The game didn’t mean much to either team win or lose, but a 2-1 win over Ghana was a very good result for several players looking to make a mark heading into Gold Cup group play in a little over a week’s time. This game was more about cohesion and getting a feel for who Bruce sees as his best options going forward, as well as establishing some sort of cohesion in the side. A win makes everything sweeter, but the performance was a good one on a team and individual level as well, which is what counts at the end of the day.
Players are rated here on a scale of 1-10, 10 being a perfect game and 1 being a red card in the opening ten minutes, or something to that effect.
Brad Guzan - 6
Guzan’s performance was a comforting one, and probably the best game I’ve seen him have in the last year. He was solid when he needed to be, and although he didn’t have much to do in the first half, produced a spectacular save on Asamoah Gyan’s penalty attempt. A slightly shakier second half and a Gyan wonderstrike tarnished the game a little bit, but by and large I didn’t feel incredibly worried whenever the ball was near Guzan’s goal, and that is saying a lot after his past several USMNT performances.
Jorge Villafaña - 6
Villafaña also looked largely comfortable, at times spectacular, and at one time culpable. He created Dom Dwyer’s goal; the touch before Dwyer’s volley was completely accidental, but him slipping past two defenders to lay the ball off to Joe Corona was a lovely bit of skill. On the other hand, his whiff and subsequent jersey-tug on Acheampong (who, while selling it whole-heartedly, was fouled) required Guzan’s heroics to keep the U.S. lead. Jorge got up and down the flanks well and was relatively solid in defense as well.
Matt Besler - 5
Besler returned to his organizational role on the U.S. back line while partnering with Matt Hedges. The first half saw the U.S. dominate possession and give Besler little to do, but the speed of the Ghanaian attack looked a little troubling to the center back pair in the second half. UItimately it was an unspectacular but serviceable shift for Besler, and as the only naturally-left sided center back on this roster, he’ll most likely see plenty more time in this tournament.
Matt Hedges - 5
Largely the same as his partner, Matt Hedges did his job well enough to get the job done. He made some timely interceptions and looked good in possession, but didn’t manage to control the box during set pieces the way you want one of the biggest people in your team to do. In all probability he will also get more looks during the group stage, but the line between him and Omar Gonzalez seems very thin at the moment.
Graham Zusi - 6
Zusi acquitted himself surprisingly well given the speedy nature of Ghana’s attack and the issues he’s had with pace during his last couple USMNT run-outs at right back. He was calm on the ball and delivered good crosses on more than one occasion. Not a particularly stunning game, but possibly the best I’ve seen him play from right back at the international level.
Dax McCarty - 7
The more defensive half of the U.S. engine, McCarty was positionally sound and made life difficult for many Ghanaian attackers all game long. More impressive was his ability to recycle possession and break lines of defenders with his passing. He was the first link in a number of U.S. counter attacks, and the way he managed to continually find Kellyn Acosta, Kelyn Rowe, Joe Corona, and Dom Dwyer was largely responsible for the dominance of the U.S. in the first half. McCarty looks like a shoe-in for the group stage games and beyond.
Kellyn Acosta - 8
My co-Man of the Match did it all: tracked back defensively, made incisive passes, got stuck into his challenges, and scored a tricky little free kick that ended up being the winning goal in the game. How so many coaches have tried to make him an outside back is beyond me.
Kelyn Rowe - 6
Seeing Rowe’s name in the Starting XI might have surprised some with newcomer Kenny Saief in the mix, but Rowe made a very positive USMNT debut. His passing and runs off the ball were imaginative, and he linked well with Dom Dwyer, buzzing around the defense in the space Dwyer created with his physical play. None of his counterattacks ended up coming off, but Rowe had several moments were the pass seemed just half-inch away from something special.
Joe Corona - 6
Corona’s long-awaited return to the USMNT was another in a long line of solid performances. U.S. fans might have forgotten the midfielder’s touch and vision, but he put is full array of passing on display against Ghana. Wasn’t able to provide a decisive ball or get his name on the scoresheet (which goes against you when you’re in the number 10 spot), but overall made a good showing.
Paul Arriola - 4
After several promising USMNT cameos, this game seemed a bit off the pace for Arriola. His customary work-rate and willingness to go at defenders was still there, but more often than not he couldn’t seem to get around his man, and ended up halting more than a few counter attacks because of it. It will be a disappointment for Arriola, who unlike many of his counterparts on the field is looking to move closer to a starting place for the senior team, and not just a place in it.
Dom Dwyer - 8
This was possibly the most Dom Dwyer way that Dwyer could have made his debut: earn several fouls, give away several fouls, earn the ire of the opposing defense, score a goal. Dwyer’s work rate kept the Ghanaian defense on their toes, as his quickness and physicality forced them into several uncomfortable situations in possession and more than a couple turnovers. His movement off the ball and hold up play were great, and his finish for his goal was emphatic, even if the play was more “right place, right time” than anything else. Dwyer probably raised his stock more than anyone else with this game, and he’ll be a huge benefactor if Bruce wants to keep running lone striker lineups in the Gold Cup.
Gyasi Zardes - 3
It’s not that he did anything particularly poorly, it’s just that he didn’t do much of anything at all with the thirty minutes on the field. Zardes was originally brought in to the USMNT because he couldn’t stop scoring, and quickly became one of Jurgen Klinsmann’s favorites because of a knack to get towards goal, either up top or from the wing, and even when a game seemed out of his depth. He just looked timid against Ghana. That doesn’t bode well for him if he wants to re-establish his place with the national team.
Kenny Saief - 6
Unlike Zardes, Saief came into the game and immediately began buzzing around the Ghanaian defense, poking and prodding with his passes and challenges. Even though Ghana had the lion’s share of dangerous chances in the last twenty minutes, he still managed to find dangerous spaces in the final third. Saief is a calm player, looking almost lackadaisical on the ball at times, but it belies his quickness and willingness to challenge defenders. His touches are tidy and his passes are neat, and I’m definitely interested to see what he can do with a bit more game time.
Alejandro Bedoya - 5
Bedoya delivered a typical performance. He did what he needed to do defensively and was unlucky to be denied a goal from Jordan Morris’s perfect cross. Bedoya is never going to be the most exciting player, but he is reliable, which is why he’s here.
Jordan Morris - 6
Morris wasn’t able to find much of the ball, as the majority of his time on the field was spent with the momentum going Ghana’s direction, but his one major contribution certainly reminded us all why Jordan Morris is still an exciting prospect. Blowing past the Ghanaian back line and delivering and inch-perfect cross with his weaker foot to a streaking Alejandro Bedoya was exactly the impact Bruce wants to see from Jordan Morris: the ability to turn the game on its head in a split second.