The U.S. U-17 Men’s National Team took on Ghana on a sweltering day in New Delhi, India for their second match of the U-17 Men’s World Cup. While their 3-0 win against India was a good start to the tournament, the U-17s were looking for a result against a Ghana team that also won their opening match against Colombia. In the end, the U.S. would come away with a 1-0 victory though each team had their chances and could have come away with three points in the match.
In the opening minutes the U.S. completely dominated possession with the Black Stars waiting back looking to strike on the counter. Outside of a Josh Sargent shot that went wide of the Ghana goal, the U.S. had difficulty breaking down their opponents though with the first 17 minutes. That’s when Ghana failed to clear a corner in the 17th minute and Chris Durkin, who was pushed forward into defensive midfield after playing the last match at center back, gathered the ball on the far side of the goal box. He flung in a cross that found Josh Sargent, but his header was blocked by Ghana keeper Danlad Ibrahim.
The U.S. pressed relentlessly in the early part of the first half and Ghana was never able to establish a rhythm and had difficulty building possession out of the back. Ghana announced that they were awake in the match around the 35 minute mark when Sadiq Ibrahim received a pass at the edge of the U.S. 18 yard box and found himself unmarked. He sent a stinging shot at U.S. keeper Justin Garces’ goal that the Atlanta United academy player blocked but failed to smother. No Ghana player was there for what would have been a chance at a tap in and the U.S. defense cleared the ball.
From then on, it was Ghana on the front foot with the U.S. having to defend their efforts to score. Their pressure nearly led to a goal in the 40th minute when Eric Ayiah was played through on goal and managed to get in behind the U.S. defense when Ghana won a ball in midfield. Garces came charging off of his line but his attempt to make a play on Ayiah failed and the Ghana attacker was clear in on goal and the Black Stars looked sure to take a 1-0 lead. Luckily for the U.S., he lost his footing, tripped, and a U.S. defender cleared the slow rolling ball away before it could make its way into the net.
As the half wound down, Josh Sargent gathered a ball at the edge of the 18 yard box and danced around his defender to find space to make a cross. He settled for passing to Blaine Ferri at the top of the goal box who unleashed a curling shot that went just inches wide of the Ghana goal.
The first half ended at 0-0 with the U.S. having dominated the first half hour of the match and Ghana looking very dangerous when they seemed to wake up after the 30 minute mark. Both teams had their chances and the U.S. would go into the half hoping to re-gain the form they had when play opened and Ghana was on their heels.
As the second half began, Ghana should have had the first goal of the game when the Black Stars played a short corner in the 47th minute. The ball fell to Sadiq Ibrahim who sent in a shot and Garces blocked his effort, the ball fell in front of the U.S. goal and Ghana got off a second shot, but it was cleared heroically off of the line by Durkin at the last possible second. For the next 10 minutes, Ghana relentlessly pressured the U.S. creating several chances. The Stars and Stripes were unable to snuff out their opponents’ attacks and struggled to effectively find chances to begin the second half.
Around the hour mark, John Hackworth decided to make a change bringing in Ayo Akinola for Tim Weah and Akil Watts coming on for right back Sergino Dest. As the match wore on Ghana seemed to start feeling the effects of the heat and their attacks forward became less frequent. Still, the U.S. couldn’t find the answer even with the fresh legs brought in until the 75th minute.
That’s when Chris Durkin took a ball off of a Ghana player in their own third, quickly passed centrally to Chris Goslin and the midfielder sent the substitute Akinola through on goal. The U.S. attacker sent a low shot into the net and put the U.S. ahead 1-0.
With the U.S. taking the lead, Indiana Vassilev came on for Andrew Carleton in the 81st minute and Ghana responded by taking Emmanuel Toku for Ibrahim Sulley while they searched for an equalizer. Shortly after each team used their final substitutions, Josh Sargent and Abdul Yusif knocked heads and the referee brought both players off of the field to have them evaluated for concussions. Sargent quickly returned to the field but Yusif was stretchered off of the pitch to be evaluated. In fact, his injury was severe enough that he did not return and was carted out of the stadium as the match drew to a close.
With Ghana having to finish the game out with 10 players, the U.S. sat back and was content to see the game out 1-0. While the result was what the Stars and Stripes were looking for, at times the game was a madcap affair that looked wide open with each team pushing forward and testing their opponents’ defenses. The U.S. pressure paid off and created a terrific goal that was fittingly started by Durkin who had an impressive game both defending and winning balls in midfield for the team. The result put the U.S. in first in their group with six points as they look to face Colombia to close out the group stage on Thursday.