A run-down of the nation’s stars featuring in the North American top flight
By Ed Dove
Major League Soccer returned this weekend to much fanfare and an excitement that touched various corners of the world.
This year, like never before, MLS is filled with Ghanaian players.
In this feature, we run-down the nation’s players playing in the top flight and outline what Ghanaians should expect from their compatriots over the coming 12 months.
For the purpose of this piece we have only considered players registered in the first-team rosters for this season (rather than the reserve or youth squads) and have also limited our guide to players still eligible for Ghana.
23-year-old Kofi Sarkodie is a right-back, described quaintly by Houston Dynamo’s official website as a “dynamic outside defender.”
He starred on the opening day of the MLS season, contributing the decisive assist for Giles Barnes as the Dynamo beat Columbus Crew 1-0 at home.
With former Bolton Wanderers coach Owen Coyle at the helm, these are exciting times to be a Dynamo fan and the Scottish boss will be have been delighted to have found the developing but well-rounded Sarkodie in his ranks.
While some ageing players head to MLS for one final pay day or a last golden chapter in the sun, other, younger stars simply head across the Atlantic for a fresh start.
I’d put Adam Kwarasey in this category.
The stopper has been the main victim of the Black Stars’ goalkeeping musical chairs over the last year and while Fatau Dauda, his erstwhile rival, made the 2015 African Cup of Nations squad as understudy to Razak Brimah, Kwarasey was left out altogether.
Timbers were dreadful at the back last term and ultimately missed out on the play-offs. Kwarasey will be busy this season—no doubts—but I suspect he has the quality to improve Portland’s defensive record.
For fans of Ghanaian football, Chicago Fire represent one of the most intriguing teams in the division.
Not only have the Fire recruited international forward David Accam—who will compete with Nigerian pair Kennedy Igboananike and Quincy Amarikwa for a spot in the starting XI—they also boast Kumasi-born winger Patrick Nyarko.
The 29-year-old is the Fire’s longest-serving player. He is a consistent operator on the right, but is it too late for further international recognition, having won his first and (to date) only cap in February 2012?
DC United will be hoping to steady the ship after a series of inconsistent seasons under steady helmsman Ben Olsen.
At the back, Olsen will be able to call upon 24-year-old centre-back Kofi Opare, who has MLS experience having previously featured for LA Galaxy.
Born in Mampong, Opare’s family emigrated to North America when he was a child.
Like the aforementioned Patrick Nyarko, Dominic Oduro is also something of a one-cap wonder for the Black Stars, having also made a sole appearance for the national side in February 2012.
At 29, he may not have many more chances to play for Ghana, but Oduro has established himself as a consistent and talented MLS performer.
Can he help his new club Montreal Impact improve on their last-place finish last season?
The club also brought 23-year-old James Bissue back during during the offseason.
New York Red Bulls
Former Leeds United winger Lloyd Sam was the hero for New York Red Bulls on the opening weekend of the MLS season, equalising against Sporting Kansas City after Ike Opara had given the home side the lead.
Sam’s curling effort was a touch of class and has been nominated for the MLS Goal of the Week competition.
Without the retired Thierry Henry, the New Yorkers will need a greater team contribution this term and 30-year-old Sam has given an early indication that he is primed to step into a pivotal role for the side.
Ghana-born central midfielder Gershon Koffie could be set for a break-out campaign in Major League Soccer.
He joined Whitecaps in 2010 after learning his trade in the Ghanaian lower leagues. He has been a consistent performer since then, without truly stealing the headlines, and also featured for Ghana’s U20 side at the 2011 African Youth Championship.
Could he pique Avram Grant’s interest this term?
New York City
New franchise New York City can call on two Ghanaian stars as they embark on their maiden campaign.
Kumasi-born Kwadwo Poku moved to the club from Atlanta Silverbacks in January and is a talented, powerful attacking player.
Defender Kwame Watson-Siriboe has more MLS experience, and previously featured for Real Salt Lake. To date he has featured 29 times in the top flight and is also a former United States U18 international.
California-born Gyasi Zardes may not be a Galactico just yet, but the forward takes up his place this season alongside Robbie Keane at LA Galaxy in the knowledge that he will soon be able to call Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard a teammate.
The Ghanaian started up top for the Galaxy alongside Keane in the league opener, a win over Accam’s Chicago Fire.
He bagged an impressive 16 in 26 starts last term—finishing joint fifth in the scoring charts—and will be eyeing the Golden Boot this year.
Despite making his debut for the States earlier this year, in a friendly against Chile, Zardes is yet to play a competitive match for Jurgen Klinsmann’s side, so could, still, in theory, represent the Black Stars.