USA vs. Guatemala: A Look Ahead

Photo by ISIPhotos.com

By IVES GALARCEP

There are any number of scenarios that could see the U.S. Men’s National Team qualify for the Hexagonal round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, but there is no confusion about what the Americans need to do tonight against Guatemala.

Win or tie, and the U.S. can start making plans for 2013 qualifying.

There will obviously be some jitters among U.S. fans who fear the worst-case scenario, which would involve the Americans losing and Jamaica winning by a big enough margin against Antigua & Barbuda to knock the U.S. out of qualifying. That scenario would cause the United States to miss the World Cup for the first time since 1986.

History is on the home team’s side tonight at Livestrong Sporting Park, where American fans from all over the country are converging. The U.S. hasn’t lost a home qualifier since 2001, and they haven’t lost a home qualifier where American fans were the majority since  1969 (a loss to Haiti in San Diego).

From that 1969 loss to now the Americans have lost two home qualifiers. One was to Mexico in Los Angeles in 1972, the other was to Honduras at RFK Stadium in 2001. In both instances, the Americans were treated like the road team, with visiting supporters outnumbering their American counterparts by a considerable margin.

Tonight, at Livestrong Sporting Park, a strongly pro-USA crowd will gather to see their team book their place in the Hex. A draw will do, but after a round filled with lackluster performances, the U.S. will be looking to flex their muscle and show that they are still very much a CONCACAF powerhouse.

Jurgen Klinsmann made it clear on Monday that the Americans would not be playing for a draw, and with Guatemala entering the match short-handed defensively, it only makes sense that the U.S. would want to go after the visitors to secure a lead and give themselves a cushion in order to avoid any late-game craziness.

Guatemala will sit back and defend. They know a draw secures their place in the Hexagonal and opening up and trying to attack on the road doesn’t make much sense. They can pick their spots on the counter, and look to draw fouls near the penalty area with the hope of setting up Marco Pappa for some more free kick magic like he delivered in the June draw between these teams in Guatemala City.

For the Americans, Michael Bradley will be the lynchpin of the midfield, an imposing presence who should dominate the middle of the park. If Klinsmann starts Graham Zusi and Sacha Kljestan in the same midfield, the Americans could dominate possession and create plenty of chances for the projected forward tandem of Clint Dempsey and Eddie Johnson.

Dempsey endured a disappointing showing against Antigua & Barbuda, a victim of the awful playing surface that made combination play and runs at the defense nearly impossible. At Livestrong Sporting Park, with an immaculate playing surface to play on, Dempsey should find his groove again.

The match will be a homecoming of sorts for Johnson, who enjoyed a stint with the then Kansas City Wizards before moving to England. Johnson is coming off a dream two-goal game against Antigua & Barbuda, and he could find similar success against a Guatemala defense playing back-up centerbacks because of injuries (though it should be noted Guatemala’s defense looked pretty solid against Jamaica last Friday).

The real question for the Americans is how will the back-line shape up. Carlos Bocanegra struggled at left back against Antigua & Barbuda, while Clarence Goodson also had his share of problems. It seems unlikely that Klinsmann will use the same exact back four, and with Carlos Ruiz being such a physical presence up top for Guatemala, it is a safe bet that Bocanegra will return to central defense.

With Bocanegra and Geoff Cameron dealing with Ruiz, a projected fullback tandem of Steve Cherundolo and Michael Parkhurst would be well-suited to dealing with Guatemala’s most dynamic player, former Chicago Fire star Marco Pappa. The Heerenveen winger brings pace from either flank, and along with being a threat on set pieces, he can also run at defenders and test Tim Howard with shots from distance.

If the Americans can contain Ruiz and Pappa, and if Dempsey can work his magic alongside Johnson, the U.S. should once again defend home turf in qualifying, and secure ten more World Cup qualifiers in 2013. The only need a draw to advance, but you can bet that this U.S. team will be looking to put on a show after failing to impress throughout this round of qualifying.

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45 Responses to USA vs. Guatemala: A Look Ahead

  1. dcm9 says:

    Prediction, 2-0. US with a comfortable win. Why? Because we haven’t had a solid performance in so long, us fans are due a reward for all the stress.

    • Gnarls 2.0 says:

      Agreed. It seems the USMNT has a nasty habit of playing up or down to its opposition. They’ll step up tonight against a decent team, just as they barely squeaked by lowly Antigua.

      • Eric W says:

        I agree on playing down to the competition. My team did that in high school all the time and sometimes it feels to me like that’s just part of the American soccer psyche.

        I have read a couple pieces recently that talk about how US fans have become overconfident in our players pool and quality level – and I agree, I think our team is not as good as we like to think it is. But still, we are better than we’ve been playing.

      • PD says:

        you seem to forget that free kick in Guat City that was the result of a thoughtless foul in a dangerous area. cost us two points.

        i’m with JK. enough damn talk. show the world you can play for 90+. win the damn game. kick some damn ass.

