The U.S. World Cup soccer team could not pull another miracle out of the hat Saturday against a speedy and determined Ghana squad, and the 2-1 loss left plenty of long faces in sports bars and pubs across the Rogue Valley.

The U.S. World Cup soccer team could not pull another miracle out of the hat Saturday against a speedy and determined Ghana squad, and the 2-1 loss left plenty of long faces in sports bars and pubs across the Rogue Valley.

The day started with buzzing optimism. The Ashland plaza was busy with soccer fans decked out in red, white and blue jerseys. A long line of fans formed outside the Black Sheep Pub & Restaurant a half hour before the match.

Among them was Donnie Maulding, who sported a Landon Donovan jersey.

"I'm excited for this," Maulding said. "I've been waiting all week for today. I'm so happy for our guys and I think we can win this."

A quick strike from Ghana in the fifth minute did much to quiet the Black Sheep's packed house.

The first half was not without drama. The throng took to its feet a few times, roaring and gasping as the U.S. team knocked on the door to even the match.

"This is intense," said Ally Duvall, who took a few hours out of her visit from the Bay Area to catch the game.

Ghana took the U.S. to task for more than an hour of game time before midfielder and team captain Donovan, the hero of the previous match against Algeria, evened the score with a penalty kick at point-blank range.

This sent the crowd into a frenzy and carried the momentum until overtime, where the U.S. saw its energy slowly drain from its legs after an acrobatic Ghana score.

A man, who refused to comment for this story citing emotional distress, slumped at his table with his face buried in his hands following the go-ahead strike.

This U.S. team tortured its fans for much of the World Cup, giving up goals early in matches and forcing themselves to play from behind. The pattern drained fans as despair turned to elation and back again.

The final whistle following two 15-minute overtime periods was met with a low groan from the Black Sheep faithful.

Soon, however, a scattered applause caught momentum and those assembled gave the U.S. team a standing ovation for making it to the group of 16 in the brutally competitive World Cup.

Chad Hollingshead made the trip from Portland to rendezvous with his girlfriend, Nicole Ream. The pair are diehard soccer supporters and voiced hope that the U.S. team's popularity would lead to an uptick in soccer across the country.

"There is something about this game that unites people," Hollingshead said. "There's no other sport that can match this."

Hollingshead, who mostly watches English Premiere League soccer, which features the best of the best in terms of players and strategy, said he expects the World Cup to give U.S. Major League Soccer a bump, albeit a brief one.

"It will last a few weeks," he said. "We have to get a higher quality game here before people will tune in."

Ream predicted a U.S. victory Saturday, but gave Ghana credit for a hard-fought match.

"We've come so far with soccer in America," she said. "But Ghana came out harder than we did. They played a great game."

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471; or e-mail cconrad@mailtribune.com.