RUSTENBURG, South Africa—Life on the edge came to an exhausting and crushing end for the United States against a familiar foe.
Ghana sent the U.S. packing from the World Cup - again - eliminating the Americans in the second round Saturday night.
Asamoah Gyan scored 3 minutes into overtime, leading the Black Stars to a 2-1 victory that ended a thrilling but ultimately unfulfilling World Cup for the United States that was watched by record audiences back home.
"A stinging, tough defeat," U.S. coach Bob Bradley said. "We knew Ghana was a good team and we didn't get the job done."
Asamoah Gyan scored 3 minutes into overtime, and this time there was no magic left in the Americans.
Kevin Prince Boateng put Ghana ahead when he stripped the ball from Ricardo Clark in the 5th minute and beat goalkeeper Tim Howard from 16 yards.
Once again, the U.S. came back, and Landon Donovan tied the score with a penalty kick in the 62nd minute after Jonathan Mensah pulled down Clint Dempsey streaking in. But no matter how much the Americans pressured after Gyan scored, they couldn't tie it again.
"We had already expended a lot of energy at that time," Bradley said. "I think we put ourselves in trouble with giving up the early goal again."
In the first-ever extra time World Cup game for the U.S., Gyan got the winning goal when he took a long ball from Andre Ayew over the defense and beat U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra, his teammate on the French club Rennes. Gyan let the ball bounce, took a touch with his chest, and with Jay DeMerit vainly trying to catch up, scored over goalkeeper Tim Howard with a left-footed shot from 16 yards.
"We've made everybody proud," Gyan said. "Not Ghana alone, but all of Africa."
There was nothing to equal Donovan's injury-time goal against Algeria that moved the Americans into the second round. The closest the U.S. came to tying it again was in the 98th minute, when Maurice Edu's header off Donovan's corner kick went wide.
With Howard pushed up, DeMerit's desperation long shot in the final minutes went over the crossbar. Then Dempsey sent a header wide.
At the final whistle, Howard consoled Bocanegra and Maurice Edu collapsed to the ground. Donovan exchanged jerseys with a Ghana player and walked off the field, put on a coat, sat on the bench and hung his head.
"This is a terrific group and we're proud," Bradley said. "We're also disappointed that we couldn't take it further."
Ghana, the only African team left in the tournament, celebrated moving into the quarterfinals against Uruguay on Friday in Johannesburg. In their second World Cup appearance, the Black Stars bettered their 2006 team, which lost to Brazil 3-0 in the second round. That team beat the Americans 2-1 in the final game of the opening round to send the U.S. home.
"We did it before," Gyan said. "We did it in 2006."
While the U.S. came from behind to draw England 1-1 and Slovenia 2-2 in the first round, the Americans looked ragged this time. They go home pondering a World Cup that could have been so much more. They thrilled the large number of Americans who were the largest group of overseas ticket buyers, but failed to do as well as the 2002 team, which reached the quarterfinals in the best U.S. finish since 1930.
The defense allowed the first goal in three of four games, and the Americans kept up their record of never coming from behind to win in 29 World Cup matches.
With Donovan, Dempsey and Howard in the primes of their careers, the U.S. had high expectations coming off a first-round exit four years ago. Because a growing fan base watched on television in record numbers, the loss was even more stinging for a team still struggling for recognition both in the soccer world and among sports fans in America.