WASHINGTON – A new-look Canada squad stood toe to toe with African powerhouses Ghana on Tuesday night and came through with heads unbowed, as a first-half wonder strike from Marcel de Jong earned Les Rouges a 1-1 draw at RFK Stadium.
Canada handed a starting role at center back to Wandrille Lefèvre, as the Montreal Impact Homegrown Player made his Canada debut alongside former teammate Karl Ouimette (now with New York Red Bulls), just two of many familiar MLS faces in the lineups.
Sporting Kansas City's de Jong took up the left-back role for Canada, while Vancouver Whitecaps youngster Kianz Froese earned a start in the Canucks' central midfield. On the other side, Chicago Fire speedster David Accam and Columbus Crew SC fullback Harrison Afful got the nod for Ghana.
The debutant Lefèvre found himself on thin ice 13 minutes in, as he went to ground in his own penalty box to stop a dangerous run by Accam. But referee Chris Penso ruled that the French-Canadian had gotten a touch on the ball as the partisan, pro-Ghana crowd jeered for a penalty call to no avail.
Weathering the speedy Ghanaians' aggressive pressing and getting forward into the spaces it left behind, Canada were more than holding their own against their fearsome opponents and should have gone in front in the 16th minute.
Junior Hoilett's dipping shot toward the lower corner was spilled by Ghana goalkeeper Razak Braimah, leaving Tosaint Ricketts with an inviting chance to poach at the near post – but his effort was blocked at point-blank range by some desperate Black Stars recovery defending.
Les Rouges were handed yet another glorious chance to seize an early lead in the 28th minute as a straightforward move down the right flank somehow flummoxed the Ghana defense enough to give Charlie Trafford a wide-open look from near the penalty spot. But his shot was deflected into the path of Froese, whose follow-up skipped wide of the left post.
But a breakthrough would finally arrive, and in spectacular fashion, via de Jong's strong left foot.
The Sporting KC man found himself in acres of space as he advanced down the left channel, so he uncorked a blistering drive that arrowed past Braimah and nestled into the far upper corner of the net from some 35 yards out for a 1-0 Canada lead.
Ghana looked to respond through their pace and trickery down the wings. Accam thought he had earned a dangerous free kick when he went to ground on another run at Lefèvre, but was booked for simulation insteadin the 43rd minute.
Canada's back four were getting stretched in all directions at times and were finally undone in the half's dying moments when Ghana caught them exposed in transition. Albert Adomah raced down the Ghana right and narrowly stayed onside as he ran onto a Jordan Ayew through ball, then coolly stroked a low finish underneath goalkeeper Kenny Stamatopoulos to level matters at 1-1.
Lloyd Sam came on at right wing the 68th minute to make his Ghana debut and was soon joined by more MLSers in Vancouver's Sam Adekugbe and Marco Bustos, who became the sixth Canadian to make his senior debut on the evening. Maxim Tissot also made a late cameo.
Canada now turn to two World Cup qualifiers in November against Honduras (Nov. 13) and El Salvador (Nov. 17).