Five Ghanaians in Major League Soccer clash

Kim Klement
Mensah, Abubakar, Afful and Abu on the winning team as Columbus Crew brush aside Accam's Chicago Fire

When as many as five Ghanaians are involved in one Major League Soccer game, there certainly will be a lot to talk about from that perspective.

On Saturday, Chicago Fire suffered their third league defeat in four matches, falling 3-1 to Columbus Crew at MAPFRE Stadium.

Michael de Leeuw put Fire ahead on 13 minutes but Kekuta Manneh, Justin Meram and Ola Kamara netted to secure three points for the home side.

Owing to his outstanding form in MLS, having hit 12 goals in 21 outings so far this season, want-away attacker David Accam was expected to provide some spark for Fire, but his performance was as nondescript as it could be, much to the credit of the Crew defence which featured three Ghanaians.

Jonathan Mensah and Lalas Abubakar started as part of a back-three system while Harrison Afful played as a right-wing-back.

"I think [our defence] did well, Chicago had a few chances," Crew sporting director and head coach Gregg Berhalter said after the game. 

"Accam gave us some trouble, a couple of times in the penalty box we could have dealt with balls better.

"Together with [Josh Williams], Lalas and Jonathan, I think the center backs played strong tonight."

Berhalter was not the only man to commend the Ghanaian guardsmen.

"I thought our defense was outstanding," added, Meram.

"I thought Lalas and Mensah were monsters tackling coming up to the line. 

"Accam, one of the best wingers in the league and you didn’t really see him. You give credit to Jonathan who shut him down almost all game."

Abubakar has won a lot of admirers since breaking into the Crew set-up this season and Saturday adds to his list of outstanding nights so far. 

That said, his game hasn't been exactly flawless.

"Disciplined. The message to Lalas is that you’re a rookie, you need to be humble, you need to work hard, you need to give everything you’ve got," Berhalter said.

"The kid has amazing heart, he’s a competitor and it’s just controlling those emotions. 

"I think he did a very good job of that tonight."

In the midst Accam's frustration, Mensah's elegance and Abubakar's brightness, there was a point of worry for their other compatriot on the pitch.

Right-back Afful was hauled off on 46 minutes, leaving many suspecting an injury setback.

"If you had to guess, what would you say? Yeah. So it wasn’t injury based, it was preventative," Berhalter revealed - some relief as Ghana takes on Congo in the 2018 Fifa World Cup qualifiers on September 1.

"Harrison has been coming back from a hamstring injury, we pre-planned this sub before the game, only going to give him 45 minutes and not risk anything. 

"I think these next nine games are too important to risk any type of further damage potentially.

"I thought he was solid. Harrison was locked in from the warm-up, you could see it and he was focused. He played a good game."

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Crew's other Ghanaian Mohammed Abu, however, did not see any game time. 

But there's no harm in believing that as he watched on from the bench, there was a map of smiles on his face as his countrymen cum teammates did themselves proud and Crew walked away with three valuable points.