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U.S. Seeks Revenge Against Ghana Today. Or Do They?

Ghana defeated, and eliminated, the United States from the last two World Cups, and has a chance to put the Yanks in a difficult spot in 2014. Will revenge drive the Americans today in Natal?
BY John Godfrey Posted
June 16, 2014
7:24 AM
NATAL, Brazil—Will Thoughts of vengeance permeate tonight's critical match between the United States and Ghana (6 p.m. ET; ESPN, UniMas), the team that eliminated the Yanks from the last two World Cups?

At least one player thinks so.

"They're coming for revenge," Ghana captain Asamoah Gyan said Sunday in a press conference at Arena das Dunas, the site of the contest. "Mentally they don't want us to beat them for the third time, so it's going to make things very, very difficult for us."

If Gyan was hoping to minimize the impact of Ghana's successive World Cup wins over the U.S. in 2006 and 2010, he didn't do a very good job of it. Or rather, his barber didn't.

Gyan arrived at the stadium with the number "3" cut into his hair. Yes, it's his jersey number and he has showcased the number through follicular means in the past. But it's no coincidence that the Ghanaians are going for a three-peat tonight against the Americans.

"It's my favorite number," a coy Gyan told the press corps. "It's a powerful number."

The United States is coming off its own three-peat of sorts—a three-game winning streak in its preparatory Send-Off Series. Jurgen Klinsmann's men defeated an overmatched Azerbaijan, 2-0, in San Francisco on May 27; outlasted a dangerous Turkey, 2-1, in Harrison, N.J. on June 1; and dominated Nigeria, also by a 2-1 count, in Jacksonville, Fla., six days later.

Klinsmann said he chose to play Nigeria because of its tactical similarities with Ghana. And despite giving up a late goal, the United States was clearly the better side in northeast Florida.

But that's ancient history as far as Michael Bradley is concerned.

"We talked the whole time about using the warm-up games for what they were— chances to build confidence and momentum, but in reality those games are over and playing in the World Cup is different to any friendly or warm-up games," the 26-year-old midfielder said.

"Now it's all about stepping on the field and playing in a World Cup and playing against Ghana, so our main focus is on what's coming up and not what happend a few weeks ago."

And as for the revenge factor?

Klinsmann, who was not yet tied to the U.S. national team, downplayed the whole notion with a shrug.

“I don’t think there’s a revenge factor," he said. "Maybe the players who were there four years ago want to get some extra kick and energy out of that, that’s all right with me."

To a man, however, the American players aren't buying into it.

"We felt like it was a game we could win," Tim Howard said the day before in Sao Paolo, referencing Ghana's 2010 victory in South Africa.

"I want back a lot of things in life but I can’t get them. I think this team is in a good position to face Ghana. There’s no revenge factor, we don’t feel that, that’s not what’s motivating us. We think that they’re a good team but we also feel that we are slightly better as well.”

Howard is one of just five players on the current U.S. squad who saw time in the 2010 World Cup. The other 18 are unlikely to get worked up about the revenge factor because, well, they had nothing to do with the previous results.

"I really don’t know if I can answer if we are rivals with Ghana," defender Matt Besler said. "I haven’t been around for the first two matches so I don’t know exactly what that feels like playing against them. I will tell you that we want to win very, very badly."

"It’s possible that there’s a little bit of a revenge factor," he added, "but it’s extremely small, if any. For me there’s none. I think it’s more of the fans.”

Graham Zusi also brushed aside the vengeance narrative.

"We’re focused on this year," he said. "The here and now. It’s a different year, and we’re going to do the best we can to get a good result.”

Aside from the revenge narrative and Clint Dempsey's heightened sense of purpose for this particular World Cup, the Sunday press conferences produced little meaningful insight.

"The boys are totally focused and looking forward to tomorrow's game," Ghana coach James Kwesi Appiah said. "We have prepared very well, we've not had many injuries, which has been good. And there's unity and discipline within the squad."

Klinsmann had a boilerplate summary at the ready too.

"Expectations are high everywhere, with us and in the United States," he coach told reporters. "And that’s not just the national team. MLS is growing and is very competitive. In every area the game is growing and we have the chance to be the locomotive with the national team.

"We embrace that and take it one step at a time."

Do you have a prediction for today's match? Now would be a good time to share it, and the Comments section below would be a great place to do it. John Godfrey is the founder and editor in chief of American Soccer Now.

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