John Brooks says he had a premonition. A dream, actually. A dream that became an amazing reality.
Two nights before the United States played Ghana in the World Cup, center-back Brooks said he dreamed of scoring in the 88th minute of a tied game to win the game and end America’s losing streak to the West African country that had eliminated the U.S. in the last two World Cups.
On Monday evening against the Black Stars, in the United States’ opening match of the 2014 World Cup, the 21-year-old German-American rose into the air in the 86th minute and became the unlikeliest hero in an unlikely victory. He scored on a header off a Graham Zusi corner kick that stood up to beat the Black Stars 2-1.
“It’s unbelievable,” Brooks said after it was over. “It’s a great moment for me.”
It’s also a moment few could have seen coming a month ago. Brooks, a rookie Bundesliga player with hometown team Hertha Berlin last season, was regarded by most as a long shot to make the U.S. team. The imposing 6-foot-4-inch lefty’s talent and physical tools were obvious, but he was coming off a mixed debut season as an irregular starter and sometimes inconsistent performer in Germany’s vaunted top-flight.
He was included on U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann 30-man training camp roster, but few expected him to be standing when Klinsmann whittled it down to the 23 lucky souls who would travel to this summer’s tournament in Brazil. But Klinsmann knew what he had. And when he trimmed his list on May 22, Brooks survived the cut.
“We saw very early that his passing is amazing, he’s very calm for his age, and obviously strong in the air because he’s so tall,” the U.S. boss said following Monday’s match. He also noted the youngster’s superior positioning and penchant for avoiding fouls.