Jonathan Mensah

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MLS: FCD, ORL ride long winless skids; VAN, CLB get big wins

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Columbus Crew SC 2-1 FC Dallas

The game in 100 words (or less): It’s panic-button time in Dallas, after Oscar Pareja’s side fell to six games without a victory (four losses) on Saturday, falling 2-1 in Columbus. Ola Kamara and Jonathan Mensah got the goals for Gregg Berhalter’s side; Walker Zimmerman grabbed the late consolation tally for FCD, who have been outscored by a total of 14-5 in those six games. The defending Supporters’ Shield winners, who currently sit sixth in the Western Conference, will find themselves outside the playoff places at the end of weekend if the San Jose Earthquakes defeat the LA Galaxy on Sunday. Columbus, thanks to the victory, move up two places to third in the Eastern Conference.

[ MORE: Wednesday’s MLS roundup — TFC dominant; wild Texas derby ]

Three moments that mattered

50′ — Kamara finishes Jimenez’s cross for 1-0 — Federico Higuain got the ball wide to Hector Jimenez, who played the simple cross into the box, and Kamara managed to keep his feet just long enough to open the scoring.

71′ — Mensah heads Higuain’s free kick for 2-0 — There was a time, not so long ago, when FCD were one of MLS’s two best defensive sides. At this point, it seems long, long ago.

78′ — Zimmerman rises above, and it’s 2-1 — Columbus, unlike their Saturday’s counterparts, have rarely been good defensively, especially against set pieces.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Federico Higuain

Goalscorers: Kamara (50′), Mensah (71′), Zimmerman (78′)


Orlando City SC 1-2 Vancouver Whitecaps

The game in 100 words (or less): Let’s take a quick second to check in on Orlando City’s highest-paid player, and one of the highest-profile names in MLS history.

Well, that seems far from ideal. Saturday’s home defeat to the Vancouver Whitecaps was the latest puzzling result in a thoroughly disappointing season for Jason Kreis’ side, who are now seven games without a win (five losses) and currently sit six points adrift of the sixth and final playoff place in the East. Orlando out-possessed Vancouver, 73-27; out-shot Vancouver, 25-7 (4-3 on target); crossed the ball a mind-numbing 48 times; and came within inches of an equalizing goal what felt like a dozen times altogether. Vancouver, meanwhile, vault all the way up to fourth in the West, past FCD and the Houston Dynamo, now five points clear of the playoff cut line.

[ MORE: Wednesday’s MLS roundup — TFC dominant; wild Texas derby ]

Three moments that mattered

9′ — Redding heads it into his own net — Tommy Redding could do little more than get his head to the ball as the free kick sailed into the box. Joe Bendik could do nothing to bail him out.

53′ — Shea lifts it over Bendik for 2-0 — Cheeky finish by Brek Shea, against his former club.

62′ — Larin heads home for a lifeline — In theory, having a skilled striker the size of Cyle Larin should always be this easy. In reality, not every cross is as perfect as this one from Yoshimar Yotun.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Marcel de Jong

Goalscorers: Redding (9′ – OG), Shea (53′), Larin (62′)

Trio of Crew players in Ghana roster to face USMNT, Mexico

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Ghana’s team to face the United States men’s national team on Saturday in East Hartford will look somewhat familiar to fans of Major League Soccer.

Columbus Crew players Harrison Afful, Mohammed Abu and Jonathan Mensah join David Accam of the Chicago Fire, and Gershon Koffie of the New England Revolution on a unit with Kwadwo Poku of the NASL’s Miami FC.

John Boye, Asamoah Gyan, and Mensah are the only three players from the loss to the USMNT in the 2014 World Cup.

[ MORE: Full FIFA-Qatar report leaked? ]

Like the U.S., this is a less than full-strength squad. Missing are a number of Black Stars standouts, with Andre Ayew, Jordan Ayew, Afriyie Acquah, Daniel Amartey, Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu, Christian Atsu, Jeff Schlupp, and Baba Rahman not with the team.

Saturday’s match is the last USMNT outing before the Gold Cup begins on July 8 in Nashville against Panama.

