Fans of U.S. Soccer don't need to be reminded that Ghana ended the Americans' FIFA World Cup hopes in both 2006 and 2010, and while the two matches might be viewed similarly by those fans, they were distinctly different experiences for Crew midfielder Kingsley "Fifi" Baiden.
Baiden, a native of Ghana, moved to the United States for high school in 2007 before going on to have a successful collegiate career at the University of California Santa Barbara. His move happened right in between the two matches, meaning that he experienced the Black Stars' 2006 group stage victory in his homeland, while the 2010 knockout stage encounter occurred while he was in the United States.
"In 2006, I think the experience was amazing," said Baiden. "I was back home. Everyone was on the streets, you see people with Ghanaian colors, cheering, dancing. The whole country was one big celebration, and it was really fun. Fast forward four years later, it was different from how I experienced it back home. Yes, we won, I was very happy, and I celebrated a little bit, but it wasn’t like the celebration I had when I was back home."
Although the 22-year-old said it was a "culture shock" coming to America, carving out a path to MLS here has warmed up Baiden to American soccer culture.
"I support both nations a little bit," said Baiden. "Whenever the U.S. plays any other team [besides Ghana], I 100% support the U.S."
Most American fans consider Ghana a rival due to the previous two World Cups, and Baiden, who has the unique double-sided perspective on the matchup, agrees.
"From the last couple of World Cups, Ghana has played the U.S., so it has become a bit of a rivalry. It’s all for the love of the game … We know their strengths and everything. The third time should be a win."