By Nick BeJeaux
The contest between the USA and Ghana soccer teams was as intense as soccer could be, but once the Yanks snatch victory from their archrivals the subsequent tsunami of joy and pride washed over every part of the U.S., even Baton Rouge.
The BR chapter of the American Outlaws is probably the only collection of Louisianans that are talking about soccer when they say ‘football,’ and they were at The Londoner en masse to support their team through a game that, frankly, very few people thought they would win. After all, Ghana has knocked the USA out of the World Cup twice in a row; it only stands to reason they would do so again.
However, soccer fans are anything but reasonable when their team is on the screen.
Team USA is defensively oriented; they grab the ball and keep control of it until they can find or force an opening. Ghana is exactly the opposite; they’re fast, aggressive and do everything possible to score and keep scoring. Nobody expected USA’s captain Clint Dempsey to power past Ghana for a goal 29 seconds into the match, one of the fastest in World Cup history.
The eruption of cheers was heard across the street, but in the sea of red, white and blue undulating and screaming on The Londoner’s ground floor, there was a speck of green, yellow, and red that was not colored impressed.
“Scoring early in that way can happen to anyone,” said Daniel Kewl Emeri, who, along with Emmanuel Gikunoo, were perhaps the only Ghana fans in the joint – at least the only ones brave enough to sport their colors. “The U.S. may score fast but Ghana will come back 2-1. The same thing happened in Germany 2006 and South Africa 2010 and I know this will happen; I’m living the Black Stars of Ghana. Ghana all the way!”
Ghana’s touted quickness and aggression didn’t pay off until 30 minutes after Emeri’s prophecy in the 80th minute when Andre Ayew managed to slip through USA’s bulwark defense, tying the match 1-1. The Outlaws and fans were still optimistic, but some began to whisper of voodoo and supernatural predictions that the game would end 3-1, Ghana. Fifteen minutes is an eternity in football – anything can happen.
And then 21-year-old rookie John Brooks happened.
In the 87th minute Brooks scored the match-winning goal and rocketed from being a nobody newcomer to America’s newest hero. In this corner of the world, the eruption of cheers and screams and shot-taking returned, making any previous celebration seem tame in comparison.
“I don’t know if I can explain what happened here – that was just pandemonium,” said Mark Jones, the AO’s president. “That was Superbowl 2009, LSU taking nationals and Mardi Gras all together. That was amazing – I am exhausted right now!”
Without any prompt, Jones fell under an ecstatic soccer-fan trance during which he coherently and expertly explained how the US was able to beat its long-time nemesis.
“That was a hard game,” he said. “Ghana took it to us – that is a good team! They pressed and pressed all night long, but we held up. It’s just a massive, massive win. Having this win was absolutely critical to advancing; we’re in great shape.”
After he caught his breath, he also had something to say about the controversy surrounding the game, specifically coach Jürgen Klinsmann’s decision to keep Landon Donovan, the U.S. star player, out of the World Cup. Footballers do have a shelf life, and at 32 years old, there are concerns that Donovan could lose his edge quickly if he sees too much play. However, that point is now moot, at least for now.
“I’d still like to have him out there. We have so many young guys on this team,” said Jones. “We only had five guys who played in a Cup before and two of them are keepers. But they all played so well tonight and they held their own; the diamond pattern seems to be molding into shape now. Everyone just played their asses off through 95 minutes straight.”
The Outlaws will take over The Londoner again for the USA’s match against Portugal this Sunday, and since Portugal is already down three players to injuries and a redcard (Pepe, you psycho) the Yanks could very well replicate their success against Ghana. However, if anything is certain, it is that the USA World Cup Team has proven anything is possible.