Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY SportsNATAL, Brazil — It wasn’t pretty, but tomorrow no one will remember the way the game looked, only that the U.S. secured a crucial three points in a brutal 2-1 win over Ghana.

Here were the keys to the match:

1. Bend don’t break.

That’s the mantra for teams put under intense pressure during matches. After a goal 34 seconds into the game from Clint Dempsey, the U.S. tested the philosophy to its extreme, and eventually finally broke. Ghana battered the U.S. goal time and again, outshooting the U.S. 21 to 8, and dominating the ball with 62% of possession in the match. DaMarcus Beasley was exploited early and often at left back by Christian Atsu, and the U.S. was fortunate to not concede from one of the speedy Ghanaian’s seeking crosses.

U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard was sensational throughout, and saved the U.S. backline time and again. In the end, the U.S. couldn’t manage to keep Ghana off the board when they scored an equalizer late in the second half, but displayed tremendous resiliency.

“It showed our depth and our resilience definitely and I thought the maturity was awesome,” Howard said. ‘To be able to manage that game for so long and then to not be deflated by the goal and keep them out for the remainder of the game and pick out an opportunity and we took it.”

The U.S. was tested in attack as well, as Jozy Altidore went down with an injury in the 21st minute of the match. Altidore was replaced by Aron Johannsson, who struggled as the lone striker but worked to press Ghana’s defense throughout. The U.S. suffered another substitution at halftime when Matt Besler couldn’t continue and was replaced by 21-year-old John Anthony Brooks.

It’s no small feat to survive losses to two key players in the middle of your roster, but credit to the depth to coach Jurgen Klinsmann and the workmanlike defense.

“I was still convinced we were going to win this game even after the equalizer,” Klinsmann said. “I felt like two or three opportunities would come and we just needed to get one, and we did.”see more at