On Tuesday night, the United States Men’s National Team beat Guatemala by a score of 3–1, ensuring that the U.S. moves onto the next round of World Cup qualifiers (full match stats are below). The scoreline was encouraging, and the U.S. looked dangerous going forward from the opening whistle. However, especially early, the defense looked suspect in the extreme. The important thing is that, regardless of the manner in which they happened, the past two games have been wins. Jürgen Klinsmann now must see if he can improve the consistency of the U.S.’s attack and settle its defense.
Carlos Ruiz? Seriously? Come on!
While the U.S. came out strong, looking for a goal, it was Guatemala that scored first. With only minutes gone off the clock, a simple ball over the top split the U.S. defense like the proverbial hot knife through butter. Carlos Ruiz—who, it turns out, though slow, is still faster than Carlos Bocanegra—bore down on goal, expertly rounded Tim Howard, who was hesitant in coming off his line, and opened the scoring. The communication between the U.S. defenders was simply nonexistent, but Ruiz has had a very good qualifying campaign, and his movement tormented the U.S. center backs for much of the first half. How he never did that for the Union, I will never know.
The U.S. was faced with a choice. What sort of game was this going to be? Lucky for all U.S. supporters, instead of turtling up and slogging it out, the U.S. decided to show the sort of offensive movement and speed of thought that it’s capable of but hasn’t shown in any consistent way since the win over Scotland, and scored three goals in less than 30 minutes to turn a nervous affair into a dominant performance.
Clint Dempsey is back
Clint Dempsey was involved in all three U.S. goals, assisting the first then scoring the other two. For the first, he got in front of his defender with a near-post run on a Graham Zusi corner, and flicked the ball down toward the far post, where Bocanegra was there to put it home. On the second, a quick ball by Steve Cherundolo out of defense put Eddie Johnson down the right channel. His first-time center was a peach, and Dempsey’s late run into the box gave him a sliding tap-in. The third was the result of quality interplay between Michael Bradley and Zusi, which resulted in a Bradley shot across goal. The ball looked like it may have been goal-bound, but again, Dempsey followed the play and made sure.
Dempsey bossed the Guatemalan defense all game long, and was at his imperious best, creating chances for himself and his teammates, and getting in their faces when their passes weren’t up to snuff. Only a very late dive for a penalty, which got him rightly booked, marred his performance. Clearly, his move to Tottenham has gotten him back in game shape, and hungry.
This result is a good one, and winning these last two games shows just how much character the U.S. team has. There were three U.S. players fighting to regain possession in Guatemala’s left corner in the 94th minute, for instance, in a game the U.S. was winning handily. This team has spirit, and fights hard. Klinsmann now has to find a way to channel that desire more effectively than he has thus far.
Klinsmann’s team has gotten some historic results, away to Italy and away to Mexico, but has failed to do more than hint at the style change that his appointment was supposed to herald. We’ve seen it in patches, against Scotland and against Guatemala going forward, but both those games were played at home, and as we know, the 2014 World Cup is in Brazil.
We didn’t do player ratings for the game in Antigua, so we decided to do a combined rating for the two games. If a player played in both games, his score reflects his performance in both games.
Tim Howard: 6.5
Was not at fault for the goal in Antigua, but his hesitation contributed to Guatemala’s. That said, was otherwise his confidence-inspiring self.
Carlos Bocanegra: 4.5
He scored the first against Guatemala, but otherwise was partially at fault for goals in both games. His lack of speed is a real issue.
Geoff Cameron: 5.5
Also partially at fault for both goals, but is more mobile, taller, and a better passer than Bocanegra. His move to right back at Stoke may not have helped him in his positioning and understanding of the game as a center back.
Clay Goodson: 6
Was the only casualty from the starting lineup in Antigua, and after ten minutes against Guatemala, I was thinking him unlucky. Will certainly get more time in the lead-up to the World Cup, and may take over for Bocanegra if the captain loses his automatic starting spot.
Steve Cherundolo: 7
I’ll say it again: I wish this man were ten years younger, not because he’s slowed down, but because I mourn the time when he does. Was fine in Antigua and very good against Guatemala, making the second U.S. goal with a pinpoint long ball out of defense.
Michael Parkhurst: 7
Will not likely see much more time at left back, but showed why he seems the likely backup/successor to Cherundolo, with good offensive play and sensible defensive play.
