Jun 12, 2012, 1:00 PM EDT
U.S. Soccer players and staff, in quite moments, while still observing the statesman tenants of political correctness, will cautiously allow that no country has “gamesmanship” down like Guatemala.
They work in skillful dark arts of naughty distraction the way Spain works in passing, or the way Leo Messi works in “awesome.”
So they’ll step on toes. They’ll say naughty things. They’ll swing elbows of menace, quick and hard to detect. They’ll grab things that have absolutely no business being grabbed.
And that’s all empowered by that notorious backdrop of intimidating atmosphere.
The dubious deeds, at highest crank when playing at home in Guatemala City, are not just about distracting visitors from their night’s task; it’s also about baiting. Don’t think for a second that Guatemalan coaches haven’t circled U.S. midfielder Jermaine Jones. He’s surely the most likely candidate to lose his mind out there, the odds-on choice to be undone by the sneaky and the naughty.
You may not like the dubious tactics of the underdog. I certainly don’t endorse them. But I do get it.
Guatemala wants desperately to accomplish the unthinkable, to nail down that elusive berth in the World Cup.
With a population of almost 14 million, it’s a little bigger than Honduras, a nation that did accomplish the highly implausible two years ago, putting itself with tremendous pride on the global soccer map with an appearance at World Cup 2010.
The Guatemalan people, among the poorest in Latin America, would benefit so handsomely just seeing their land arrive at a World Cup, being mentioned alongside the majestic likes of Brazil, Argentina, Spain, etc. It’s lottery-like in this way; dreaming about it all is half the fun.
The players understand – and that understanding justifies the antics in their minds. They’ll want desperately to make this dream happen for themselves and for the impassioned supporters, who will fill the stadium by pre-game warm-up time, cheering for the point or points that will get their team just a little closer to Brazil 2014.
Guatemala has a chance to do so, too. Not a great one, but a chance. Soccer America tells you here about some of the men who matter for Guatemala.
Carlos Ruiz is a familiar name, and the longtime MLS can be at his pesky, infuriating best when wearing the national shirt. He won’t be in tip-top shape; at 32, Ruiz is currently between clubs. Then again, Ruiz has spent much of his career at less-than-full-fitness due to his out-and-about lifestyle – but his static, physical playing style means he doesn’t have to be supremely fit to be a big ol’ bother.
Marco Pappa (pictured), the Chicago Fire midfielder is a difference maker who can turn a match in an instant.
Veteran forward Dwight Pezzarossi will be targeting his 60th cap, and that experience will count against the Americans.
- Why MLS was so focused on New York as the 20th market 11
- It’s official: Manchester City and the Yankees will own and operate Major League Soccer’s newest expansion team. 28
- Gareth Bale set to re-sign with Tottenham – But is it a good deal for the Welshman? 5
- Looking back at Week 6 of the NWSL season 2
- Movement in the LA Galaxy-Omar Gonzalez situation 6
- Bigger impact on U.S. soccer growth: David Beckham or Pele? (35)
- It’s official: Manchester City and the Yankees will own and operate Major League Soccer’s newest expansion team. (28)
- Portland ball kid correct to deny Mario de Luna (12)
- More on Landon Donovan and the U.S. national team roster (11)
- Notes from today’s big announcement on MLS, NYCFC the Yankees and the rest (11)
- Durant pledges $1 million for tornado victims
- Golden Super Bowl to Bay Area; LI to Houston
- PBT: Grizzlies aim to stem Spurs' momentum
- CSN: Tiger admits he and Sergio don't get along
- HBT: Yankees buying share of expansion MLS team
- PHT: Kings searching for killer instinct in Game 4
- PFT: Romo out of OTAs after back surgery
- Play Video: Premier League drama set to thrill
- Play Video: Premier League: Real English drama
- Play Video: Highlights: Union outlast Fire
- Play Video: Sir Alex says goodbye
- Play Video: Morgan committed to growth of new women's league
- Play Video: Boy with cancer, 8, scores against major league soccer team