Payback

I'm sure everyone recalls the USMNT promo that ESPN ran during qualifying that showed Deuce doing a goal dance

[ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VBNgMR3ZWS8"]YouTube- World Cup 2006 - Clint Dempsey Goal - USA vs Ghana - World Cup Memories - HD[/ame]

...and you get to hang your test paper on the refrigerator for everyone to see if you knew that it was a) the only goal the USA scored in the 2006 World Cup in Germany and b) it was the goal that put us level with Ghana in the final group game.

That 43rd minute strike came after Claudio Reyna had been stripped like a prom date by Haminu Dramani roughly 20 minutes earlier on the way to a 1-0 Black Stars lead.

That was when, for a moment, the US actually looked like they had a decent shot at going through.

Somewhat ironically, Italy did had done US a huge favor by laying a serious beat down on the Czech Republic, leaving second place in Group E - and the Promised land of the knockout stage - on the table for whoever prevailed in the US/Ghana match.

The one thing the US was certain of was that at least they wouldn't have to worry about the referee. The game was assigned to Markus Merk, widely regarded at the time as the best game official in Europe, and a German to boot so we wouldn't have to fight the "3rd World Underdog vs. The Great Satan" meme which the team has had to deal with for - well, forever.

But Ghana proceeded to engage in one of the worst, most shameless displays of diving and crying ever witnessed. The merest hint of contact sent Black Star players crumpling to the turf like a man who'd been hit in the head with a 2 X 4.

Bitter? Why no, why do you ask?

The highlight of this remarkably crass effort culminated - as we recall all too well - with Razak Pimpong dropping to the ground as if he was auditioning for the role of "sniper victim #37" in Enemy at the Gate", shown here at 1:20:

[ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AOCLXoSyqPU"]YouTube- Round 3. Ghana vs USA 2-1 (Fifa Highlights)[/ame]

The resulting PK, in the second minute of first half stoppage time, was followed by a second half slugfest highlighted by John Mensahs' attempted assassination of Bobby Convey, which effort would have gotten him 2-5 for assault anywhere on Earth but which Merks only saw fit to punish with a yellow.

In Germany* at WC06, as is now standard procedure, all 32 teams had their own bus.

31 of them prominently displayed the country name and flag of the occupants. The 32nd, the one assigned to the USA, did not. German security felt that a US flag might serve as a lighting rod for whatever nasty bastards might be lurking about.

So the US skulked about anonymously, in a plain brown wrapper.

In South Africa, the USA team bus proudly proclaims "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Victory".

In 2006, the winner of USA/Ghana had Brazil waiting for them. It was far from the greatest of Brazil squads- that would arguably be the US 94 team, which certainly ranks with the best national sides of all time - but Brazil in a down year handed Ghana their ass 3-0 and would likely have done the same to a USA team in transition, as the Old Guard (exemplified by Reyna) made way for the Donovan, Dempsey, Bradley et. al. team we're fielding this month.

This year the task for the winner of this match is a bit easier, the path to the quarterfinals a tad easier to imagine.

And whether you or I or anyone else remembers the 2006 debacle, guys like Landon and Deuce and Timmy and Gooch haven't forgotten a minute of it.

Finally, and I'm sorry to have to do this, but I can't help myself:

"Here's to you, Mr. Tatooed - team captain - doing brewskis with The Prez guy - this Buds' for you"

USA.

*Edited after commenter correction. Thanks.