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United States prepares for Gold Cup with friendly against Ghana

ESPN's Jeff Carlisle discusses his key players to look out for when Bruce Arena's USMNT side face Ghana in their friendly.
Jeff Carlisle breaks down the budding, yet unexpected rivalry between the United States and Ghana.

The United States hosts Ghana at Pratt & Whitney Stadium in East Hartford, Connecticut, on Saturday in its sole friendly before competing in the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

The game will be the first between the two teams since the 2014 World Cup, when the U.S. won 2-1 in the group stage on a header from John Brooks in the 86th minute.

The U.S. and Ghana have met three times, but Saturday will mark the first time they will face each other outside of the World Cup. All three games ended 2-1, with Ghana winning in the group stage in 2006 and in the round of 16 in 2010 and the U.S. winning that game in 2014.

Although the U.S. has not faced an African nation since then, it has won its last three games against African teams. It also beat Nigeria in a friendly prior to the start of the World Cup in 2014 and defeated South Africa in 2010.

That loss against Ghana in 2006 was the last for Bruce Arena in his first stint as the U.S. coach. He returned in November, replacing Jurgen Klinsmann, and is unbeaten in his first seven games -- the second-longest unbeaten start to a coaching tenure in team history. Bob Bradley went unbeaten over his first 11 games in 2007.

The U.S. has won three of the five games it has played in East Hartford, with the last, a 1-1 draw against Ecuador on Oct. 10, 2014, the 157th and final international appearance for Landon Donovan.

United States' 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup Group B schedule.
The U.S. has been assigned to Group B of the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

ESPN's Soccer Power Index (SPI) gives the U.S. a 96 percent chance to advance from the group stage.

It has won the Gold Cup five times, most recently in 2013, but finished fourth in 2015, losing to Jamaica in the semifinals and then losing to Panama on penalties in the third-place game.

The U.S. will resume qualifying for the 2018 World Cup on Sept. 1, when it hosts Costa Rica. According to the SPI, it has a 91 percent chance of reaching its eighth consecutive World Cup.

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