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Against Ghana, fifth minute proved crucial for Team USA

For U.S. coach Bob Bradley, they key moment of the two-hour match against Ghana turned out to be what happened in the fifth minute.

“Once again we gave up an early goal and put a lot into it to get back to 1-1,” Bradley said. “We’ve put ourselves in that spot one too many times.”

Bradley said that the early goal syndrome is one that he has identified — as have all American soccer fans — but that talking about it hasn’t been sufficient to address it. Again, conceding a goal at the onset of the overtime proved too much of an uphill battle for a team that had expended a lot of energy to tie the score earlier in the game, he said.

Bradley said his team has done its best to gain the respect of traditional soccer powers but acknowledged the quality of his current squad may fall a little short of the standards required to shine on the sport’s biggest stage.

“In all positions we have talent,” Bradley said. “But we still know we need to get better.”

In the winners’ camp, the mood was one of focus on the upcoming task rather than exultant celebration. Andre Ayew, Ghana’s 20-year-old midfielder, barely cracked a smile in the post-match press conference, perhaps realizing that his second yellow card in the tournament means he’ll miss what will be Ghana’s first appearance in the World Cup quarterfinals.

Or maybe it was the realization that the Black Stars now carry the expectations of more than 24 million Ghanaians. “We have a continent behind us,” Ayew said. “We have Africa behind us, and that gives us a lot of energy to fight more.”