NATAL, Brazil – U.S. defender John Anthony Brooks has a map on one elbow of Germany, where he grew up, and a map of Illinois, where his father's family is from, on the other. On Monday, he put all 6 foot 4 inches of his lumbering frame on the map by scoring the United States' winning goal in the 86th minute in a 2-1 win over Ghana in their World Cup opener.
Few would have expected Brooks, a second-half sub, to save the day, but this was a night where nothing expected happened. From the shotgun start to the withering hamstrings to the missing-in-action play of stalwarts like Michael Bradley.
Thirty-four seconds. Nothing in soccer happens in 34 seconds. The teams feel each other out, the play builds from the back, rising like a crescendo. Except on Monday night.
Before the chants of I believe that we will win could even get started, Clint Dempsey sidestepped defender John Boye, took a quick touch and buried the ball with his left foot into the corner.
He sprinted to the corner and let a primal roar so loud, the folks back home in Nagadouches, Texas probably heard it. On the sideline, coach Jurgen Klinsmann did his best Jim Valvano. With outstretched hands in disbelief, he needed someone to hug or high-five.
Estadio das Dunas, half full of Outlaws and other American crazies, cheered wildly in did-this-really-happen euphoria.
This is the way the United States' World Cup opener began, only to be followed by 89 minutes, mostly of agony.