Goalkeepers: Addo Joseph (Aduana Stars), Richard Ofori (Wa All Stars)

Defenders: Lumor Agbenyenu (Munich 1860), Harrison Afful (Columbus Crew),  Nicholas Opoku (Berekum Chelsea), Jerry Akaminko (Eskiserhispor),  John Boye (Sivasspor), Rashid Sumalia (Al Gharafa), Jonathan Mensah (Columbus Crew), Samuel Sarfo (Liberty)

Midfielders: Mohammed Abu (Columbus Crew, Isaac Sackey (Alanyaspor), Ofori Ebenezer (Stuttgart), Kwadwo Poku (FC Miami), Winful Kwaku Cobbinah (Hearts of Oak), Frank Acheampong (Anderlecht), Thomas Agyepong (NAC Breda), Gershon Koffie (New England Revolution)

Strikers: Asamoah Gyan (Al Alhi), Raphael Dwamena (FC Zurich), Majeed Abdul Waris (Lorient FC), David Accam (Chicago Fire)

Tighter than expected: Talking points after Germany’s draw with Ghana

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Call it the Group of Death if you want, but after Ghana tripped up Germany in Fortaleza, Group G at this year’s World Cup is all about opportunity. Four teams, all vulnerable in their own way, are challenging our notions of order and predictability, bringing some welcome uncertainty to what some saw as a top-heavy group:

  • Germany is the best team on paper, but although they controlled more of the ball on Saturday, Ghana were just as good.
  • Yet that Ghana team fell to a U.S. side that didn’t concede the opportunities they saw against the Germans. Though the Black Stars eventually found a way, they also gave up two goals en route to a 2-1 loss.
  • And that U.S. team that looked so solid against Ghana? Unfortunately, the wasn’t much more than that organized approach. Can the team generate enough chances to force their way into the knockout round?
  • And Portugal? Who knows, but their toughest game may be behind them, and in Cristiano Ronaldo, they still have one of the two best players in the world. They may collapse under the absences of Pepe, Fabio Coentrão, and Rui Patricio, but they also have the talent to take six points in their final games.

That’s the chaotic state of Group G after today’s match in Fortaleza. Here’s three other takeaways from the 2-2 result:

[ MORE: Klose equalizer salvages result for Germany ]
[ RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly ]

1. The gap is smaller than we thought – Germany were the clear group favorites — they are the clear group favorites — but as we’ve been reminded throughout Brazil 2014, the gap between the titans and the pack just isn’t that big. Perhaps that’s because of the increasingly demanding European season. Maybe it’s the challenges of a tournament in a large country with varying climates. Regardless, huge pre-tournament favorites like Argentina, Brazil, and Spain have been proven flawed, if not outright overrated.

Today, Germany joined that group, but the credit needs to go to Ghana. In the first half, we saw what the potential of that German attack, but a series of strong plays from defender John Boye helped keep the favorites off the board. As bad as Boye was against the U.S., he was that valuable on Saturday.

Boye wasn’t the only player who stepped up. André Ayew won a one-on-one battle with Shkodran Mustafi on Ghana’s opening goal, while a great play from Sulley Muntari allowed the Milan midfielder to create a turnover and set up Asamoah Gyan’s 63rd minute finish. Late in the match, Jonathan Mensah and Kwadwo Asamoah made penalty box stops as Germany fought through their fatigue and pressed for a winner.

Germany played well on Saturday, but so did Ghana. The gap between the two teams was just smaller than we thought.

2. Löw’s fullback lament – Germany has attacking talent that rivals any nation in the world, but they’ve slowing become the European Argentina. For all the danger they pose going forward, there are serious questions at the back, where the national team remains vulnerable.

Particularly with Philipp Lahm playing in the middle, those problems are at full back. Jerome Boateng, more comfortable in central defense, started at right back. Benedikt Höwedes, more comfortable in central defense, started at left back. When Joachim Löw made a change at half time, bringing in Shkodran Mustafi for Boateng at halftime, it cost him. The Lazio defender was beaten for Ghana’s first goal.

Löw has often lamented his lack of options at full back, but he has alternatives. With Bastian Schweinsteiger an option in the middle, perhaps Lahm can be moved back to his natural position.

Or maybe defense is just a flaw the Germans have to overcome. Regardless, as Ghana showed throughout Saturday’s 90 minutes, Löw’s team remains vulnerable at the back, making it even more important they maintain control of the ball.

3. It wasn’t ideal, but things are still breaking nicely for the U.S. – A Germany win could have dealt Ghana a mortal blow, but things continue to look up for the U.S. With a win tomorrow, they secure a place in the knockout round.

That fate would have been the same with a Germany win, however, so how does today’s draw change the States’ picture? Ghana, now capable of getting to four points, will be alive on Thursday, no matter what. Plus, Germany has something to play for against the U.S. There’s no scenario that puts the Germans through before they kick off in Recife.

The upside for the States? They have a viable route to claiming first in Group G. Two points will put them into the knockout round, but four points win the group. Instead of Belgium in the round of 16, the U.S. could face Algeria, Russia, or South Korea …

… provided they get there at all. As today’s result in Fortaleza reminds us, nothing’s guaranteed in this year’s World Cup.

