USMNT: Third Time’s The Charm Against Ghana?


Three in a row.  Three FIFA World Cups in a row in which the United States have faced Ghana.  In 2006, Ghana was our last match of the group stage.  In 2010, Ghana was our first match in the knockout stage.  And now we are facing them again,  in Brazil 2014,  as our first match in the Group of Death.  You know what they say: third time’s the charm.  And I really think that might be the case this go around.

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Before we look at the upcoming match, let’s look a little bit at the previous World Cup matches.   On June 22, 2006, Ghana and the United States played an exciting first half.  Ghana drew first blood, with Haminu Draman scoring in the 22nd minute.  Clint Dempsey got the equalizer in the 43rd minute, and it appeared that the two teams would enter the break all level.  But 2 minutes into first half stoppage time, Onguchi Onyewu was called for a foul in the box, and Stephen Appiah converted the penalty kick to put Ghana in the lead.  Throughout the second half, the USMNT fought hard to level the score, but were unsuccessful, and finished the Group Stage at the bottom of Group E, having not won a single match.

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Four years later, the US came in and had a different group stage entirely.  The United States tied England 1-1 in the first match, then went on to tie Slovenia 2 – 2.  The United States needed a win to advance, and in late stoppage time, Landon Donovan netted his 4th World Cup goal, putting the United States at the top of their group for the first time.  The US entered the Round of 16 for the first time since 2002, and their first opponent was Ghana.  While the US were the favorite to win the match, Kevin Prince Boatang  scored an early goal for Ghana in the 5th minute that set the pace for the match.  In the 61st minute, Jonathan Mensah pulled Clint Dempsey down in the box, and earned a US penalty.  Landon Donovan converted the penalty for his 5th World Cup goal, and leveled the match.  The game was all tied up until 3 minutes into extra time, when Asamoah Gyan scored the eventual winner.  Despite several hard fought chances, the US could not regain their footing, and the game finished at the familiar 2-1 scoreline after extra time.

These two losses to Ghana are enough to make the United States out for blood this summer, and this time, the United States is playing with a few advantages.

One of these is the time difference.  The match they play against Nigeria in Jacksonville is only one time zone away from the match in Natal.  Ghana will be three time zones away.  That’s not a huge amount, but will take the Ghanians a little bit to get used to.  The United States also is seeking to level the score, and while that can sometimes cause a team to overplay and leave themselves open to attack, I think it will work in the United States’ favor. Jurgen Klinsmann and company are not making the mistake of underestimating Ghana, as I believe we have the last two times the teams have played.  Klinsmann has gone so far as to call this a must-win match, and likened it to the knockout stages. With this mindset, the U.S. might have a chance of winning this match.

One weakness the USMNT hopes to e really pressed is the lack of experience of Ghana’s goalkeeper.  Adam Kwarasey is the starting keeper for the Black Stars, and while he does an admirable job with Norwegian club Strømsgodset, he does not face very many players of World Cup quality regularly.  He did well to keep goals scored to a minimum during qualifying, but will face a completely different challenge in the World Cup.

Ghana’s midfield, however, is a different story. Kwadawo Asamoah and Kevin Prince-Boatang are both back to play for the Black Stars at this World Cup, and Asamoah Gyan has returned to captain the national team in Brazil.  These are internationally ranked players, who will work their hardest to beat the United States, and send Ghana to the Round of 16 for the third time in a row.

However, I am cautiously optimistic for this game.  The United States has improved dramatically since the last time we met Ghana, and I believe the victory will come this summer.  If we can earn 3 points with Ghana, I think that we will be in a very good position to advance out of the group stage.