EAST HARTFORD, Conn. – It wasn’t until Friday’s training session that Dom Dwyer found out he’d be making his debut for the US national team. It wasn’t even until March 16 that the England-born striker was eligible to represent his adopted country.
Yet, on Saturday afternoon at Rentschler Stadium – leading up to July 4th, coincidentally – the Sporting Kansas City man looked as though he always belonged, scoring the opening goal in a 2-1 friendly win over Ghana.
“He works real hard, and in international football that’s a requirement,” head coach Bruce Arena said. “I think he has that quality as well, so for his first game, I thought he did very well.”
That quality was on full display in the 19th minute, as he emphatically volleyed the opener home from eight yards out. After scoring, the 26-year-old wheeled to the corner flag, celebrated with a backflip and kissed the US badge.
A Londoner by birth, Dwyer announced his place on the American soccer stage with a bang ahead of this summer’s Gold Cup.
“It meant a lot to me,” Dwyer, whose wife Sydney Leroux plays for the women’s national team, said. “It’s been a long road to get here, and I really wanted to show the fans and show the country that I’m very passionate about this country. I’m very honored to play for this team, and hopefully it’s something we can build on.”
Outside of his goal, Dwyer was a menace for the Ghanaian back line all night, and could have had a brace if it weren’t for goalkeeper Richard Ofori. In the 58th minute, Dwyer stumbled upon a clearance, burst in on goal and saw Ofori’s kick save deny him a bigger statement on his international debut.
Plus, in 76 minutes of action, Dwyer often combined brilliantly with Joe Corona and Kelyn Rowe, the latter also making his debut, holding the ball up and letting the American attack flood forward.
“Today he was definitely up for the challenge, and I know the first game I played with the national team the adrenaline was flowing extremely fast,” Juan Agudelo said. “You can definitely tell it was from his play.”
With a standout performance against Ghana, the charge before Dwyer is making the most of his opportunities in the Gold Cup, which begins July 8 against Panama.
He’ll have to fend off pressure from Agudelo and Jordan Morris, the two other strikers in USMNT camp, but said he’s ready to make the most of his chance. If Saturday’s showing and his Kansas City career – 57 goals in 128 MLS regular season games – are any indication, he’ll do just that.
“The guys have been really welcoming through the whole week, so they made me comfortable in the side,” Dwyer said. “Bruce told me I deserve to be here, and everyone’s been instilling confidence in me all week. It was more excitement me coming out, and I really wanted to show myself well and put in a good performance and win the game.”