The United States men’s national team got some small measure of revenge over the team that knocked it out of both the 2006 and 2010 World Cups with a 2-1 friendly victory over Ghana in Hartford, Conn. on Saturday.
For the Americans, it was intended as a preparatory runout for the upcoming CONCACAF Gold Cup — which will anoint a regional champion this month — while the Black Stars, so nicknamed, are getting ready for some Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers. In the occasionally teeming rain, U.S. head coach Bruce Arena fielded an experimental lineup against a team that made two substitutions in the first half and only looked interested in spells.
Which all begged the question of what you could take away from a glorified scrimmage — though televised nationally and attended by tens of thousands — played by a new-ish U.S. lineup drawn from a B-team roster for an off-year Gold Cup tournament, when it doesn’t matter nearly as much for the lack of the key participants’ best players.
— U.S. Soccer (@ussoccer) July 1, 2017
Dom Dwyer, born in England and recently naturalized, was a menace from the early going against a frequently troubled Ghanaian defense. He twice had a run through on goal but was forced wide and delivered a soft finish once, and was run off the ball on the second look.
But by the 19th minute, Dwyer had punctuated his debut with a goal. Jorge Villafana won the ball high up the field and ran at the Ghanaian box. He laid off for Joe Corona, whose shot was blocked by Villafana’s continuing run. But the ball bounced into the path of the wide-open Dwyer, who hammered home the volley.
When the tenacious Sporting Kansas City striker slipped through again five minutes later, Richard Ofori wiped Dwyer out on the edge of the box with a reckless and dangerous challenge. The foul alone was worthy of an expulsion, not to mention the denial of a goal-scoring opportunity. Somehow, he got away with a yellow card and Ghana would see out the game with all 11 men.
The U.S. was largely in control until it very nearly gave away the lead on the brink of halftime. Villafana pulled down Frank Acheampong in the American box, but Asamoah Gyan was denied well by goalkeeper Brad Guzan.
Poorly taken penalty from Black Stars captain Asamoah Gyan. USA still leads! pic.twitter.com/Ju11sva20t
— Pulse Ghana Sports (@PulseSportsGh) July 1, 2017
Shortly after the intermission, the Americans would find the winner. Kelyn Rowe was bundled over on the edge of the box and Kellyn Acosta — Rowe’s namesake with the extra letter — curled the free kick around the wall and into the low corner.
— The American Outlaws (@AmericanOutlaws) July 1, 2017
Dwyer would break through once more, just before the hour with the chance to put the game firmly out of reach. He was denied by Ofori, however, and not much later, Gyan made amends for his missed penalty with a free kick goal from very deep. He beat Guzan with a perfect delivery to the upper 90.
— Jason Foster (@JogaBonitoUSA) July 1, 2017
Ghana briefly roused from its game-long slumber, but it failed to convert this burst of energy into more chances. The Americans, in fact, were the ones to come closest to another goal when Jordan Morris swung in a deep cross for Alejandro Bedoya, who was denied by Ofori on his line.
The win, which kept the U.S. undefeated in both 2017 and the second Arena era with four wins and four ties, was probably less significant than the standout performances by some newcomers and Acosta in just his ninth cap.
The latter has added enormously to the threats the Americans can pose with his energy and long passing. Dwyer, meanwhile, is no world-class striker. There are no illusions about that. But his gritty style can prove a useful addition to the blend of American forwards. Whether Rowe can make his technique and imagination count during more competitive games at the Gold Cup is worth watching. Joe Corona, meanwhile, returned to the fold after almost two years away, is still a helpful attacking midfielder.
Those are perhaps the bigger victories registered on Saturday. And if that’s all borne out at the Gold Cup, the win over Ghana might actually prove meaningful as well.
Leander Schaerlaeckens is a Yahoo Sports soccer columnist. Follow him on Twitter @LeanderAlphabet.
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