  2. Jonathan says:

    I feel positive about tonight. I have faith that our team will come through with a solid performance. Bradley and/or Dempsey will be the MOTM. COME ON USA!

  3. Jeff says:

    What is the tie breaker after goal differential?

    • Ives Galarcep says:

      goals scored. Once the tie-breaker gets passed that then the next phase will be matches among the tied teams, which wouldn’t bode well for the USA.

      • Chad Gambone says:

        Actually, if we tie Jamaica in GD and GF, we should advance on the away goals rule with a 2-1 loss on road and a 1-0 win at home.

      • Matt M says:

        If it gets to matches among the tied teams, it would bode fine for the US, who would advance on the away goals rule.

        • bryan says:

          TIEBREAKERS: Here are the tiebreakers if two teams are equal in points:

          a) Greatest number of points obtained in all group matches;
          b) Goal difference in all group matches;
          c) Greatest number of goals scored in all group matches;
          If two or more teams are equal on the basis of the above three criteria, their rankings shall be determined as follows:
          d) Greatest number of points obtained in the group matches between the teams concerned;
          e) Goal difference resulting from the group matches between the teams concerned;
          f) Greater number of goals scored in all group matches between the teams concerned;
          g) The goals scored away from home count double between the teams concerned (if the tie is only between two teams)

        • bryan says:

          away goals is literally the last possible tie breaker. this isn’t the CL.

      • THomas says:

        It won’t matter because the only team we can end up tied with is Jamaica if they win and we lose. If they win by 3-0 and we lose 1-0 or worse, we’re out on goal difference.

        If they win 2-0 and we lose 1-0 then we are tied on goal difference but advance on goals scored in all group games.

        If they somehow make up the 4 goals scored difference by winning let’s say 4-2 and we lose 1-0 then we’re tied on goal difference and goals scored in group games, but then advance based on the away goals counting double for goals scored between the tied teams since we lost 2-1 there and they lost 1-0 here.

        So Jamaica needs to win by more than 3 or more goals or score at least 5 goals while winning by 2 or more goals to go through.

        • THomas says:

          So in other words, even if I were filling in at left back, we’ll qualify for next year’s hex.

          • Steve-o says:

            The only way Jamaica wins by 3 goals against a&b is if they paid them off… Which is still very possible :-)

        • biff says:

          Does anyone know then, if the USMNT would lose by two goals, 0-2, 1-3, etc., and Jamaica would win by two goals, 2-0, 3-1, etc. would Jamaica move ahead of the US into second place?

    • biff says:

      US Soccer has a good explanation on their Web site at the bottom of this article

      link to ussoccer.com

  4. Rory says:

    What chanel and what time is the game?

  5. bryan says:

    “For the Americans, Michael Bradley will be the lynchpin of the defense, an imposing presence who should dominate the middle of the park. If Klinsmann starts Graham Zusi and Sacha Kljestan in the same midfield, the Americans could dominate possession and create plenty of chances for the projected forward tandem of Clint Dempsey and Eddie Johnson.”

    who is the 4th midfielder then? also, won’t Williams be the most likely #6? especially since JK has made it clear he thinks Bradley is a #8? or maybe that is what this is saying and im just interpreting it different.

    • biff says:

      Good point, bryan. If you would catalog and rate MB’s qualities as a soccer player, his defensive capabilities would not be — in my opinion — his strongest points, especially since he has been developing and focusing more on his offensive capabilities at Chievo last year and now Roma. I think both Edu and Beckerman are better defensively than Bradley, although I do think Bradley — at least for the time being — is better defensively than Williams. And as I noted in my line-up for the game, I see Klinsmann starting Beckerman as the Number 6 defensive midfielder and MB playing up ahead as Number 8.

      • bryan says:

        I agree and disagree with you too. But I see your points. Personally, I hope JK does not play Beckerman because the truth is, Williams is the next #6 for us. And I think we need to stop messing with the lineups every game. Williams is a solid player and I think it’s important him and Bradley get time together because they’re going to be playing together for awhile in that midfield. I don’t mind Beckerman, but we need to look at the long term as well and I don’t think playing Williams is detrimental to the short term.

    • Ives Galarcep says:

      The “lynchpin of the defense” was a typo, should have read “lynchpin of the midfield.” I think most common sense folks figured out it was a typo.

      As for the midfield, my projected quartet is Williams, Bradley, Zusi and Kljestan.

