Goals by Dwyer and Acosta Lead U.S. Over Ghana

20170701 MNTvGHA Dom Dwyer Goal

By JACK BELL

US logoDom Dwyer scored a goal in his international debut for the United States and Kellyn Acosta added a second on a terrific free kick as the U.S. defeated Ghana, 2-1, before 28,494 fans at Pratt & Whitney Stadium in East Hartford, Conn., on Saturday.

The match was the one and only tuneup for the American team before the CONCACAF Gold Cup, which starts for the U.S. next Saturday against Panama in Nashville.

The game had a bit of everything. Two yellow cards that easily could have been red. A saved penalty and one not given that ended up being a goal anyway. Above all else, the match was a chance for U.S. Coach Bruce Arena to test the mettle of his players who will play, at least, in the group stage of the Gold Cup.

Ghana had the best chance of the first quarter-hour when Rashid Sumalia headed a free kick only inches above the crossbar.

But it was the U.S. breaking on top first. After 18 minutes, Jorge Villafaña stole the ball on the left, navigated his way on the dribble around two Ghana defenders and rolled a pass to Joe Corona. Corona’s shot from the top of the box deflected off Villafaña and fell to Dwyer, who plucked it out of the air with his left foot to score past goalkeeper Richard Ofori. Dwyer, an Englishman who plays for Sporting Kansas City and became a U.S. citizen in March, was making his first senior international start.

Minutes later, Corona sent a perfectly weighted pass into Dwyer’s path with no defender in sight. Ofori raced off his line and upended Dwyer four yards outside the penalty area. What could have, probably should have been a red card was downgraded to a yellow by Referee Ismael Cornejo of El Salvador.

The U.S. nearly squandered its first-half lead. In stoppage time, Lumor Agbenyenu struck a cross from the left that skittered through the U.S. goal box. As Frank Acheampong turned for the ball, Villafaña grabbed his jersey and Acheampong sold the play going to the turf. Cornejo pointed to the penalty spot and showed Villafaña a yellow card — which easily could have been red. But Asamoah Gyan‘s rather weak effort was pushed wide by U.S. goalkeeper Brad Guzan pushed it wide of the far post.

The U.S. made it 2-0 seven minutes into the second half when Paul Arriola was taken down a step inside the area, but Cornejo pointed to a spot outside. Acosta perfectly placed his effort along the ground between the wall and a defender, beating Ofori inside the far post.

Gyan made up for his missed penalty when he cut the U.S. lead in half in the 59th minute. He placed a curling, right-footed shot high and out of the reach of the diving Guzan. It was Gyan’s 51st international goal for Ghana.

The U.S. came close with about five minutes left in the game. Dax McCarty, who had a strong game in midfield, found the substitute Gyasi Zardes for a pass that Zardes one-timed into the path of Jordan Morris. Another substitute. He carried to the end line for a cross that Alejandro Bedoya‘s header forced Ofori to make a save at the far post.

In addition to the international debut of Dwyer, Kenny Saief replaced Corona in the 70th minute. Saief, born in Florida, played at the youth international level for Israel and only recently obtained a one-time change of association from FIFA. He plays in Belgium for Gent. Saief showed a bit of enterprise and acquitted himself well in his limited minutes.

NOTES

A moment of silence was held before the match to honor Tony DiCicco, the former women’s national team coach and Connecticut native. DiCicco died on June 19. … The game was the first between the U.S. and Ghana not at a World Cup. Ghana had won two of the previous three, eliminating the U.S. each time. Two players in the U.S. lineup appeared in the 2-1 win against Ghana at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Matt Besler started the match and was replaced by John Brooks at halftime. Graham Zusi was the 77th minute substitute who set up the winning goal by Brooks. … The U.S. wore its new Gold Cup jersey for the match. It’s a combination of the “Where’s Waldo” hoop model and the stars-and-denim number, this one with stars on each shoulder, worn in the 1994 World Cup. That (cotton!!!) jersey was the final one provided by Adidas. … With the win, the U.S. is unbeaten (4-0-4) in eight matches since Bruce Arena’s return as coachs.