The United States Men’s National Team are back in action tonight, and will be without the majority of the first team. Head Coach Bruce Arena called up a unique squad, to give players international experience before the final World Cup qualifiers and the 2018 World Cup. Before the USMNT takes on Panama in the CONCACAF Gold Cup, the Yanks are set to play a friendly against Ghana.
Arena has called up a mixture of veteran and young talent for the Gold Cup. Of the 23 players named to the roster, 12 have World Cup qualifying experience, while 10 players are working with Arena for the first time, and four players will look to make their USMNT debut, including Orlando City fan favorite Dom Dwyer. Additionally, 70% of the roster comes from MLS teams.
Brad Guzan played every minute of the 2015 Gold Cup, winning the Golden Glove along the way, and is expected to be the starting ‘keeper again this year. Every other position on the field is up for grabs though, and tonight’s match against Ghana will do wonders in solidifying a spot for the rest of the Gold Cup.
Over the years, Ghana has become an unlikely rivalry with the U.S. The two nations have faced each other in each of the past three World Cups, with the Black Stars winning the first two matches and knocking the U.S. out of the tournament both times. In 2006, Ghana won 2-1 after some questionable officiating gifted the African side two goals. This was consequently Arena’s last match in charge of the national team in his first tenure.
Four years later, the two countries met again, and again it was Ghana out on top with a 2-1 win. Kevin Prince Boateng scored in the sixth minute, and Ghana led for the next 56 minutes before Landon Donovan scored his record fifth career World Cup goal to pull the Americans level. The game went to extra time, and the Black Stars scored three minutes in, and the U.S. was unable to pull back.
After being knocked out by Ghana in the previous two World Cups the U.S. was not about to make it a third. Clint Dempsey scored the quickest goal in U.S. World Cup history, but the Yanks were battling with injuries and were forced to make two early substitutions. Ghana came back in the 82nd minute and U.S. fans could not believe they were about to see a repeat of four years ago. John Brooks came to the rescue, though, and his 86th-minute header pulled the Americans in front to finally beat Ghana, 2-1.
Ghana also beat the Yanks to the tune of 5-0 back in 1983, and is 3-1-0 against the United States.
These are the players Bruce Arena has brought in:
Here are the 23 players on the @ussoccer Gold Cup squad! #GoldCup2017 pic.twitter.com/G5KOHJyfZa— CONCACAF (@CONCACAF) June 29, 2017
This is really a shot in the dark, as so much is uncertain with this team at the moment. Guzan will likely get the start in goal, although if it were up to me Bill Hamid would be in net.
In front of Guzan, expect a strong, experienced back four. Jorge Villafaña as left back is the easy decision, and Graham Zusi needs more international experience at right back. The two center backs are a toss-up, but Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez are the most experienced defenders, with 39 caps each, and only Alejandro Bedoya (60) and Guzan (54) have more international games under their belt on this team.
Dax McCarty and Kellyn Acosta are two of the best midfielders on the 23-player roster, so they should both be involved, but the problem is they both play the same position. If Arena goes with a 4-4-2 expect Acosta to start, and Dax to come off the bench. I don’t think most people have ever seen much of Kenny Saief, but based off of what people are saying about him, he should be pretty good. Cristian Roldan is also an option.
I am not a fan of Bedoya at all, but Arena is and that is all that matters, so expect Bedoya to get a lot of minutes in the Gold Cup for the U.S. On the left side there aren’t too many options and Gyasi Zardes deserves a spot in this Gold Cup team.
Between the three forwards — Dwyer, Jordan Morris, and Juan Agudelo — Dwyer is the best option, especially as a lone striker. If Arena opts for two up top, Morris should play alongside Dwyer.
How to Watch
Match Time: 4:45 p.m. ET.
Venue: Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field — East Hartford, CT.
Streaming: WatchESPN, fuboTV, Univision Deportes.
Twitter: For rapid reaction and live updates, follow along at @ussoccer and @TheManeLand. Also, be sure to follow @StarsAndStripesFC.
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