The United States Men’s National Team opened the international window with a 3-1 defeat to Germany, but there is no rest for the weary with a familiar adversary on the horizon. While some rivalries are born out of propinquity, others are forged in the fires of combat and inflamed by repeated confrontation. With matches in three consecutive World Cups (2006-2014), Ghana falls into the latter group. The next entry into the inter-continental footballing struggle is set for Nashville’s GEODIS Park, a 30,000-seat venue with a Latitude 36 Bermudagrass surface.
This is the fifth all-time meeting between the two nations, with Ghana holding a 3-2-0 advantage but falling in the two previous meetings. Ranked 60th internationally by FIFA, Ghana failed to advance out of the group stage at the 2022 World Cup, losing to Portugal (2-3), defeating South Korea (3-2), and dropping the crucial final fixture against Uruguay (0-2). As expected, the Black Stars traversed through 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying with an undefeated 3-0-3 record, topping a group that included Angola, Central African Republic, and Madagascar. A recent friendly with Mexico resulted in a 2-0 loss.
The Ghana Football Association appointed Chris Hughton to the head coach position in February of 2023 “for an undisclosed duration,” having previously worked with the program as a technical advisor. The 64-year-old retired fullback earned 53 caps for the Republic of Ireland and has extensive managerial experience, including stops at Newcastle United, Birmingham, Norwich, Brighton, and Nottingham Forest. He has already sidestepped criticism from the domestic federation’s executive council following a run of one win in three matches, expressing that the sport features “highs and lows” with negative reactions being a part of the job.
Hughton initially named a 23-player roster for the international window. Notable talents such as André Ayew, Baba Rahman, and Kamaldeen Sulemana are absent from camp. Tariq Lamptey, Daniel Amartey, Alexander Djiku, and Osman Bukari pulled out due to injuries.
GOALKEEPERS (3): Lawrence Ati-Zigi (St. Gallen), Richard Ofori (Orlando Pirates), Abdul Nurudeen (Eupen)
DEFENDERS (7): Joseph Aidoo (Celta Vigo), Nicholas Opoku (Amiens), Alidu Seidu (Clermont), Gideon Mensah (Auxerre), Abdul Fatawu Hamidu (Medeama), Jerome Opoku (İstanbul Başakşehir), Stephan Ambrosius (Hamburg)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Mohammed Kudus (West Ham United), Edmund Addo (Red Star Belgrade), Salis Abdul Samed (Lens), Elisha Owusu (Auxerre), Ransford-Yeboah Königsdörffer (Hamburger SV), Joseph Paintsil (Genk), Thomas Partey (Arsenal), Kingsley Schindler (Samsunspor)
FORWARDS (4): Iñaki Williams (Athletic Bilbao), Jordan Ayew (Crystal Palace), Ernest Nuamah (Lyon), Antoine Semenyo (Bournemouth)
Hughton prefers to line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation but has utilized a 3-4-3 from time to time. His tendency is to keep the fullbacks from pushing forward too far while focusing on solidifying the defensive structure. Despite having several players behind the ball, Ghana shows susceptibility to the counter-attack over the past year, whether coming from bad giveaways or opposing runners getting behind the back line.
The presumed starter at goalkeeper is Lawrence Ati-Zigi. The 26-year-old from the defunct Red Bull Ghana academy is currently on the books at St. Gallen and was named the best at his position last season in the Swiss Super League. His continued inclusion has been a source of contention due to his presence during some of the uglier high-scoring fixtures. He is an acrobatic and capable shot-stopper, but there is a tendency to surrender rebounds that fall into bad areas, the majority of which are quickly handled.
Provided his injury against Mexico wasn’t too serious, lining up on the inside is Joseph Aidoo, the first-choice centre-back at Celta Vigo who slid into a consistent starting role for the national team under the new manager. Also capable of playing on the outside, he has a magnetic draw to the ball and the athleticism to claim every header in his area. With several regular members of the squad out, the most likely partner is Jerome Opoku, a towering 6’5” defender on loan at İstanbul Başakşehir who is looking to make his senior international debut. The English-born 24-year-old is a physical, powerful presence, winning both aerial and ground tackles while opening up the field with left-footed passes. Nicholas Opoku of Amiens could also pick up his third consecutive start. His shot blocking is an asset, although there have been past issues with his challenges.
Filling in for Baba Rahman at left fullback is Gideon Mensah of Auxerre, who “pushes forward relentlessly to support the attack.” Pan African Football notes his “excellent” left foot but warns that “defending can be an adventure” due to impatience in the one-on-one and a penchant for ball-watching. On the right side of the formation is one of the program’s younger contributors, Clermont Foot’s Alidu Seidu, a decent distributor who swarms the opponent’s lanes. The 23-year-old will slide inward to serve as an additional central defender, coming out on top in physical battles against taller strikers despite standing 5’8”.
Prowling the area in front of the centre-backs is Salis Abdul Samed, the “central cog” defensive midfielder who signed an extension with Lens through June of 2028. He is described as a “tireless worker” with highly accurate passing and a penchant for embarking on long runs with the ball. The likely partner in the double pivot is Auxerre’s Elisha Owusu, bringing “prolific ball-winning ability and retention.” The less itinerant member of the duo, the 25-year-old from the French commune of Montreuil provides the requisite tackles, recoveries, and interceptions, looking to engage with the opponent as quickly as possible with constant diagonal movement. At the top of the triangle is West Ham United’s Mohammed Kudus, an “effective dribbler” who “uses his low center of gravity as a lever to turn and surge forward.” The Final Third praises his “exceptional awareness and exquisite ball control” with “impressive speed in short bursts” that “allow him to confidently take on multiple opponents” and “exploit unmarked spaces.” Two-time Ghana Player of the Year Thomas Partey should also factor into proceedings after returning from injury. Strong in the air and “heavily involved in the build-up,” his “almost-limitless stamina” allows him to dictate the pace of play for the full 90 minutes.
The first for Ernest Nuamah pic.twitter.com/CLIFIRcKho— Ligue 1 English (@Ligue1_ENG) October 9, 2023
The presumed starter at left winger is Ernest Nuamah of Lyon, who made his senior international debut earlier this year. Last year’s Danish Superliga Player of the Year frequently takes on opponents and is “dangerous with the ball,” praised as an “explosive [and] pacy athlete with elite technical dribbling.” Lining up on the right side is veteran attacker Jordan Ayew, who works hard on the defensive side of the game and holds the distinction as “the most-fouled player in the Premier League.” The 32-year-old from the French city of Marseille can put the ball in the back of the net in a variety of ways, whether by rising for headers or making intelligent runs behind the back line.
Leading the formation is Iñaki Williams, the Spanish-born forward who has been a driving force for Athletic Bilbao. He is described as having “great awareness with vertical movement [in the final third]” and “takes good positions to receive the ball,” opening space for teammates with his runs. The 29-year-old could hardly be presented as prolific or a shot creator with one double-digit season in the past four, but his respectable finishes typically derive from running behind the backline onto passes and redirecting crosses. As expected from a player in the Basque club, his defensive work rate, pressing, and tactical intelligence are second to none.
The mere mention of Ghana no longer strikes fear into the heart of USMNT supporters, as the Black Stars have taken a step back from the glorious late aughts. The program has an established core, although the younger talent and veterans are far removed from the past golden generation. Friendlies are a measuring stick and an opportunity to gain experience as a group, from which both participants should benefit during one of the year’s final international windows.
The match is scheduled for Tuesday, October 17th at 8:30 p.m. Eastern, 5:30 p.m. Pacific. Viewing options include Universo, Peacock, and FUBO TV (free trial).