World Cup

Magic Ends: Ghana Beats USA 2-1 in World Cup

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It didn't end with a controversial penalty kick in the waning moments, but the result was still the same. Ghana has bounced the USA out of the World Cup twice in a row. Last time was 2006 in Germany. Today it was a 2-1 overtime loss in South Africa.

Except for a 15-minute stretch in the second half -- which culminated with a penalty kick goal from Landon Donovan -- the Americans were dreary. Outplayed and outhustled, they looked fatigued early on and lacked the same emotional punch they displayed against Algeria. In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to find one USA player who really brought his best caliber of play against Ghana.

The blame must include Coach Bob Bradley, whose starting lineup and substitutions backfired at seemingly every turn. He started the wrong combination of players by including Ricardo Clark then, realizing his mistake, had to rejigger the lineup only minutes into the game. That decision cost the USA any sense of continuity during the first half. He also failed to utilize scorer Edson Buddle. Bradley's decision to play a tepid Hercules Gomez instead can be questioned for months.

The blame includes goalie Tim Howard, who has been spot on the whole tournament. He allowed a flimsy goal in the first half, which put the Americans in their all-too-familiar early hole. 

The blame includes the coach's son, Michael Bradley, who had been playing decent until the knockout round. Tonight he looked hesitant and made poor passing decisions throughout the game.

The blame includes Donovan, America's hero from Wednesday. The diminutive number 10 from Redlands, Calif. looked tired. Instead of providing his side with scoring opportunities, he generated limited penetration or depth on any of his set-piece strikes. 

The blame includes Jozy Altidore, who was an absolute beast in the 1-0 win over Algeria. He struggled to free himself up with the ball and, most importantly, was unavailable during the overtime session. With virtually no scoring threats on the field, Altidore's absence clearly hurt the USA.

There would be no last-second miracles this time. A shame really when a team exits from the World Cup not playing anywhere close to its potential, but the Americans did just that.