Verdict: Home win
Best Odds: 11/10
The international friendly against Ghana will serve as a dress rehearsal for the CONCACAF Gold Cup for the USMNT, who obviously harbour championship ambitions. On the other hand, this will be the final game of the season for the Black Stars before the World Cup qualifiers resume in August.
The USMNT have managed to raised their profile over the last decade or so, reaching the Round of 16 twice and once playing in the quarter-finals in their last four World Cup appearances, but it would appear as though there is still room for improvement. The national team chiefs expect Bruce Arena to take the team to new heights, and the new boss did well to stabilise the team following some disappointing results under Jurgen Klinsmann. After losing their first 2018 World Cup qualifiers to Mexico and Costa Rica, the USMNT managed to defeat Honduras (6-0) and Trinidad & Tobago (2-0) at home, while sharing spoils with Panama (1-1) and Mexico (1-1) on the road, so it is fair to say there was an instant improvement shown since Bruce Arena took over. As a result, USA finally climbed to qualifying positions, and they now need to hold off challenge from Panama and Honduras. Bruce Arena’s side have already started preparations for the 2017 Gold Cup, and the game against Ghana will show us how far they’ve come. After failing to impress at the previous edition, USMNT will be keen to try and win back the Gold Cup title.
Bruce Arena sprang some surprises with his final squad selection, as he included KAA Gent midfielder Kenny Saief, who had switched his allegiance from Israel.
Eric Lichaj, Joe Corona and Juan Agudelo all return, but Tim Howard, John Brooks, DaMarcus Beasley, Geoff Cameron, DeAndre Yedlin, Christian Pulisic, Michael Bradley, Fabian Johnson, Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey and Bobby Wood all miss out.
Ghana have long been regarded one of Africa’s best sides, but the reality is the last of their four Africa Cup of Nations titles was won back in 1982. The Black Stars have reached the semi-finals of the competition on last six occasions, losing in the final in 2010 and 2015, and they are desperate to end the long wait for a major trophy. Following the fourth-place finish at the 2017 AFCON, head coach Avram Grant was replaced with Kwesi Appiah, who had a decent start to the new spell as the national team boss. Ghana shared spoils with Benin in an international friendly in his first game in charge, before hammering Ethiopia 5-0 in an AFCON qualifier. The North American tour started with the 1-0 defeat to second-string Mexico side and the Black Stars now hope to show a different face when taking on USMNT. Having created a number of decent chances against El Tri, but failed to convert them, Ghana will need to be more ruthless up front if they want to get something from this game.
Lumor Agbenyenu impressed on his debut as he deputised for injured Baba Rahman, but he is likely to make way for Rashid Sumaila.
Columbus Crew have refused to let Harrison Afful and Jonathan Mensah face United States, but Mohammed Abu was allowed to remain with Ghana.
Key Factors to Consider
- USA missing virtually all regular starters
- USMNT are unbeaten since Bruce Arena took over (W3 D4)
- Ghana lost to Mexico two days ago
- The Black Stars failed to score in three of last five games
- USMNT played out three 1-1 draws in last four fixtures
United States are missing a host of first team regulars, but they should still be in better shape than Ghana, who played Mexico just two days ago. The Black Stars are without some important players as well and we believe USMNT will emerge victorious from the game.
Verdict: Home win
Best Odds: 11/10
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