Emphatic Strike Lifts Dwyer Into Forward Conversation
July 02, 2017
EAST HARTFORD, Conn.—Nerves were not a problem. Neither was scoring a goal or making the type of strong first impression that could yield even more opportunities in the near future.
The U.S. national team was victorious in its one and only friendly before the start of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, beating Ghana 2-1 at Pratt & Whitney Stadium on Saturday. A key figure for the Americans in the win was one of their debuting players, as forward Dom Dwyer turned in a solid shift that may have just entrenched him as a starter for the regional tournament.
“I think he did well,” U.S. coach Bruce Arena said. “He held the ball up as he got into the game, obviously got a goal, had a few other chances, and he works real hard. In international football, that’s a requirement and I think he has that quality as well.
“For his first game, I thought he did really well.”
The 26-year-old England native, who earned U.S. citizenship in March through his marriage to women’s national team star Sydney Leroux, had the look of someone who had been here before. Serving as the lone striker in Arena’s 4-2-3-1 formation, Dwyer managed to cause the athletic Ghanaians plenty of problems with his repeated runs into space, muscular frame, and willingness to shoot.
His most notable contribution came in the 19th minute when he opened his international account with a stinging left-footed volley. There was a bit of luck involved in the play as the ball bounced up to him through a poor touch from teammate Jorge Villafana, but Dwyer did well to size it up and make good contact.
“That was a pretty big high right there,” Dwyer said. “There was a lot of passion and work and effort put into that, so I’m very pleased to get a goal tonight. Hopefully, it’s something to build on.”
It likely will be. While Arena could certainly opt to make lineup changes for the Gold Cup opener against Panama, Dwyer showed a good understanding with the midfield behind him. His ability to combine with teammates, especially central playmaker Joe Corona, was impressive. So too was Dwyer’s understanding of when to drift out wide to pull Ghana defenders away and when to stay central to try and get on the end of things.
In the 24th minute, Dwyer nearly made it 2-0 when he raced on to a quality throughball from Corona. Lunging Ghana goalkeeper Richard Ofori Antwi wiped out Dwyer outside of the penalty area to thwart the danger on the play, but the understanding that the two U.S. attackers showed in that moment is the type of quality that the Americans will probably need in the Gold Cup against teams that are likely to park the bus.
“He moves really well off the ball and I think that makes everything easier for me,” said Corona, who played in the No. 10 role. “I love it. I love playing with someone like that.”
Dwyer’s focus will now be on getting ready for the tournament opener against Panama, the toughest foe the Yanks will face in a favorable group that also includes lowly Nicaragua and Martinique. Dwyer knows that another good showing in those matches and subsequent knockout round games could go a long way toward helping him break into a forward stable that includes established veterans Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey, and Bobby Wood.
“I was just trying to put myself in good spots and help the team out,” said Dwyer. “(There’s) still a few things I’ve got to work on, but it was a decent game.”
Franco Panizo is a bilingual New York-based reporter who has covered the U.S. men's national team, MLS, and all levels of American soccer for nearly a decade. Follow him on Twitter.