BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- Patrick Nyarko is all alone – figuratively, anyway.
Nyarko, the Fire’s Ghanaian winger, undoubtedly feels a little lonely heading into this weekend’s Round of 16 match between the U.S. and Ghana. While the majority of his Fire teammates will be cheering on the Red-White-and-Blue this Saturday, Nyarko will be pulling hard for the Black Stars – he’ll just be doing it quietly.
“I’m remaining quiet right now,” Nyarko said after Thursday’s training. “There’s a lot of Americans in the locker room.”
Though he may remain quiet, Nyarko isn’t lacking in confidence. He’s predicting that Ghana – likely the only African team to make it past the group stage – will send the Americans packing for a second consecutive World Cup. His projected score? 2-1. The same margin that Ghana defeated the U.S. by in the final group stage game in 2006.
“We start fresh now, knockout stage, there’s no room for error,” said Nyarko, who came to the States in 2005 to play college soccer at Virginia Tech. “Hopefully the boys can respond … I think that the game will bring out the true colors of the Ghanaians and hopefully we can match the [U.S.] nail for nail and try to win the game.”
Though Nyarko is predicting a Ghana victory, he is by no means unaware of the potential pitfalls the Black Stars face against the Yanks. Ghana has yet to score a goal from the run of play, something that mildly concerns the confident Nyarko.
“Yeah I mean there’s cause for a little bit of concern,” Nyarko said. “But watching [Ghana’s 1-0 loss to Germany on Wednesday] I think we created very good chances. We have the ability to create those kinds of chances and hopefully finish, so I have no worries. We can carve out one or two chances against the U.S. and hopefully finish them and hopefully our defense can hold out.”
And it’s that defense that Nyarko – who is close friends with Ghana’s World Cup midfielder Kwadwo Asamoah – believes is Ghana’s biggest strength.
“Obviously I think our backline is our strength,” Nyarko said. “Up to this point we’ve conceded a couple goals but I think our backline is still the strongest. We can turn defense into offense anytime we want. Hopefully we get our mentality right for Saturday because the Americans have the strongest mentality of any team I’ve seen this tournament so far, so we got to match that and hopefully we can beat them.”
One man who won’t be hoping for a Ghana victory is Fire forward Brian McBride. McBride, who appeared in three World Cups for the United States, said that he and his Chicago teammates are giving the 24-year-old Nyarko – who is tied for third in MLS with six assists – a hard time about the upcoming match.
“He’s really making great strides and so we’re giving him a hard time,” McBride said. “[We’re] saying you’re a Ghanaian fan now, but four years from now you’re going to be playing for the U.S.”