Skip to content

Study points ahead of tonight’s World Cup qualifier: United States vs. Guatemala

Jun 12, 2012, 6:05 PM EDT

Antigua and Barbuda v United States Getty Images

A win puts the United States in great shape one-third of the way through semifinal round qualifying en route to Brazil 2014. A U.S. loss is hardly crushing since the Americans took care of business at home last week, but it will turn up the pressure slightly in qualifiers ahead.

Plus, since there’s still a sports-loving set out there that doesn’t understand the thorny side of CONCACAF qualifiers in Central American hot zones, nor the wolverine-like fight in these smaller nations, especially when they feel the emotional burden of playing for something larger than themselves, the Jurgen Klinsmann critics will feast on anything less than a solid Guatemalan thumping by the U.S. men.

Here’s what’s on my mind ahead of this one inside a Nacional Mateo Flores Stadium that promises to be insane with passion and nervous energy:

  • Guatemala is desperate. Already.

That’s because they’ve lost already. True, it was on the road, at Jamaica. So it can’t be totally unexpected, although this is hardly Jamaica’s best version.

The problem is that Guatemalan fans, players, coaches and media all see the reality of the situation. A win Friday could have created some wiggle room, at least. Now, a loss likely leaves Guatemala way behind the qualifying 8 ball, stuck with zero points after two matches, with a scary stretch of ground to make up between the United States and Jamaica.  It would pour a huge pot of hot soup pressure all over Los Chapines at the worst time, with about three months to hear about it until the next round of matches in early September.

They’ll take a point, but what they really, desperately crave is three of them.

source:

  •  What’s going on with the U.S. back line?

It’s really all about Fabian Johnson, and where the left fullback up-and-comer stands in his bid for fitness.

If Johnson can play (and be effective), then U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann has just one choice, and not even a great big one: who to partner with captain Carlos Bocanegra. (Bocanegra, by the way, got the goal last time these two met in Guatemala City in World Cup qualifying, a 1-0 U.S. win in 2008.)

If Johnson can’t go, Klinsmann has three important decisions, starting with where to play Bocanegra. The U.S. veteran defender moved over to left back on Friday following Jose Torres’ injury, and that turned into a quick fiasco. Oguchi Onyewu took Bocanegra’s center back spot – and didn’t take long to remind everyone that he’s a mistake waiting to happen these days.

Clarence Goodson will surely be in tonight’s match; no matter how many times people want to marginalize him in the U.S. center back conversation, Goodson always acquits himself well when provided opportunities. The Brøndby IF captain just hasn’t had a stinker in the U.S. shirt yet – while Onyewu’s matches of woe are getting harder to keep track of.

Here’s the problem: if Bocanegra is forced to play out wide, does Goodson partner centrally with Geoff Cameron, who has limited international experience, and who would be playing his initial World Cup qualifier? That’s a fine “how  do you do”, some way to get your first qualifier test, down in the roiling cauldron of Guatemala City.

If Johnson can play, Klinsmann shouldn’t really have a hard time at all: It’s Bocanegra and Goodson in the middle. (And trusty Steve Cherundolo on the right, as always.)

  • The midfield mix; still tinkering

In the four games so far in this late-spring series, Michael Bradley (pictured above right) has played closer to the forwards at times, but he’s always been the designated holding man, tucked in behind Jermaine Jones and Maurice Edu at times.

For this one, I agree with the sharpies over at The Shinguardian, who reckon in their game preview that Edu will sit deeper, tasked with doggedly holding the ground in front of the back line. From the Shinguardian preview:

Edu’s speed of defending will come in to play here and in this role he’ll be used just like Ricardo Clark was used against teams like Costa Rica and Honduras for Bob Bradley. Seal off the counter and bide time until his teammates get back behind the ball.

Edu will handle the tackling and tracking; It’s all about him being smart in ball handling. He’s got to distribute with utmost simplicity and clarity. No chances in this one can be accepted from the Rangers man.

I asked Klinsmann about this one in Tampa. He said essentially that these three are his  go-to guys in midfield now, and that he has faith in them whichever way he tilts the roles.

Jermaine Jones must keep his head.

I went over that one here. Long story short, the Guatemalans know he’s the guy to bait. So he can’t take it. That bait, that is.

I keep wondering who starts at forward

Well, no more. Herculez Gomez keeps starting. And keeps scoring. And keeps drawing effusive praise from his boss, Herr Klinsmann, for relishing all the dirty work that comes in the job description.   source:

I wanted to see a little more creative combining from Gomez on Friday against Antigua and Barbuda, a match that needed a little more dynamic presence from everyone along the U.S. front line. But Tuesday’s match is a Central American blue collar special, and there’s nothing “dynamic” about it. These are about guts, about having the stomach for the fight, about not being a bit undone by the roar and by the spittle and the eye gouges and anything else. It’s about effort and staying stubbornly on mission, about getting the job done.

Gomez looks up for it.

More, including lots of facts and figures, is here on the match from U.S. Soccer.

Latest Posts
  1. FOLLOW LIVE — Copa America final: Messi, Argentina face hosts Chile

    Jul 4, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT

    Chile v Argentina - 2015 Copa America Chile Final Chile v Argentina - 2015 Copa America Chile Final

    We go once more at the 2015 Copa America. This time it’s Argentina vs. Chile for all the marbles.