      • Lucas says:

        Wow Ives…easy there tiger! Testy eh? Are you as nervous as many of us? We all don’t have common sense when it comes to US soccer

  6. groovin says:

    Klinsmann wasn’t around yet, but that 1-0 “anschluss” game of West Germany vs Austria in 1982 sticks out in my mind…both teams need a draw….that’s the way Guatemala will be playing…

    as for how many goals U.S. scores…that’s easy…ONE (the same as in 15 of 19 games, or whatever that ridiculous stat is)… so I’ll say 1-1… late Ruiz goal on a mix up between defenders…

    • biff says:

      No way. The famous Anschluss game was between Germany and Austria, two countries that basically could make the agreement and trust each other to make it happen. I don’t think the describes the mood we will see on the field tonight. Neither team could trust the other not to put in a last second goal just to knock the other out, and if Guatemala wojuld put in goal with 90 seconds to goal to take the lead, the only risk for them would be a quick equalizer from the US and Guatemala is through to the Hex anyway.

      And furthermore, if Guatemala makes the Hex, they would no doubt rather face Jamaica again rather than the US and if they knocked the US out they would have bragging rights. This is not going to be a boring match tonight. Both teams will want to score that first precious goal and I have no doubt the USMNT is going come out smokin’ and do it.

      All that said, both teams will be following the Jamaica-Antigua match and if Antigua takes the lead, then we might se a boring match in KC. But if Jamaica scores a couple of goals in the first 20 minutes, then US and Guatemala will ratchet it up real fast.

      • biff says:

        to add to that, I would not be surprised if Klinsmann pulls another of his famous surprises and starts Alan Gordon to get that first goal fast. Gordon was excellent against Antigua and certainly showed his fighting spirit and that Klinsmann can trust him. Very important when your job would be at risk by a loss.

  7. Raymon says:

    I wanna see a Deuceface tonight. Maybe against Ruiz?

  8. bizzy says:

    We need to stop hyping this up more than it is. If we don’t make it, convincingly, it means our coaching staff isn’t doing their jobs…..plain and simple. Other countries in CONCACAF are becoming a force to be reckoned with, are improving, are becoming tougher opposition, working with players in their league system inferior to MLS….. while we just seem to be were we were 2-3 years ago and hardly improving. Their weapons:
    *Carlos Ruiz plays for Veracruz in Mexico’s Liga de Ascenso…..SECOND DIVISION….
    *Marco Pappa plays for Sportclub Heerenveen in the Eredivisie (Chicago fire before that)….currently 4th from the bottom and struggling with possible religation…….
    …..most of their players are home base and we are going to amp this game up because what?
    If we don’t win we won’t qualify for the hex? We’ll if we don’t win we shouldn’t BE in the hex
    that we are missing a few player that are going to ruin the USMNT? We have the most superior players/league to choose from in our division
    Have are coach that refuses to top off the team with players in MLS for more options? Well, its his job so nobody will be blamed but him
    If we win it doesn’t mean much because these team are inferior……if we lose then that says it all.
    Hate to be negative but we need to start seeing the truth as USMNT fans…….

  9. THomas says:

    I don’t understand that line either. Williams should be just ahead of the back four and behind the midfield three:

    —————Johnson————————————-
    ——————————-Dempsey——————-

    —–Klejstan——–Bradley—————–Zusi—–

    ———————-Williams—————————–

    –Parkhurst——————————–Dolo———
    ——————-Boca—Cameron———————

    ——————-The One and Only——————

    • Eric W says:

      I think it’s a misprint and it was supposed to say “offensive.” Who knows, b/c Bradley can be an important part of breaking up plays in the middle of the field on defense as well. I could be wrong, but I think of him as a solid two-way player.

      • bryan says:

        he’s absolutely a two-way player, for sure. that’s kind of what i think makes a #8 a #8. whereas a #6 is literally staying back and rarely getting forward.

  10. The Ghost of Carlos says:

    I’ll be the first to say it: Carlos Bocanegra is no longer good enough for the USMNT.

    • Frank says:

      I would agree if you said “at LB” at the end of th tstatement

      • Aaron in StL says:

        His time as a top US CB option is dwindling as well. On the ball he’s really fallen off… his give away vs A&B was terrible and set up the goal (and really the only dangerous attack they had).

        He can be helpful in the high-stress hex matches we face, but the goal would be to have a replacement lined up for 2014, and realistically have that player teaming up with Cameron to get big match experience sooner rather than later. Not sure who that’ll be (not Goodson, Ream may have missed the boat, etc), maybe Edu?

    • TheBumsWillAlwaysLose says:

      No longer good enough as a left back. He simply doesn’t have the pace to compete at the international level anymore, especially not in a system that encourages the fullbacks to get up the flank and contribute.

      But as a CB? Boca’s still the man to pair with Cameron. Goodson is ok, but nowhere near as solid as ‘Los. There are guys who might be there come 2013/14, but right now Bocanegra/Cameron are 1 and 2 on the CB list, with a pretty good gap between those two and everyone else.

  11. Lucas says:

    Ives, what’ll be the excuse this time around if we see another lackluster performance? (against a team we should easily dominate, your words not mine) The wind? I hope you’re right!!