June 2010

USA v. Ghana: Preview

I’m so happy I don’t have to follow the most dramatic game winning goal in U.S. Soccer history with a doom and gloom, “now it’s time to lose to a soccer powerhouse” match preview! Ghana is no pushover, we all know that, but this should be a good matchup, and more importantly a matchup in which we’re not outclassed. Here’s my take on the game and what we’ve seen so far means to it:

Positives: The best U.S. players have been the difference makers. This is important in every sport, whether you’re trying to win the Super Bowl, World Series, Beer Olympics, or the World Cup. Donovan, Dempsey, and Howard have all come up big in key moments; they’re the reason the Yanks are alive and they’ll have to keep it up. MB90 deserves a shout in that list too. He’s playing an amazing tournament.

We’re not letting the other team’s most dangerous attackers make the difference. Paging Rooney, Novakovi?, and Ziani… where’d you guys go? The U.S. put the onus on shutting those guys down, and that’s exactly what happened. Bravo.

With Michael Essien injured and Sulley Muntari playing like garbage it’s not likely that Ghana will run a ball-possession clinic on the Yanks. This is so important! Readers with long memories know that at least half the time this team loses it’s due to getting dominated in terms of possession through the midfield (Netherlands friendly, Costa Rica at the Saprissa, etc.). We’ve played well in the middle of the park this tourney, due in large part to the play of Michael Bradley, and we should look forward to another good performance.

Negatives and Question Marks: Are our heroes going to make a goalkeeper work at any point in this World Cup? They seem to love firing shots directly at keepers. I’m a shitty GK but if you fire a shot directly at my face I’m going to put my hands up and “miraculously” produce a highlight reel save. Are we upset at the keepers and trying to hurt them with the soccer ball? If so, why not slot a few goals past the guy to put the game out of reach, sub in Clarence Goodson, and have in punch the guy in the face?

Are we going to see a successful Yank set piece that results in a goal that’s not disallowed? That’s still part of the American team identity right? I mean we’ve got the counterattacking part down and the stingy defense is starting to comeback, so maybe we can complete the picture and net a set piece, the game just might depend on it. Oh and I’m not picky on what variety of set piece; a corner that’s knocked down into the box followed by a failed clearance and a Cherundolo poach will do just fine.

Despite taking the loss against Germany, Ghana played one of the most even games of the tourney in their last match. That German side is quality, and Ghana dealt with them well, this means we’re not looking at a USA blowout (like you were expecting a comfortable win anyway). Like us, they’ve essentially played three very even games. This one should be no different.

One of our strengths can also be a weakness at times. While the team’s done a great job focusing on limiting the effectiveness of the oppositions most dangerous player, this has led to a decent number of chances for other players. Tim Howard was up to the task in the Algeria match, stoning Matmour on all attempts. The same can’t be said for the first two matches when Steven Gerrard and Slovenian Jacklegs numbers one and two were afforded chances that Timmy could do nothing about. The USMNT boys need to make sure they don’t get so caught up defending Asamoah Gyan that they allow Kevin-Prince Boateng or another member of the still-talented midfield to capitalize.

Intangibles: This is a close one. Ghana will be the only African nation left in “Africa’s World Cup,” so theoretically they’ll have the support of an entire continent during this match. But realistically, doesn’t everything get drowned out by the damn vuvuzela’s anyway? It doesn’t really matter if it’s the Paraguay/New Zealand bore-fest or South Africa versus Apartheid out there on the pitch, it always sounds like the same brand of not-quite-Wu-Tang killer bees is on the swarm.

On the flip-side, our reader Kevin in Denver pegged this game accurately, coining “Revenge in Rustenburg” as the unofficial title. Ghana effectively ended our last World Cup, and we’ll be looking to serve them an entrée-size portion of cold revenge upon our second trip to what I’ve been referring to as Royal Bat-Fucking Stadium.

Prediction: USA 2 – 1 Ghana

This is a tightly played affair but these teams are both good for a goal in regulation; the winner for the Americans coming in extra time. The Cardiac Yanks roll on. Between the six games played by these teams thus far, all of them could have ended in draws. This one will fittingly go to extra time, but I think the U.S. has shown they have the intestinal fortitude to benefit from these high pressure situations. I hope we win comfortably and I get to have a nice Saturday afternoon, but logic and gut feeling tells me we’re due for another nerve-racking affair. Strap in!

Let’s go Yanks!

Jon Levy is a senior writer for The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at jon@yanksarecoming.com.

Jon Levy

  • Amy

    Quite worried about the battle in the central midfield, with their young holding mid Anthony Annan vs. our young holding mid, MB 90…. pretty sure the game will revolve around these two players and we’ll have the tough task of breaking down a strong back four plus Annan, who is occupying Essien’s spot. He’s young but he looked great in 2 of his 3 matches (exception being Australia) and really I wonder if they’ll be content to let us take the lion’s share of possession, trusting that they’ll have space on the counter wide OR they’ll connect on the long pass to Gyan– who is having a tournament similar to Altidore’s and is responsible for one of the penalties they’ve drawn. Nervous !!!

  • Jon

    You should be nervous! And Ghana aren’t a team that will concede the lion’s share of possession, but against us they shouldn’t dominate it either; the possession, like the game, should be pretty even. Annan’s was good in those two games for sure, but a healthy Essien or on-form Muntari he’s not… at least not right now. Is Ghana becoming to dynamic defensive mids what we are to goalkeepers or what Brazil is to strikers?! They just keep trotting good ones out. And never discount the possibility of Steven Appiah coming in and being the hero of Africa. I hope he doesn’t see the pitch.