Late Friday night, the U.S. Men’s National Team faced Guatemala in their only warm-up match before the Gold Cup begins. After a slow start and some timely substitutions, the U.S. swept Guatemala aside in some style, 6–0.
The starting lineup had Nick Rimando in goal; DaMarcus Beasley, Clay Goodson, Oguchi Onyewu, and Michael Parkhurst in defense; Jose Torres and Kyle Beckerman central, flanked by Edgar Castillo and Landon Donovan; and Joe Corona just beneath Herculez Gomez up top.
From kick-off, Guatemala played as expected, with eleven players behind the ball. Both teams played with very high pressure, and the result was a very choppy affair, with misplaced passes and turnovers. That pressure from Guatemala led to the first shot in anger when Minor Lopez found himself free in the U.S. box, but he lashed his shot well wide.
Beasley was having some joy combining with Castillo on the left, and in the 9th minute, he found space to put in a dangerous cross, which was deflected away. In the 15th minute, Castillo and Beasley combined again to earn a corner kick. Donovan put in a good ball, which Goodson powered at goal. His effort was saved, and Beckerman was unable to turn home the rebound.
After that, Guatemala did a good job of bottling the U.S. up. While the U.S. began to have more and more possession, it was too often lateral and backwards, with Guatemala happy to let the center backs pass back and forth. The bulk of the half was spent in a holding pattern, with occasional breaks for free kicks outside of either box, but none resulting in shots on goal.
Just as the half seemed headed for a dreary scoreless ending, the U.S. upped the tempo. Instead of passing through packs of swarming Guatemalan defenders centrally, the U.S. began playing balls wide and sending crosses into the box.
In the 39th, Donovan almost got his 50th international goal. Beckerman played the ball out to Beasley on the left, who settled and sent in a second-touch cross. Donovan met it at the near post corner of the six-yard box on the volley, but sliced it agonizingly wide of the far post.
In the 42nd, the breakthrough goal finally came. Torres found a little space outside of the Guatemalan box on the left. His lofted cross evaded Corona and two Guatemalan defenders, but not Gomez’s late run to the back post, where he had an easy finish.
Stuart Holden and Mix Diskerud replaced Beckerman and Torres to start the second half, and it didn’t take long for them to exert a very positive influence, with both putting in long-range shots in the first seven or eight minutes of the half. The second goal, though, would come from a very familiar source: Landon Donovan. After being taken down in the box while waiting for a cross from the right, it was clear to all that no one but Donovan would be taking the penalty, which he put away with a pass straight down the middle. The goal was Donovan’s 50th international goal, more than any other U.S. player in history.
The second goal settled things down, and the U.S. grew in confidence. In the 59th minute, Alejandro Bedoya, Brek Shea, and Chris Wondolowski came on for Gomez, Castillo, and Corona, and it was clear the U.S. had more goals in them, though no one expected four:
- 70th minute: Diskerud feeds Donovan, who turns and runs at the Guatemalan defense. Donovan tries to feed Holden in the box, but his pass is deflected. Wondolowski picks up the pieces and finishes calmly, earning his first international goal. 3–0.
- Donovan makes it four, volleying home a lovely lofted ball over the defense from Holden after neat interplay between Diskerud, Holden, Bedoya, and Wondolowski. 4–0.
- 85th minute: Onyewu nods a corner down to Goodson, who taps the ball to himself and sends in a volley, which is blocked, but he follows the play and slams the second ball into the roof of the net. 5–0.
- Diskerud plays Shea up the left line. Shea’s cutback evades everyone except Bedoya, following up the play and making a late run into the box, and he side-foots home. 6–0.
And the goals weren’t the only good opportunities carved out by the U.S. In the 75th, Shea put in a good cross that Bruin almost got to but could only poke wide. In the 77th, Holden put Bruin in on goal, but Bruin’s first touch was poor, and he couldn’t get a shot away. In the 86th, Diskerud chased a lost cause to the end line and put in a cross that Bruin headed straight at the keeper. And, finally, in the 89th, Diskerud released Shea on the left, and his powerful drive went just high and wide of the far post.
The referee, charitably, added no extra time, and the U.S. completed one of its most dominant wins in a very long time.
Taking their chances: Coming into this game, Donovan, Holden, and Diskerud had opportunities to stake their claims for more playing time. To say they took their chances is a massive understatement. Donovan moved central after half time, and his influence increased immediately. Diskerud and Holden had instant chemistry and were making and completing far more ambitious passes than any U.S. player had managed in the first half. Both created goals and scoring chances for others, and Donovan scored twice. You can’t ask for more than that.
Substitutes shine: Aside from Diskerud and Holden, all the U.S. subs made worthy contributions, with Shea the stand-out. His powerful and direct style gave Guatemala fits, and he easily could have scored, in addition to providing the assist for Bedoya’s first international goal. And Wondolowski broke his national team duck.
And yet…: While the second half was stunning, the first 40 minutes of the game were poor, from a U.S. perspective. Beckerman and Torres were perhaps unlucky to be subbed first, but they can hardly complain after seeing what their replacements managed. Donovan also wasn’t very effective until moving inside, and Castillo, while finding some chemistry with Beasley, wasn’t nearly as effective as Shea.
Clean sheets: While the U.S. midfield wasn’t great in the first half, the defense played fairly well, and improved as the game went on. Onyewu played clean, and Parkhurst acquitted himself well. While the starting lineup is likely to change somewhat based on Friday’s performance, expect the back line to remain the same.
What can you say after a performance like that? While the scoreline is probably not a good indication of the U.S. team’s real potential—Guatemala clearly lost interest after the third goal—it does show that the U.S. is sharp, and ready for the Gold Cup. After a slow start, the U.S. jumped all over a weaker opponent and finished them off, which is a good sign. The game against Belize on Tuesday is likely to be similar, and if the U.S. can do the same as they did last night, they will be in very good shape for the tougher games to come.