04 July 2017

USA vrs Ghana: A rare friendly that proved useful for both managers

USA beat Ghana 2-1

The USA warmed up for the Gold Cup with a 2-1 win over Ghana in a friendly. Nothing was on the line like in their previous three meetings, all at the World Cup.

But Saturday’s game was played at a remarkably high intensity for a friendly game and helped answer some questions for U.S. coach Bruce Arena ahead of the Gold Cup.

The USA took the lead in the 19th minute on a goal by Dom Dwyer in his international debut, and Kellyn Acosta added a second goal in the 52nd minute on a low free kick through a poorly constructed wall.

After both goals, Ghana, which is in a fight for its life in World Cup 2018 qualifying, put the USA on its heels. The USA got a break late in first-half stoppage time when Brad Guzan saved Asamoah Gyan‘s weakly struck penalty kick, but he could do nothing on Gyan’s bending free kick in the 60th minute.

Arena will go into the Gold Cup with a experimental team he hopes will give him some answers about the depth he’ll have in the fall for the World Cup qualifiers and hopefully next year for the World Cup.

“It was a good test for our team,” he said. “All 90 minutes we had to be in it mentally, had to be smart tactically, and we were able to do that.”

1. Dwyer makes a chance for inclusion.

Dwyer, who became eligible to play for the USA in March, made a case for a spot in the core group of forwards with a goal in his debut in an active first half. He had an early chance but shot weakly at keeper Richard Ofori, didn’t miss on his volley of a shot deflected off Jorge Villafana and was fouled by Ofori on a breakaway that could have produced a red card.

“You never know what happens in a game like this,” Arena said. “I thought the first 10 minutes or so he looked a little nervous out there, but he got a hold of the game and did well.”

  1. Good preparation, given the circumstances.

Besides Dwyer, Kelyn Rowe, who started on right wing, and Kenny Saief, who came off the bench, made their international debuts for the USA. In addition, Joe Corona, who started behind Dwyer in middle, and center backs Matt Besler and Matt Hedges played their first games for under Arena.

Given the unfamiliarity many players had with each other and the fact the foreign-based players coming off vacations were short of match fitness, Arena was pleased with how the USA played.

“I think it was good game for both teams,” he said. “That doesn’t happen all the time when you play friendlies. For our team, it was good preparation for our confederation’s championship.”

  1. Acosta and McCarty reprise use of two holding midfielders.

    The USA came out with a 4-2-3-1 formation, marking the third straight game Arena has sent his players out in a different formation, after the 4-4-2 against Trinidad & Tobago and 5-2-3 against Mexico.

    The one common theme to the last two games is starting two holding midfielders: Michael Bradleyand Acosta against Mexico and Dax McCarty,playing his first game for the USA since Feb. 3, and Acosta against Ghana. “I thought Dax and Kellyn were very good,” said Arena afterward.

    If Arena sticks with two holding midfielders — Bradley might return for the knockout stage of the Gold Cup — that will likely mean he’ll only start one forward in front of his No. 10, most likely Christian Pulisic in World Cup qualifying or Corona, whom Arena praised, at the Gold Cup.



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