of these American games were as deep as the Grand Canyon.
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But this Germany game? Not so much. It was a sloppy, soaking wet, and leggy affair, a game to endure for both players and fans. It'd be foolish to read too much into Michael Bradley's errant first touch, Clint Dempsey's marginal presence, or anything else that happened yesterday in Recife. Playing on short rest in awful conditions, the U.S. still managed to hold a very skilled German team to one goal and get out of the Group of Death.
Rather than deliver a full Match Report and rehash blow by blow such a mediocre game of soccer, let's bid farewell to the Group of Death by looking at our Top 5 favorite Americans at this World Cup.
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Honorable Mentions: Fabian Johnson, planes full of money, DeAndre Yedlin, Roger Bennett, Kyle Beckerman, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Jurgen Klinsmann.
5. Clint Dempsey
Captain America, we salute you. You've been a handful for defenses since taking over for Jozy Altidore. Rest, recover, spit some rhymes, we'll need you at peak Deuce performance against Belgium on Tuesday.
From our USAvGHA Match Report: "Clint Dempsey, the pride of Nacgodoches, Texas, found a seam between Ghana's back line in the first minute, and, with a nifty cut, danced across John Boye before rifling a shot off the far post and into the net. 1-0, United States. In that moment, America felt as big as the Texas of Tim Riggins's dreams, and we all sat on his front porch, swilling Lone Star and collectively admiring the sun melt into purples and reds and golds across an unbroken frontier."
4. Run DMB
A friend of mine once told me the greatest story ever about DaMarcus Beasley. My friend was in Hartford for the U.S. friendly before the 2010 World Cup, and because there is apparently only one bar in all of Hartford where people go, my friend and his buddies go out there and run into the whole U.S. team. All the guys are sitting together, but in a separate booth, surrounded by four beautiful women, sits DaMarcus Beasley.
I tell you this story now to illustrate that DMB is a boss. He's quietly had a very solid World Cup, especially yesterday against Germany. Never gonna give you up, DaMarcus, let's make it five World Cups.
3. Tim Howard
For the U.S. to do well in Brazil, Tim Howard needed to have a monster tournament. He has. Howard kept Germany off the scoreboard for much of yesterday's game. I do have to wonder about the neck beard though. Can it really be that comfortable in the 90 degree heat and extreme humidity? Obviously, you do you, Timmy, but I just thought I should ask. Whatever, in neck beards we trust.
2. Jermaine Jones
Did anyone see this coming? Jones has always been solid for the United States, but he really must have been listening to all of Jurgen's "Another Level" speeches because he has been playing out-of-his-mind at this World Cup. Defensively, he's been a terrier, hassling and tackling and having the positional discipline to track back and shield the back line. In attack, he's been one of the more creative American players. Oh, and that shot. Keep it up, Jermaine Junior, America needs you.
1. John Brooks
Most people will never alter the course of American history. Those who do earn their place in the history books spend years toiling in anonymity before their accomplishments are ever recognized. But John Brooks? He only needed 45 minutes.
From our USAvGHA Match Report: "Brooks's face emits the full range of human emotion: joy, shock, love, wonder, disbelief. He ends his celebration on the ground, seeking something solid, firm, to buttress against the spectacle surrounding him: blinding hot, white light. This is how America felt in that moment."
God bless you, John Brooks, and God bless America.
The United States takes on Belgium on Tuesday, July 1. How are you feeling America?
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