  2. Busy international summer could give clubs plenty to plan for next season

    Jul 4, 2015, 3:24 PM EDT

    Messi Getty Images

    With international competitions all over the globe this summer, clubs may want to think about stockpiling depth and resting their best players throughout the course of next season.

  3. Lloyd, Brian prove crucial to United States’ turnaround at Women’s World Cup

    Jul 4, 2015, 3:09 PM EDT

    150630-Lloyd-Brian Getty Images

    Carli Lloyd has taken rightfully taken over the spotlight, but Morgan Brian’s supporting role is no less important.

  4. Dinamo Zagreb president, manager arrested on bribery and tax evasion charges

    Jul 4, 2015, 1:18 PM EDT

    Mamic Getty Images

    Croatia’s most successful club has seen police throw its president and manager in prison.

  5. Sepp Blatter’s championing of women’s soccer leaves Megan Rapinoe unimpressed

    Jul 4, 2015, 12:07 PM EDT

    Rapinoe Getty Images

    Popularity of women’s soccer has improved greatly the past few years, but there’s still much work to be done, and the US international isn’t happy with FIFAs parading of accomplishments.

  6. Report: Robin van Persie agrees to personal terms with Fenerbahce

    Jul 4, 2015, 10:50 AM EDT

    VanPersie Getty Images

    With the Dutchman set to turn 32 before the start of the league season, Manchester United may look to cash in on his star power after a down year.

  7. Galatasaray officially unveils Lukas Podolski on a permanent transfer from Arsenal

    Jul 4, 2015, 10:22 AM EDT

    Podolski Getty Images

    The German international didn’t get a first-team guarantee from Arsene Wenger, so he moved on.

  8. Shaqiri proving a wanted man with Atletico Madrid and Spurs joining the mix

    Jul 4, 2015, 9:47 AM EDT

    Shaqiri Getty Images

    Stoke had an offer accepted by Inter, but two more clubs are reportedly in the mix for the Swiss international.

  9. Copa America Final preview: Argentina looks for first title since 1993 against hosts Chile

    Jul 4, 2015, 8:31 AM EDT

    Aguero Getty Images

    Argentina looks to end a 22-year continental trophy drought against the hosts who have never won the Copa America.

  10. MLS Snapshot: Seattle Sounders 1-0 DC United

    Jul 4, 2015, 1:15 AM EDT

    Marco Pappa AP

    Tyrone Mears scored an absolute beauty late in the match to down a ten-man D.C. United.

  11. Klinsmann on USMNT’s win over Guatemala: “I’m not happy with that performance”

    Jul 4, 2015, 12:08 AM EDT

    FBL-FRIENDLY-2016-NED-USA Getty Images

    Despite leaving Nashville with a 4-0 win, Jurgen Klinsmann was far from pleased with how the United States played.

  12. MLS Snapshot: Houston Dynamo 1-1 Chicago Fire

    Jul 3, 2015, 11:32 PM EDT

    Chicago Fire v Houston Dynamo Getty Images

    Substitutes scored the goals for each side, as the Fire leave Houston with a point.

  13. 2011 Women’s World Cup final loss still burns in Abby Wambach’s memory

    Jul 3, 2015, 11:00 PM EDT

    MONTREAL, QC - JUNE 30:  Abby Wambach #20 of the United States reacts before taking on Germany in the FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 Semi-Final Match at Olympic Stadium on June 30, 2015 in Montreal, Canada.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Wambach gets a second chance in a World Cup final against Japan again on Sunday.

  14. USMNT player ratings: How Klinsmann’s men fared against Guatemala

    Jul 3, 2015, 10:45 PM EDT

    Guatemala v United States Getty Images

    Seventeen players saw action in the USMNT’s 4-0 over Guatemala. See who helped (or hurt) their standing heading into the Gold Cup.

  15. Rampone, other US veterans met with Ellis at midway point of Women’s World Cup

    Jul 3, 2015, 10:10 PM EDT

    during the FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 Group D match between Nigeria and USA at BC Place Stadium on June 16, 2015 in Vancouver, Canada. Getty Images

    The U.S. turned things around mid-tournament and now finds itself in the World Cup final.

  16. Peru 2-0 Paraguay: Carillo volley gives Peru third place in Copa America

    Jul 3, 2015, 9:35 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptm0mmvlntm2nza3owm2njdizti5m2uyzwixztfinjiy AP

    For the second straight Copa America tournament, Peru has left with a third place finish.

  17. USA 4-0 Guatemala: USMNT cruises into Gold Cup with win in Nashville

    Jul 3, 2015, 9:01 PM EDT

    Fabian Johnson, Ruben Morales, Carlos Castrillo AP

    Three second half goals led to an easy win for the USMNT, as the Gold Cup is now just four days away.

  18. Turkey time: Nani to Fenerbahce, Podolski set for Galatasaray move

    Jul 3, 2015, 8:21 PM EDT

    Nani AP

    Deemed as excess talent by their Premier League clubs, Nani and Lukas Podolski are headed to the Turkish Super Lig.

Featured video

PST Extra: Done deals & transfer gossip