Heading into the 2014 World Cup, the United States were largely an unknown, a squad who strung together a series of underwhelming performances and seemed to lack the hype of previous US sides. Drawn into the “group of death” alongside world powerhouses Portugal and Germany, many pundits and observers alike suggested that the US would be hard pressed to win a game - or even score a goal.

It took precisely 33 seconds for the latter of those predictions to fall by the wayside.

Clint Dempsey scored a first minute stunner and John Anthony Brooks contributed an improbable 87th minute game-winner, enough to lead the US to a 2-1 win against group G competitor Ghana.

The opening goal was beautifully executed. Midfielder Jermaine Jones collected a throw-in on the left flank and fed a streaking Dempsey, who cut sharply around Ghanian defender John Boye at the top of the penalty area. The US captain struck a perfectly placed shot past goalkeeper Adam Larsen Kwarasey, pinging off the far post and into the back of the net. Dempsey's strike ranks as the fifth fastest in the history of the World Cup.

The USMNT looked sharp if not dangerous after their opener, moving the ball at ease through a shell-shocked Ghanian midfield. Ghana’s best chance to equalize in the opening 45 came near the half-hour mark, when forward Asamoah Gyan galloped confidently around US midfielder Michael Bradley and struck a venomous shot towards goal from 20 yards out. US keeper Tim Howard was up to the task, parrying the strike over the end line.

Ghana opened the game up in the second half and nearly pulled level on a pair of chances centering around midfielder Sulley Muntari. In the 55th minute, Muntari struck a shot from 25 yards out that narrowly missed goal; just a minute later the midfielder played a beautiful ball in to Gyan, who headed the ball just inches wide of the target. Unexpectedly handed the responsibility of defending a lead, the US seemed content to sit back and defend under heavy pressure.

Ghana’s equalizer was a long time coming, and they’d get it in the 82nd minute. Gyan played a cheeky back heel in the area which was met by an onrushing Andre Ayew, who hammered the shot home to equalize the match.

Just five minutes later, the US would get their winner. Second half substitute Graham Zusi would swing a bending corner kick into the area - fellow substitute Brooks found himself perfectly positioned to power a thunderous header home, sending the estimated 20,000 US fans in attendance into delirium. Brooks’ winner was the first goal-ever-by a US substitute in any World Cup.

It wasn’t all good news for the US. Jozy Altidore left the game in the 22nd minute with what looked like a fairly serious hamstring injury. He was joined by defender Matt Besler at halftime, who left the match with a similar ailment. Clint Dempsey looked to have possibly broken his nose in the 34th minute, bloodied by a kick to the face.

Still, the result was better than many had expected: a dream start against a respectable foe. It also puts the US into a strong position to advance out of the group. The US will next face Portugal (Sunday June 22nd, 6PM ET), a squad short on confidence after a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Germany that saw them lose defender Pepe to a red card and Fabio Coentrao to a hamstring injury. Should the US get a win, and Germany prevail over Ghana, the US would be through to the knockout round after just two matches.

Reporting by Pablo Maurer