USA – Ghana Preview

(Front L-R) United States' Herculez Gomez, Jozy Altidore, Steve Cherundolo, Landon Donovan, Jonathan Bornstein, (rear L-R) Clint Dempsey, Maurice Edu, goalkeeper Tim Howard, Carlos Bocanegra, Jay DeMerit and Michael Bradley pose for a team photo ahead of a 2010 World Cup Group C soccer match against Algeria at Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria June 23, 2010. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh (SOUTH AFRICA - Tags: SPORT SOCCER WORLD CUP)

In 2006, the United States needed to beat Ghana to have a chance of advancing to the knockout round. The gringos were unsuccessful, falling 1-0 to a dubiously awarded penalty kick. In 2010, Ghana has scored all of their goals through penalties. Uh oh.

Ghana’s Formation and Tactics

The Black Star’s matches have played out quite similar to Algeria’s: excellent build-up but poor finishing, hence only scoring on penalties.

Projected Ghana Lineup

And though their formations are different (Algeria uses a 3-5-2, Ghana a 4-2-3-1), both squads have focused on counter attacks – relying on speed on the wings and an extra man in the middle. One difficulty the 4-2-3-1 presents to the 4-4-2 is the position of the attacking midfielder. He sits just behind the center midfielders and in front of the center backs, making him difficult to mark. The US did have success against Algeria’s Karim Ziani and Karim Matmour when they tried this tactic, so it will be intriguing to see how they handle Ghana’s central playmakers.

The Black Star’s attacking midfielder is normally Asamoah, though he sometimes changes positions with Ayew. The deliberate Asamoah seems better suited for the central role, though the quick Ayew can also cause trouble from that area.

Their other attacking threats are posed by Boateng, Tagoe, Gyan, and Pantsil. All of whom are excellent at their positions. Boateng in particular has had a great tournament, picking the opportune moments to move forward.


Aside from the aforementioned deficiency in goals, Ghana also lacks something else – experience. In their last match, Ghana started seven players 24 or younger (in comparison, the US started three – Bradley, Edu, and Altidore). While soccer players start their careers earlier than most, the Black Star’s are remarkably young. Ghana have not been behind in a match that mattered, so if the US can get an early goal – obviously not something they’ve excelled at so far – the young Ghanaians could tighten up.

The youngsters have been sound tactically, but against Germany (also using a 4-2-3-1), Ghana had difficulties accounting for playmaker Mesut Ozil, a central attacking midfielder. USA’s strikers should make note: they might be able find some room in-between Ghana’s center backs and defensive midfielders, which, interestingly enough, is exactly what Asamoah and Ayew will be doing at the other end.

USA Lineup

Projected USA Lineup

As usual, Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, Carlos Bocanegra, Jay DeMerit, Steve Cherundolo, and Tim Howard are unquestioned starters. There are decisions to be made elsewhere, however.


Aside from Altidore, none of the strikers have been great (a situation that was expected heading into the tournament), but one of them needs to perform if the gringos are to advance deep into the tournament. Robbie Findley is available again and should get the start.


Either Maurice Edu or Benny Feilhaber has to be the starter. Edu has been a better defensive option than Ricardo Clark, but Feilhaber has been impressive in limited playing time. Bob Bradley needs to decide how attack-minded he wants to start the match.


Which should Bradley choose: speed (and occasional mental lapses) or power (and occasional mental lapses)? Oguchi Onyewu or Jonathan Bornstein? FFG’s money is on Onyewu, but we would have said that against Algeria as well. Bornstein’s inclusion allows Bocanegra to play center back and gives the US significantly more speed on the flank. Ghana’s Gyan could be a handful for DeMerit and Bocanegra, but Onyewu is large enough to give Gyan fits, leaving Bradley with a difficult decision.


The once and future, uh, goalkeeper

What do you think, gringos? How do the US and Ghana matchup?

4 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Rupert J Pelfrey says:

    When Jozy and Robert are on the field, who plays more forward? How will that affect the dynamic we saw in the last game?

    • Blake Owen says:

      Technically, Bradley uses all of his forwards the same way. See our analysis of his formation here.

      However, in some games it seems like one forward has a deeper role. It’s hard to say whether that is intentional or just a case of one striker being more aggressive.

  2. bensten says:

    I say go with Gooch to knock around Gyan a bit. Neither he nor any other Ghana attacker has been able to put shots on goal when under defensive pressure. Our defensive mids will be extremely important Saturday. Maybe Edu or (dare I say it after knocking him?) Clark to make the game miserable for Asamoah?

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