With the number of big international names who were at PPL Park night for the Ghana-Chile game, there were plenty of storylines to pursue after the final whistle.
But for those of us in the press box who cover MLS, the story most worth writing was a little bit out of the way.
Ghana forward Dominic Oduro and midfielder Patrick Nyarko, both of whom play for the Chicago Fire, received their first caps for their country last night. It was pretty neat that they got to do so in the United States, the country in which they have come to make a living as professional soccer players.
Oduro was in the starting lineup, but only lasted 17 minutes before being substituted after taking an early knock. Nyarko played the second half.
They might not be the most recognizable names back home, but they certainly got noticed by their teammates. One of them was AC Milan midfielder Sulley Muntari, who said he hopes Oduro and Nyarko will be back with the Black Stars.
"They did great and we hope they stay in for long, because they’re very good players," Muntari said. "All Ghanaians know them now. They should stay in [the national team] and play good football."
A few reporters chatted with Nyarko in the postgame mixed zone. Here’s what he had to say.
On his performance in the second half, including some good passes from midfield that weren’t capitalized on:
That’s how the game goes. You’ve got to keep creating chances in order to score, and unfortunately we couldn’t convert our chances tonight. But some day that will be a couple of assists.
On how playing for Ghana will help his confidence heading into the MLS season:
It’s a huge confidence-builder. When you excel at the national team level, you get all the confidence you need to come to the MLS season. Since it’s a couple of weeks away, this is great motivation and a confidence-builder going into it. Hopefully I can carry this confidence into our opening game, and through the season.
On when he first heard that he had been called up:
It was actually a day before they arrived in the States. It was late Monday, and I had to get flights and everything and come join them on Tuesday. It was a pretty late call-up, there were a couple scratches at the end and I had to fill in. I just took the opportunity that was there.
On whether he had been in any conversations before with the national team:
A previous coach had come to see one of our games during the year, and I thought he was impressed and I was on the radar. He thought about calling me up for a game. But unfortunately he moved on to something else, and a new coach came in. He’s also trying to build a team.
So it was just a matter of time, and as I said, if you excel at the club level, good things are going to come your way. I’m just concentrating on building my career at the club level, and trying to be as successful as I can at the club level. Hopefully there will be more call-ups.
On making his national team debut in a game played in the United States:
It was very special. I didn’t have to travel long to play in a national team game, as some people did – that was awesome. It saves you a lot of energy to concentrate more and take into the game. I’m glad it happened here in Philly.
On whether he allowed himself a moment to think about being on the field with such stars as Sulley Muntari and Alexis Sánchez:
I was kind of star-struck when I joined the team. I saw Sulley, I saw Derek Boateng. I grew up watching those guys play, and to be on the field with the national anthem was being played, that was the most special moment in my life. I just stood there and wondered if this was a dream.
I created a couple of chances, but the highlight of my day, actually, was making a tackle on Alexis Sánchez. He’s a brilliant player. To get in on the act was pretty special.
On whether he was surprised by the amount of Ghana fans in the stands:
I wasn’t surprised at all. They know their soccer. They support the team in bad times and good times, I wasn’t any surprised that they came out. Anywhere in the United States, anywhere in the world, I would bet on them coming out in numbers to support the team.
On being able to make his national team debut with Dominic Oduro:
Right off the bat, going into camp you’re comfortable. You know there’s someone you can talk to before you get acquainted with the others, and that was huge. I’m sure he was happy that I was a late addition, and I was happy to have joined him. We roomed together, we talked about stuff we needed to do to maintain our call-ups. It was exciting to have both of us in the team.
On his expectations for the Chicago Fire this year:
Better than the start we had last year, for sure. We had a terrible start at the beginning of last year, and we ended up playing catch-up at the end of the year. We almost made the playoffs, but it was too late. This year, the most important thing is to get off to a flying start, and to try to set the pace in the Eastern Conference.
We think we are a good enough team to win the Eastern Conference, so we are going into it very confident.