Ghana rout of South Korea puts U.S. weekend in different perspective


After two days of considering what a 2-1 win over Nigeria meant for the United States’ World Cup readiness, a Group G rival has put that result in a more modest perspective. On Monday, Ghana, who has eliminated the U.S. from the last two World Cups, posted a decisive result over World Cup-qualified South Korea in Miami, with three goals from Jordan Ayew leading the Black Stars to a 4-0 win at Sun Life Stadium.

Coming of the bench early for an injured Majeed Waris, Ayew put his team in front in the 13rd minute  with a shot that deflected off midfielder Ki Song-Yeung. Captain Asamoah Gyan’s one-man transition just before halftime doubled Ghana’s lead moments before intermission.

In the 53rd minute, Ayew, whose brother André started for Kwesi Appiah’s team, scored from outside the area to extend his side’s lead. One minute from full-time, a close range finish completed the Marseille attacker’s hat trick, giving Ghana a four-goal win in the team’s final showing before facing the U.S. on June 16.

Appiah’s reaction after the match, courtesy of the Associated Press:

”It was a good friendly match,” coach James Appiah said. ”It was important we put out a good team. Everyone who paid to come in here got his money’s worth.”

Even so, Appiah said Ghana’s not quite ready for its game against the United States next Monday in Natal, Brazil.

”It’s fine we won, but we still have some work to do,” Appiah said.

Work to do or not, the bottom line was impressive for the Ghanaians, but for a U.S. fan, impressed may be one of an array of reactions to the lopsided result. Curiosity, concern, trepidation – after seeing what’s become a bogey team rout another World Cup qualifier one week before they face the U.S., fans would be rightfully concerned how their team’s shown against Nigeria compares to Ghana’s current level.

These are just friendlies, so there’s only so worried anybody should get about the results, yet the opponent Ghana routed makes it hard to dismiss outcome. Whereas two weeks ago the U.S. was having trouble breaking down Azerbaijan, Ghana just embarrassed a team that’s going to Brazil – one that made it to the Round of 16 four years ago. And though the Black Stars lost 1-0 to the Netherlands last week, that was a close match against a level of competition the U.S. hasn’t in its buildup. Given that match was in Rotterdam, the scoreline looks borderline impressive.

There’s a bottom line here that serves as a wet blanket for U.S. expectations. After a performance against Nigeria that was mildly lauded, the Americans don’t look so great anymore. That feels harsh  given these are only friendlies, the teams aren’t facing each other, and the game that counts is still seven days off, but there just isn’t any good news for the U.S. in a 4-0 win by Ghana.

If he and staff were likely on site in Miami, Jurgen Klinsmann got a new idea of what his team will be up against next Monday in Natal. Regardless, Ghana certainly looks more dangerous now than they did a few hours ago.


“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
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Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

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Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.