NATAL, Brazil (AP) After 90 brutal 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 just 32 seconds 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.
Dempsey went down 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.
The news was far worse for the American's other starting forward, Jozy Altidore, who was taken off on a stretcher in the 21st minute with an apparent left hamstring injury. He was replaced by Aron Johannsson.
The 24-year-old forward was running down a ball with Boye on Monday night when he lowered his head to attempt to control it, grabbed the back of his left leg and fell to the ground.
Wincing in pain, Altidore was taken off on a stretcher and replaced two minutes later by Aron Johannsson.
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.
Dempsey's goal was the fastest World Cup goal in his country's history and the sixth fastest goal in World Cup history.
The only faster goals were by Turkey's Hakan Suker (11 seconds against South Korea in 2002), Czechoslovakia's Vaclav Masek (16 seconds against Mexico in 1962), Germany's Ernst Lehner (25 seconds against Austria in 1934) and England's Bryan Robson (27 seconds against France in 1982).
U.S. strikers in general had failed to find the net in the previous two tournaments: The last goal came from Brian McBride against Mexico in the second round in 2002 in South Korea.
The U.S. held a 1-0 lead at halftime. With this win, the Americans are now 7-1-1 when leading at halftime of World Cup games.
Up next: U.S. vs. Portugal
When: Sunday, June 22 at 3 p.m.