Klose’s record-tying equalizer salvages Germany draw against Ghana

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In a tournament that’s defied the notion of World Cup favorites, Germany nearly became the latest titan to stumble, but thanks to a late, historic goal from Miroslav Klose, the three-time champions were able to salvage a result against Ghana. After second half goals from André Ayew and Asamoah Gyan put the Black Stars on the verge of the upset, Klose’s 15th World Cup goal pulled Germany even, with the 2-2 final keeping the 2010 semifinalists at the top of Group G.

Germany opened the scoring in the 51st minute when Mario Götze headed home from close range, but goals from Ayew and Gyan in the 54th and 63rd minutes had the West African nation on the brink of a landmark victory. In the 71st minute, however, a corner kick flicked on by Benedikt Höwedes allowed Klose to tie the record for most career goals at the World Cup, his sliding finish salvaging a point for his country.

With the result, Germany moves one point ahead of the United States ahead of the U.S.’s meeting with Portugal on Sunday in Manaus. The two teams will meet in Recife to close group play on Thursday, with the winner potentially claiming first place in Group G.

Kicking off at the same time, Ghana will face Portugal, with today’s draw ensuring the Black Stars will have something to play for at kickoff  in Brasília.

[ MORE: Talking points after Ghana trips up Germany ]
[ RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly ]

From the opening kickoff, Germany controlled possession, but the game’s first chance went to Ghana in the seventh minute, with a Christian Atsu ball played to Asamoah Gyan at the edge of the six-yard box eventually put into the stands. Throughout the rest of the half, Germany used their 59 percent possession to consistently threaten, often passing behind Ghana’s fullbacks before attempting to find Thomas Müller in front of goal. Strong play from defender John Boye kept Germany off the scoresheet, while chances for Atsu and Sulley Muntari tested Neuer at the other end of the field.

Six minutes into the second half, Germany finally broke through. After Müller, floating wide right, was allowed to stand over a ball 26 yards out, the Bayern Munich attacker picked out club teammate Mario Götze making a run from the left, inside full back Harrison Afful. Meeting the ball six yards from goal, the 22-year-old gave Fatau Dauda little chance to prevent the opener, heading down and in to give Germany a 1-0 lead.

The lead lasted three minutes, with Ghana’s own cross-header combination pulling the Black Stars even. From the right flank, Afful launched a ball toward a defense matched three-on-three with Ghanaian attackers. That left André Ayew isolated with substitute right back Shkodran Mustafi, who couldn’t prevent the Marseille man from heading inside Neuer’s right post. In the 54th minute, the underdogs had evened the score.

source: Getty Images
Asamoah Gyan oelebrates with his teammates scoring his team’s second goal n Fortaleza, Brazil. (Source: Getty Images)

Nine minutes later, Ghana had their lead. After intercepting a ball in his opponent’s half, Muntari was able to catch the German defense in transition, played a between Per Mertesacker and Mats Hummels that sent Gyan in on goal. A confident finish into the left side-netting gave the underdogs a 2-1 lead, handing one of the tournament favorites their first deficit of the competition.

In the 71st minute, the game swung back toward the Germans, with a record-tying goal allowing the Nationalmannschaft to pull even. Off a corner from the left side, a Benedikt Höwedes flick toward the right of goal was helped in by Klose, whose sliding finish defused Ghana’s upset hopes. Drawing even with Brazilian legend Ronaldo for the tournament lead in career goals, the veteran striker made it 2-2.

Momentum from the goal kept Germany in control, but it wasn’t until the 84th minute that the chances resumed. Müller had an opportunity  from the middle of the area to put the Germans in front only to see Asamoah come from Ghana’s left to make a stop. Two minutes later, Jonathan Mensah came up big on a ball played across the six by Özil, while Klöse pulled a 90th minute chance wide of the left post. In the 92nd minute, Ghana had its own chance to claim a winner, but a three-on-two counter after a corner kick ended with an offside call.

At match’s end, Ghana had one of its most-famous results, but they also had the reality of an opportunity lost. Up 2-1 with 27 minutes left, the Black Stars had a chance to reclaim their own knockout round destiny. Thanks to Miroslav Klose, they now need help.

For Germany, the match was a reminder of their vulnerability, with a defense that’s been questioned since the emergence of the country’s new talent, the team was left on the verge of an upset.

It was yet another reminder. In a tournament where the holders are already out, where the likes of Brazil and Argentina have proved mortal, Germany can be beaten. There may be no favorites at this year’s World Cup.