Danny Williams: 7.5
Looks like the best partner for Michael Bradley in the middle. Very calm and collected in mopping up in front of defense, and less scattered than Jermaine Jones.
Michael Bradley: 7.5
Looked a little bit rusty against Antigua, but grew into things, and was very good against Guatemala. The whole team works better when he is in it. First name on the teamsheet.
Graham Zusi: 7.5
Played quite well in both games, and has now played three very good games in a row for the U.S. In a straight comparison, Klinsmann would still choose Landon Donovan, and rightly so, but Zusi deserves minutes.
Eddie Johnson: 8
Hard to say enough good things about Johnson, honestly. From not in Klinsmann’s plan to saving the U.S.’s qualification hopes, he saved the day against Antigua and continued his strong play against Guatemala, even while out of position on the wing. Best header of the ball in the U.S.’s setup.
Clint Dempsey: 8.5
Glad to have you back, Clint. Was good against Antigua, but unstoppable against Guatemala.
Herculez Gomez: 6.5
Had a poor game by his standards against Antigua, but put in a real shift against Guatemala.
Jermaine Jones: 5.5
Was himself in a substitute appearance against Antigua & Barbuda. Got yellow-carded, as he tends to do.
Sacha Kljestan (sub): 7
Gave two quite good substitute performances, nearly getting goals in both. Deserves more time on the pitch.
Alan Gordon (sub): 7.5
Assisted the winner against Antigua. No time versus Guatemala.
Joe Corona: N/A
Only saw a few minutes against Guatemala, and while energetic, had little time to show anything else. Importantly, however, Corona, who is Mexican-American and could have represented Mexico, is now cap-tied for the U.S.
Match: U.S. Men’s National Team vs. Guatemala
Date: Oct. 16, 2012
Competition: 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifier; Semifinal Round
Venue: LIVESTRONG Sporting Park; Kansas City, Kan.
Kickoff: 6 p.m. CT
Weather: 79 degrees, clear
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 3 0 3
GUA 1 0 1
GUA – Carlos Ruiz (Jose Manuel Contreras) 5th minute
USA – Carlos Bocanegra (Clint Dempsey) 10
USA – Clint Dempsey (Eddie Johnson) 18
USA – Clint Dempsey (Michael Bradley) 36
USA: 1-Tim Howard; 6-Steve Cherundolo, 20-Geoff Cameron, 3-Carlos Bocanegra (capt.), 2-Michael Parkhurst; 19-Graham Zusi (7-Maurice Edu, 78), 14-Danny Williams, 4-Michael Bradley, 18-Eddie Johnson (11-Joe Corona, 90); 8-Clint Dempsey, 9-Herculez Gomez (16-Sacha Kljestan, 66)
Subs not used: 5-Kyle Beckerman,12-Brad Guzan, 17-Alan Gordon, 21-Clarence Goodson, 22-Nick Rimando
Head Coach: Jurgen Klinsmann
GUA: 1-Ricardo Jerez Jr.; 2-Ruben Morales, 3-Elias Vasquez, 4-Erwin Morales, 23-Jonathan Lopez; 6-Wilfred Velasquez, 10-Mario Rodriguez (22-Minor Lopez, 46), 11-Jose Manuel Contreras, 15-Manuel Leon, 18-Carlos Figueroa (16-Marco Pappa, 46); 20-Carlos Ruiz (capt.) (17-Dwight Pezzarossi, 88)
Subs not used: 12-Cristian Alvarez, 21-Jaime Carbajal; 5-Wilson Lalin, 13-Claudio Albizuris, 7-Marco Tulio Ciani, 8-Gonzalo Romero, 14-Sergio Trujillo, 9-Henry Lopez, 19-Lester Ruiz
Head coach: Ever Hugo Almeida
Stats Summary: USA / GUA
Shots: 12 / 9
Shots on Goal: 8 / 4
Saves: 3 / 5
Corner Kicks: 8 / 5
Fouls: 11 / 12
Offside: 0 / 3
GUA – Elias Vasquez (caution) 76th minute
USA – Clint Dempsey (caution) 90+2
Referee: Roberto Moreno (PAN)
Assistant Referee 1: Daniel Williamson (PAN)
Assistant Referee 2: Keytzel Corrales (NCA)
Fourth Official: Luis Rodriguez (PAN)