Just call me “John”, he said, as we shook hands.
“No problem at all, John Anthony”, I said quickly. “No please. Just call me John”.
And that is how I met John Anthony Brooks Jr. last August on a mid-summer day in a hotel in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina.
You can’t really blame me because, all except for the Jr. suffix, the full name, John Anthony Brooks really rolls easily off the tongue. Don’t you have a friend that you call by his full name? I thought we all did!
I immediately liked John. He thought before he spoke and it was clear he was focused on making sure he fit into the new group by earning respect, on and off the field. John is quiet, almost stoic in demeanor. A big kid at times on the inside but in a grown man’s body. I know the feeling.
A couple of days later John earned his first cap in a 4-3 U.S. win, their first ever comeback win against a European team away from home.
John’s reaction after the match that summer day was priceless. A glowing pride in knowing he had done something special in representing the U.S.
We’ve seen the story before of the unlikely hero playing out in other sports but rarely for the U.S. soccer team playing in a World Cup Finals. Especially when you consider Brooks is the first substitute ever to score a goal for the Americans in their World Cup history.
It was no surprise to me to see John’s reaction after his game-winning goal, in his World Cup debut no less, versus Ghana. Overwhelmed with a paralyzing, adrenaline infused rush of emotions, all he could do is lay there on the beaten sod and think about what had just happened.
As it was said, it is indeed stuff dreams are really made out of, literally and figuratively as John dreamt about his magical moment before the match. Don’t just chase your dreams. Catch them! Make them real. And that’s what John did on a memorable night in Natal.
I replied with a smile and nod of respect, “John, no problem at all. John it is!”
• 16 times Ghana had passing sequences of 7+ passes completed as compared to 5 for the USMNT.
• DaMarcus Beasley, the first American to play in 4 World Cup Finals, led all U.S. players in touches for the match with 55. Beasley was followed by midfielders Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones with 53 each and central defender Geoff Cameron with 50. Starting goalkeeper Tim Howard was 5th with 45. Ghana’s Daniel Opare led all players with 99.
• Michael Bradley lost 14 balls over the course of the game but won 9 for a (-5) differential. Geoff Cameron, polished from a strong season at Stoke City in the Barclays English Premier League, slid over from his right back spot for club to win 27 balls to lead all U.S. players.
• Of the six games in the 2014 FIFA World Cup Finals that have finished with a 2:1 score-line thus far, four of the eventual match winners conceded the first goal. Only Argentina and the USMNT won after scoring first.
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