2010 Retrospective: USA – Ghana

Here’s the deal. Over the next two weeks, FFG is going to kick your teeth in with statistics and diagrams. You just need to hang on and enjoy the ride.

Our 2010 retrospective articles won’t be mamsy-pamsy fluff. We’ll break down each World Cup match, detail every formation used by USA’s “A” team, and present some statistical trends.

The first offering might not be an easy read. We’re starting with USA’s World Cup exit, the 2-1 loss to Ghana.

*FFG’s match retrospectives are not game recaps. We’re attempting to provide new insights and catalog interesting statistics. So if you’re not familiar with the match (or have blocked out all of the painful memories), check out our game summary and tactical analysis.

Amazing Annan

Sometimes you get the Ghanaian Black Star, and sometimes the Ghanaian Black Star gets you. Holding midfielder Anthony Annan was the man of the match.

As the deepest of Ghana’s central midfield trio (they were in a 4-5-1/4-1-4-1), Annan didn’t have a direct US counterpart, which allowed him to function as a deep-lying playmaker.

American center midfielders Michael Bradley and Ricardo Clark (and later Maurice Edu) were aware of the threat Annan provided. One of the two often stepped up to Annan as he received the ball. But as Bradley or Clark came up the pitch, they left space for Ghana’s attacking midfielders Kevin Prince-Boateng and Asamoah.

Annan waited for the US to commit to him and simply passed to the open man. He was terrifyingly efficient.

Even when second half substitute Benny Feilhaber ventured into the middle, Annan continued to be productive. He misplaced three passes in the first half, four in the second, and two in extra time.

Kingson > Howard

Annan’s excellent day was almost equaled by goalkeeper Richard Kingson.

Heading into the match, if there was one position the US could claim a distinct advantage, it was goalkeeper. Kingson has been a career backup in the English Premier League. Tim Howard has been a star in the same league. By the final whistle, it was clear that Kingson had the better day.

He made five saves, punched and/or cleared six balls in the box, and came out the victor in three one-on-one battles (against Robbie Findley, Michael Bradley, and Benny Feilhaber). His save against Feilhaber was top-class.

Howard made four saves, three punches/clearances, and committed one drastic error, detailed below.

Tackling – Ghana dominate the middle

The United States’ 4-4-2 was always going to struggle to control the middle against Ghana’s 4-5-1/4-4-1-1. Quite simply, they were outnumbered in that area. It’s no surprise that Ghana completed more tackles in that the middle of the pitch.

Halftime switch – Feilhaber and Dempsey both inside

At the break, Bradley the Elder decided that the US needed to counter Ghana’s central midfield trio. He substituted Benny Feilhaber for Findley, deployed Clint Dempsey as a withdrawn forward, and used Feilhaber as an auxiliary central midfielder, even though he was nominally the left midfielder.

When Dempsey played left midfield in the first half, he stayed much wider than Feilhaber did in the second half and extra time.

Feilhaber’s presence alongside Michael Bradley – and Dempsey’s excellence as a withdrawn forward – allowed the US to wrest control of the match.

In the first fifteen minutes of the second half, the US completed more passes than Ghana attempted.

The resurgent gringos were rewarded with Landon Donovan’s 60th minute penalty conversion.

Mistakes, Luck, and Missed Opportunities

Ghana’s first goal - US mistakes

Ricardo Clark was most at fault for Ghana’s fifth minute goal, but Tim Howard can’t avoid responsibility. After Clark lost possession and Prince-Boateng advanced to the edge of the box, Jay DeMerit forced Boateng wide. Inexplicably, Howard didn’t cut off the near post angle.

Only a spectacular effort could have beaten Howard at the far post, which is why he should be a few steps to his right.

His mistake may have been fairly minute, but it was enough to allow Boateng’s shot to go in.

Ghana’s 2nd goal – a touch of luck

In the following picture, center backs Jay DeMerit and Carlos Bocanegra appear to be quite out of position. Observe how center midfielder Maurice Edu is the closest US player to striker Gyan.

Their positioning, however, is quite common. In modern soccer, the ascendancy of attacking fullbacks has forced center backs to move towards the flanks when their team is in possession. Otherwise, there aren’t any wide outlets for a backpass.

Unfortunately, after Andrew Ayew booted a hopeful clearance in the general direction of Gyan, it somehow magically landed at Gyan’s feet. DeMerit, who was still positioned slightly off-center, ended up with a poor angle for cutting off Gyan’s run.

Missed opportunities

Ghana wasn’t clinical in the box. But they did take advantage of their best opportunities. The United States didn’t.

As mentioned earlier, Findley, Bradley, and Feilhaber each had a one-on-one with the keeper. Only Feilhaber forced Kingson into a difficult save.

If Bradley or Findley had managed to beat Kingson, reading this article probably wouldn’t have made your stomach turn.

Gringos, what do you think of our first retrospective post? Are any bad memories coming back? Is Annan an expletive in your house, as it is in mine?

4 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Bradley's Receding Hairline says:

    Ugh, I do feel a bit sick. I remember Findley’s bad shot now. At the time, all I could think about was Charlie Davies.

    Bang up job, btw.

  2. bensten says:

    Once again I’m loving the use of screenshots to analyze the lead up to goals. The split center backs that helped allow Gyan’s goal become (painfully) clear this way.

    Nice work. I’m sure I’ll feel better with the next match…right?

  3. Dan says:

    Nice screen shots. Helps me understand a bit better.

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