A Hitchhikers Guide to USA-Ghana
The U.S. Men’s National Team will go head to head with Ghana in its first group game on June 16, live on ESPN, WatchESPN and Univision. It’s the third consecutive FIFA World Cup these teams have walked out of the tunnel together and to get ready for Rd. 3, ussoccer.com caught up with some players past and present to reflect on the matches in 2006 and 2010.
Like 2014, the 2006 draw pitted United States and Ghana in the same group. Despite having only one point in Group E after a 3-0 loss to the Czech Republic and a courageous 1-1 tie with Italy, the U.S. MNT was still in a position to advance to the knockout round with a win against the Black Stars and a Czech Republic loss to Italy. Needless to say, the stakes were high.
Ghana struck first in the 22nd minute. After a turnover in the defensive third, Haminu Draman dribbled to the front of the USMNT goal and drilled the ball past Kasey Keller.
In the 43rd minute, the United States responded. Then-midfielder DaMarcus Beasley (then in his second World Cup) delivered a perfect cross to a sprinting Clint Dempsey, and he finished it brilliantly on-the-run with one touch. The U.S. hopes of advancing were brought back to life, and in a matter of seconds, Dempsey went from relative unknown to potential World Cup hero.
For Dempsey, just being in Germany would have been enough for him, let alone scoring a goal.
“Going into that World Cup, I didn’t know whether I was going to be on the team or not,” Dempsey said. “I was scoring goals in MLS and doing well in some of the friendlies, but I got there not knowing if I was going to play.”
For the Texas native, his first World Cup goal was a defining moment.
“I could die a happy man after that,” Dempsey said. “It was the moment I arrived on the world stage, and I showed I could do it on that level.”
But the momentum the United States had disappeared shortly thereafter. In first half stoppage time Oguchi Onyewu fouled Razak Pimpong at the top of the box, earning Ghana a penalty kick. Stephen Appiah buried the ensuing PK, and Ghana took a one-goal lead into the locker room at halftime.
Despite creating a handful of second half chances, the U.S. MNT couldn’t crack Ghana’s backline a second time. The Black Stars knocked the United States out of the World Cup, advancing to the next round in meantime.
Fast forward to the 2010 Round of 16, and the U.S. MNT, winner of group C, was matched up with Ghana who had place second to Germany in Group D. In a win or go home scenario, the teams squared off in Rustenberg, South Africa.
Like the match four years prior, Ghana drew first blood. In just the 5th minute, Ricardo Clark was dispossessed in the midfield. Kevin Prince Boateng came up with the loose ball and was the USMNT’s box in a flash. He drove a shot into the lower left corner past goalkeeper Tim Howard.
Former USMNT captain Carlos Bocanegra recalled, “[After the goal], we were chasing the eight ball a little bit.” “We pushed hard to get back in the game.”
It took until the second half, but the United States did get an equalizer.
Dempsey received a pass into the box from Benny Feilhaber in the 61st minute and crafted a clever touch to push the ball away from Jonathan Mensah. The Ghana centerback felled Dempsey and handed the USA a perfect opportunity to get back into the game. Landon Donovan calmly stepped up to the spot and tied the game with a perfectly placed penalty kick from just inside the right post, nipping the woodwork on its way to the back of the net.
Each team threatened to score as the second half continued, but 90 minutes was not enough to determine a winner.
Three minutes into the start of extra time, Ghana had the lead a second time. Asamoah Gyan notched a goal for the Black Stars in the 93rd minute. Andre Ayew, from his own defensive half, sent a long, searching ball downfield. Gyan jumped on the end of it, split the U.S. defense and rifled his shot over the outstretched hands of Howard.
The U.S. MNT created more chances to equalize, but nothing ended up in the back of the net. Four years and Ghana came out on top again. Players remember the match and some of the disappointment from the night.
“More than anything, I remember being heartbroken as a team,” Howard said. “We had an opportunity to advance, and whether we were the better team or not, we felt we matched up with them well and should have gotten a result.”
“I think we could have beaten Ghana that day,” Bocanegra said. “It was fairly even and we had our chances to beat them. It didn’t end up working out. It is a little bit frustrating.”
Now, all eyes turn to Monday’s match. Despite the fact the Black Stars have had the USMNT’s number, Howard believes the team isn’t thinking about it.
“I don’t think anyone is rattled or fazed by the fact that we lost four years ago,” Howard said. “It’s a completely different time.”
What happened in the past, is in the past. The only result that matters is the pending one, and the team is determined to not let another opportunity slip through its fingers.
“We’ve certainly made no secret of the fact that all our focus at this point is about Ghana,” Michael Bradley said. “[We’re] making sure that we do everything we can so that on June 16 we step on the field and are ready to leave it all out there knowing that a good result puts us in a really good spot.”