NATAL, Brazil – Clint Dempsey revealed how he played through pain after sustaining a suspected broken nose during the United States' dramatic 2-1 World Cup victory over Ghana on Monday night.
Dempsey, the inspirational captain of the U.S. side who fired the team into the lead after just 34 seconds, received a brutal but accidental shin to the face in a collision with Ghana defender John Boye during the first half.
Despite feeling groggy for the rest of the game and being unable to breathe normally, Dempsey completed the game and was named man of the match as John Brooks' late header sealed the three points.
"I think it is broken," Dempsey said. "I was having trouble breathing and I was coughing up blood a little bit. I felt fine and I kept going. I did feel tired, but hopefully I will be able to start breathing through my nose again and look forward to the next game."
The contest at Arena das Dunas was tough and physical throughout and took its toll on the players. Few gave more effort than Dempsey, who suffered again in the final moments by laying his body on the line to take a heavy collision from Sulley Muntari and draw a crucial foul.
Playing in his third World Cup, Dempsey undoubtedly enjoyed one of the finest moments of his international career. With the team now in a strong position to contend for a qualification spot from Group G, he is in no mood to slow down.
Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann brushed aside any fears the 31-year-old would miss the team's vital second game against Portugal in Manaus on Sunday.
[Related: Slideshow: U.S. players injured during opening match at World Cup ]
"Clint has to kind of shake it off with his nose," Klinsmann said. "It will hurt him a couple of days – I broke mine, I don't know, three or four times in my career – [but] it is all right. [Injuries] will continue to happen to all teams."
With Jozy Altidore's status in doubt after sustaining a hamstring injury that forced him out after 23 minutes, Dempsey will be relied on more than ever. His nose will be tended to by team medical staff during the week and he may be kept away from contact drills.
The U.S. suffered no serious injuries during training camp in the lead-up to the World Cup but found itself in a battle of attrition against Ghana. Matt Besler was added to the casualty list after being substituted at halftime with a hamstring injury.
Boye, whose raised leg smashed into Dempsey's face, insisted the contact was accidental.
"It is the game. That's how it is," Boye told Yahoo Sports. "We are all going for the ball. I didn't do it intentionally. I just hit him but I didn't do it intentionally. He hit me as well.
"The U.S. just took their chances. If we had a chance to score we would win this game very simply. I think we were unlucky."
Luck or not, the U.S. is in a solid position after the first of its three group games. Its brave captain played a major part in achieving that.