Ghana maintained their historic mastery over the United States men’s soccer team, eliminating the Americans from the U20 World Cup with a 4-1 victory today in Turkey.
The U.S. came into this game needing a win to advance to the knockout rounds after Monday’s solid tie against France. Ghana were pointless coming in, but the Black Stars have never lost to the U.S. at any level, most famously eliminating the Yanks from the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and 2006 in Germany.
U.S. coach Tab Ramos made a couple of changes, inserting Oscar Sorto at right midfield and reinstating team captain Caleb Stanko at center back. The U.S. missed Benji Joya, who had formed an effective defensive central midfield tandem with Wil Trapp versus France.
The Americans had trouble today dealing with Ghana’s tremendous speed and quickness right from the start, in front of one of the bigger crowds so far at this U20 World Cup.
Ghana threatened early, but the U.S. should have taken the lead in the 13th minute when Mario Rodriguez somehow failed to score on an open header from no more than five yards, after an inch perfect cross from DeAndre Yedlin.
U.S. goalkeeper Cody Cropper was called into action, making a great save off of a breakaway that came from a very poor giveaway from Jose Villarreal, who was far too easily muscled off the ball by his opponent. The L.A. Galaxy man’s miscue foreshadowed a gamelong problem for the U.S. midfield, whose wastefulness with the ball put the back four under constant pressure.
Rodriguez had another chance to put the U.S. out in front, off of a good Wil Trapp pass and his own good run, but his tame effort was easily saved.
The wide open nature of the game seemed to better suit the Ghana side, and the Americans had Cropper to thank for keeping this game knotted at zero. Cropper was at his best in the 33rd minute, diving from a prone position to somehow make a save, getting an assist from Mikey Lopez, who saved the rebound.
Ghana finally made the breakthrough after some sloppy defending presented them with a golden chance. Trapp and Stanko each had a chance to clear a loose ball, when neither did Frank Acheampong pounced, and the man his countrymen call Messi, did not miss.
The U.S. were under heavy pressure as the the second half got underway, and things got harder when Yedlin, carrying an injury and a yellow card, was subbed out. That pressure paid off for Ghana in the 58th minute. Danny Garcia, who had replaced Lopez after halftime, carelessly turned the ball over near midfield and the break was on. Ebenezer Assifuah finished the move with a beautifully taken goal, that Cropper somehow managed to get a piece off.
Defender Shane O’Neill cut the deficit in half in the 69th minute with a fine header, well set up by Sorto’s cross. There was plenty of soccer still to be played and the U.S. were still alive. Danny Cuevas had a chance to tie the game as he done against France, but his right footed shot was far too soft to get the job done.
Ghana still needed goals if they were going to advance, so the game continued at a breakneck pace. Then Assifuah badly beat a stationary Stanko to head home in the 83rd minute, effectively ending the U20 World Cup for the U.S.
Ghana added one last dagger, when Cropper let one through for a cheap goal. It really was a shame for Cropper, who added a fantastic performance today to a fine effort versus France.
Questions will be raised in the coming days and weeks about this team. Were the right players chosen? What is the quality of this group? And Tab Ramos’ performance will be judged as well. All of that is as it should be. But, as with all youth teams, this ones true worth won’t be known until we see how many, if any, of these players graduate to the full national side.
From the evidence of this World Cup, DeAndre Yedlin, Luis Gil and maybe Cody Cropper, look most likely to make the jump. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Match: U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team vs. Ghana
Date: June 27, 2013
Competition: 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup – Group A
Venue: Kadir Has Stadium; Kayseri, Turkey
Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET
Weather: 79 degrees, clear
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 0 1 1
GHA 1 3 4
GHA – France Acheampong 38th minute
GHA – Ebenezer Assifuah 58
USA – Shane O’Neill 69
GHA – Ebenezer Assifuah 78
GHA – Kennedy Ashia 83
USA: 1-Cody Cropper; 2-DeAndre Yedlin (20-Daniel Cuevas, 54), 4-Caleb Stanko (capt.), 5-Shane O’Neill, 3-Juan Pablo Ocegueda; 15-Mikey Lopez (17-Danny Garcia, 46), 6-Wil Trapp; 18-Oscar Sorto, 10-Luis Gil, 9-Mario Rodriguez (7-Victor Pineda, 79); 11-Jose Villarreal
Subs Not Used:, 12-Kendall McIntosh, 13-Eric Miller, 14-Javan Torre, 16-Kellyn Acosta, 19-Alonso Hernandez, 21-Zack Steffen
Unavailable: 8-Benji Joya (suspended – yellow card accumulation)
Head Coach: Tab Ramos
GHA: 1-Eric Antwi; 4-Joseph Attamah, 5-Abdul Rahman Baba, 7-France Acheampong (3-Ebenezer Ofori, 89), 8-Seidu Salifu, 10-Clifford Aboagye, 13-Richmond Nketiah, 14-Lawrence Lartey (capt.), 17-Ebenezer Assifuah, 19-Moses Odjer (15-Kennedy Ashia, 74), 20-Yiadom Boakye (9-Francis Narh,74)
Subs Not Used: 2-Jeremiah Arkorful, 6-Joseph Duncan, 11-Baba Mensah, 12-Michael Sai, 15-Kennedy Ashia, 16-Richard Ofori, 18-Michael Anaba, 21-Princebell Addico
Head Coach: Sellas Tetteh
Stats Summary: USA / GHA
Shots: 10 / 25
Shots on Goal: 6 / 17
Saves: 5 / 4
Corner Kicks: 9 / 6
Fouls: 17 / 13
Offside: 1 / 3
USA – DeAndre Yedlin (caution) 30th minute
GHA – Moses Odjer (caution) 40
GHA – Kennedy Ashia (caution) 84
GHA – Lawrence Lartey (caution) 85