Lineups

Germany: Neuer; Howedes, Hummels, Mertesacker, Boateng (Mustafi 45′); Lahm, Khedira (Schweinsteiger 70′), Kroos; Götze (Klose 69′), Müller, Ozil

Goals: Götze 51′, Klöse 71′

Ghana: Dauda; Afful, Mensah, Boye, Asamoah; Rabiu (Badu 78′), Muntari, Atsu (Wakaso 71′), A. Ayew; Boateng (J. Ayew 52′), Gyan

Goals: A. Ayew 54′, Gyan 63′

At halftime: Possession not enough as Germany held by Ghana — FOLLOW LIVE

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Story of the half: The six Bayern Munich starters in Germany’s team will be used to this huge edge in possession, but with Ghana eschewing pressure to stay organized at the back, Group G’s favorites have been left hoping the combination of through balls and passes send across the six-yard box will pay off. Through 45 minutes, no dice, with Germany and Ghana going to halftime scoreless for the second straight World Cup.

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Goals: They’re coming. I think. As much possession as Germany has had, Ghana’s also had their moments near the favorites’ goal.

Other key moments:

7′ – The match’s first chance has gone the way of the Black Stars, who saw almost nothing of the ball over the match’s first six minutes. Yet after a long diagonal from left back Kwadwo Asamoah finds Christian Atsu deep on the right, the German defense is opened up, giving striker Asamoah Gyan space to attack the near post. Atsu cuts back and puts a left-footed ball across the top of the six, but Gyan puts his shot into the seats.

11′ – Germany’s begun having success finding runners cutting through the Ghanian defense. This time, Mesut Özil’s run behind Ghana’s left is regarded with a chance to find Thomas Müller in the middle of the area. After turning on what looks like a right-footed shot, the Bayern Munich attacker rolls a back pass to Toni Kroos. The midfielder’s blast from just beyond the penalty box is blocked by Jonathan Mensah.

13′ – Manuel Neuer is called into action, with a long blast from Atsu forcing the German goalkeeper into a diving stop. Before the Germans can regain possession, André Ayew has room to play a ball across the top of the six, though Germany’s defense handles the chance.

21′ – Germany’s first true moment of danger sees Ghanaian defender John Boye step up. On a ball played wide right, Özil is allowed time to cut in and play a cross to the edge of the six-yard box. Müller, coming off a game one hat trick, is there, but a sliding challenge from Boye keeps the German attacker from putting a shot on goal. Played off Müller, the ball goes out for a Black Stars goal kick.

29′ –  Asamoah, tested throughout the half, misjudges a long ball, allowing Mario Götze to get behind him. Boye, however, steps up again. Trying to find Müller in the middle of goal, Götze sees his pass blocked by the sliding Black Star, who plays the ball out for a corner.

33′ – A cross from Ghana’s right for Gyan is brought down but easily poked away. Unfortunately, the German defense is caught flat-footed, allowing Sulley Muntari to come from deep and one-time a swerving shot toward Neuer. The punch is easy enough, but on a try from 32 yards, Neuer was at the mercy of Suntari’s aim as Ghana drew another save.

36′ – Germany finally goes left, but the story’s the same. Played behind the defense, Özil tries another ball across the top of the six. Again, Boye is there to put the ball out for a corner.

Lineups:

Germany: Neuer; Howedes, Hummels, Boateng, Mertesacker; Lahm, Khedira, Kroos; Gotze, Muller, Ozil

Ghana: Dauda; Afful, Mensah, Boye, Asamoah; Rabiu, Muntari, Atsu, A. Ayew; Boateng, Gyan

Key Players:

  • Kwadwo Asamoah, Ghana – The Juventus wide man is his defense’s most recognizable name, something that hasn’t prevented the Germans from going at him. Though he started the match strong, Asamoah was too often seen chasing play moving back toward his own goal. Whether Asamoah needs to improve or get help from his teammates, Ghana’s left need to provide a deterrent.
  • Toni Kroos and Sami Khedira, Germany – When the Germans do get behind Asamoah, they’re quickly playing across goal, but Müller’s back pass in 11th minute hints there are other options. If the Germans can get Kroos or Khedira forward, they can make Ghana pay for having to fall back to that six-yard box. Given how quickly the Germans are playing, that’s easier said than done, but if Joachim Löw is willing to play one of his midfielders higher up, he may be able to take advantage of Ghana without sacrificing the numbers he’s playing along the Black Stars’ defense.

Question for the second half:

  • Can Ghana afford to hold out? – Say the Black Stars defense is up to this challenge. Their organization problems at the back don’t resurface, and Boye continues to clean up anything sent in front of Dauda’s goal. Let’s say all they need to do is stay this course. Is that even a good thing? Ghana might end up with a 0-0 draw, but they’d be on one point headed into a game three showdown against Portugal. Can Ghana afford to hold out, or did their loss to the U.S. make this a must win?