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.
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Mar 27, 2015, 8:20 PM EDT
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Mar 27, 2015, 6:42 PM EDT
22-year-old Ventura Alvarado asserts that he would like to play for USMNT in the long term.
Mar 27, 2015, 6:00 PM EDT
Manager Chris Coleman say Gareth Bale is only focused on the Wales’ “job in hand.”
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Suarez doesn’t think he could be classified as hooligan after his biting incidents.
Mar 27, 2015, 3:45 PM EDT
The New England Revolution have been on the losing end early in the season before.
Mar 27, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT
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Mar 27, 2015, 1:27 PM EDT
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Mar 27, 2015, 12:18 PM EDT
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Mar 27, 2015, 11:04 AM EDT
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Mar 27, 2015, 10:11 AM EDT
Lampard is in the Big Apple, where he’ll spend time with his future teammates and watch them play Sporting KC.
Mar 27, 2015, 8:25 AM EDT
With a six-point lead in the league (and a game in hand), do Chelsea really need a “blessing in disguise” to win this year’s Premier League title?
Mar 27, 2015, 8:03 AM EDT
A star-depleted (international duty) Week 4 of MLS should still provide lots of entertainment and quality.
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Mar 26, 2015, 10:00 PM EDT
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Mar 26, 2015, 7:17 PM EDT
Another month out for Sturridge, just when Liverpool’s top-four dreams rest on his shoulders the most.
Mar 26, 2015, 6:54 PM EDT
You couldn’t get this one anymore wrong, UEFA. 10-times worse than racism? Not OK.
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