Heading into the draw for the 2014 World Cup, Ghana was probably the last team the U.S. Men’s National Team wanted to see in their group. Of course, the soccer gods wouldn’t dare stage a World Cup without the two teams meeting, as each side will open up their 2014 World Cup campaign against the other. After the Black Stars knocked the Americans out of the last two World Cups, U.S. soccer fans have developed a great fear of Ghana, believing that they have the Americans’ number. But is that really the case?
Let’s revisit the 2006 World Cup match between Ghana and the U.S. The game was tied 1-1 until just before halftime when U.S. defender Oguchi Onyewu was called for one of the most egregious penalties imaginable, giving Ghana a penalty kick that put them up 2-1. The second half was without a goal by either side, as Ghana won the match and advanced to the knockout stage, sending the Americans home.
Without such a terrible call by the official, there’s every chance that the match would have ended in a 1-1 draw. That would not have been enough for the U.S. to advance, but it would have prevented a fear and loathing of Ghana by American soccer fans that still exists nearly a decade later.
Now let’s revisit the match between the U.S. and Ghana from the 2010 World Cup. In this round of 16 match, U.S. coach Bob Bradley made the unforgiveable mistake of putting Ricardo Clark in the starting lineup at the expense of Maurice Edu, even though Clark had not played in the previous two matches while Edu made positive contributions in the previous two matches. Clark made a critical that led to Ghana taking a lead in the 5th minute of the match.
The Americans got the better of Ghana throughout the second half, scoring a goal on a penalty kick to tie the game and force extra time. Had it not been for Bradley’s mistake of starting Clark, the U.S. may have won that game and advanced to the quarterfinals. Instead, a defensive lapse early in the extra session gave Ghana a 2-1 lead, allowing them to advance and once again send the Americans home.
Even with The Bradley-Clark debacle, the match was in a 1-1 draw after 90 minutes, much like the match between the Americans and the Black Stars should have ended in 2006. Does Ghana have the Americans’ number? Not really. The U.S. and Ghana have played two closely contested matches, and while the Americans made some mistakes that ultimately doomed them, there’s also been a bit of bad luck involved in the negative results, and it’s not a stretch to think that both matches could have ended in a draw
Ghana is a talented team with recent World Cup success and veteran players that should be taken seriously. But they haven’t dominated the U.S. the way people perceive, and getting a positive result against them won’t be the impossible task that far too many American soccer fans believe it will be.
Bryan Zarpentine is a New York Mets writer at RantSports.com. He also writes frequently about the NFL, College Football, College Basketball, and International Soccer. Like him on Facebook, follow him on twitter @BZarp and add him on Google.