Skip to content

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

Jun 12, 2012, 6:05 PM EST

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. John Brooks, a week after scoring, has forgettable match in 5-0 thumping

    Dec 21, 2014, 11:58 AM EST

    Brooks Getty Images

    A day to forget for the American central defender in Germany’s top flight.

  2. Newcastle 0-1 Sunderland: Johnson sinks Newcastle again (video)

    Dec 21, 2014, 10:26 AM EST

    SunderlandNewcastle

    The boyhood Newcastle fan scored at St. James Park for the third year in a row as Sunderland stole the Tyne-Wear derby late.

  3. Watch Live: Liverpool vs Arsenal (Lineups and Live Stream)

    Dec 21, 2014, 10:16 AM EST

    Sterling Getty Images

    Raheem Sterling looks to be the lone attacking option for Liverpool as Brendan Rodgers has left both his available strikers on the bench.

  4. WATCH: Watch Lionel Messi’s silky first touch lead to a stellar goal

    Dec 21, 2014, 8:52 AM EST

    Messi Getty Images

    A magnetizing first touch leads to a meaningless but nonetheless beautiful goal by the man who gives us magic weekly.

  5. Watch Live: Newcastle vs Sunderland (Lineups and Live Stream)

    Dec 21, 2014, 7:53 AM EST

    PardewPoyet Getty Images

    The heated Tyne-Wear derby has brought us goals and fireworks of many kinds, and will be no different today as Sunderland looks to win four in a row over Newcastle for the first time ever.

  6. Tim Howard says Frank Lampard should leave Man City, start MLS season with NYCFC

    Dec 20, 2014, 10:54 PM EST

    FBL-ENG-PR-MAN CITY-CRYSTAL PALACE FBL-ENG-PR-MAN CITY-CRYSTAL PALACE

    Howard doesn’t think Lampard will start the MLS season with NYCFC, although he says he should.

  7. Report: Canadian international Doneil Henry to join West Ham United, pending work permit

    Dec 20, 2014, 9:51 PM EST

    Doneil Henry, Toronto FC (left) Doneil Henry, Toronto FC (left)

    Doneil Henry is reportedly close to joining West Ham, which is a surprise, to say the least.

  8. Brendan Rodgers will give Raheem Sterling a period of rest after Christmas

    Dec 20, 2014, 8:46 PM EST

    Raheem Sterling, Liverpool FC Raheem Sterling, Liverpool FC

    After logging lots of miles the last 16 months, Raheem Sterling is going to get a short rest very soon.

  9. New York City FC now focusing on Queens, Brooklyn in search for stadium site

    Dec 20, 2014, 8:04 PM EST

    Yankee Stadium Yankee Stadium

    NYCFC won’t be calling the Bronx home, but they’re still hopeful a deal can be done elsewhere in the city.

  10. Arsene Wenger says Arsenal could spend big in January, if the deals are right

    Dec 20, 2014, 7:13 PM EST

    Arsenal Training Session Arsenal Training Session

    Arsene Wenger says he’s not cheap, and that you should join him for a night out if you don’t believe him.

  11. La Liga & Serie A roundup: Barcelona keep Real Madrid close; Roma fall further behind Juventus

    Dec 20, 2014, 5:56 PM EST

    Luis Suarez, FC Barcelona Getty Images

    Barcelona are keeping things tight in Spain, while Roma are losing sight of Juventus once again.

  12. Real Madrid outclass San Lorenzo, win 2014 Club World Cup

    Dec 20, 2014, 4:33 PM EST

    Real Madrid v San Lorenzo - FIFA Club World Cup Final Real Madrid v San Lorenzo - FIFA Club World Cup Final

    Four trophies in one calendar year — it’s a good time to be Real Madrid.

  13. Stuttgarter Kickers forward scores match-winner wearing heart defibrillator (video)

    Dec 20, 2014, 3:42 PM EST

    mdzol.com mdzol.com

    After collapsing on the field in a game back in July 2013, Engelbrecht had undergone four heart surgeries to get back on the pitch.

  14. Premier League Sunday preview: Loaded morning sees Tyne-Wear Derby and Liverpool vs. Arsenal

    Dec 20, 2014, 3:16 PM EST

    FBL-ENG-PR-SUNDERLAND-NEWCASTLE Getty Images

    Things are going to be extra intense all Sunday morning, so put on a pot of coffee and enjoy the rush.

  15. Bundesliga wrap: Robben keeps up Bayern’s history-making pace, BVB falls… again

    Dec 20, 2014, 2:25 PM EST

    1. FSV Mainz 05 v FC Bayern Muenchen - Bundesliga Getty Images

    Pep Guardiola’s side carries a gaudy plus-37 goal differential, is 9-0 at home and has five wins and three draws on the road.

  16. Roberto Martinez “very disappointed” as Everton’s inconsistency continues

    Dec 20, 2014, 2:15 PM EST

    Roberto Martínez has exceeded early expectations at Everton, his "transition period" seeing the Toffees drop just one of their first 15 league games. (Source: Getty Images.) Getty Images

    Martinez can’t put his finger on Everton’s struggles, but does think his side must defend better.

  17. Stoppage time goal decides inaugural Indian Super League title in front of nearly 37,000 in Mumbai

    Dec 20, 2014, 1:40 PM EST

    Closing Ceremony Of Indian Super League Football Tournament Getty Images

    Mumbai was the home of the title match, with Atletico de Kolkata knocking off the Kerala Blasters 1-0.

  18. Premier League roundup: Goals galore as Saints, Tottenham, QPR, Man City win

    Dec 20, 2014, 1:33 PM EST

    FBL-ENG-PR-MAN CITY-CRYSTAL PALACE FBL-ENG-PR-MAN CITY-CRYSTAL PALACE

    Seven games took place in the PL on Saturday. Here’s videos, analysis, recaps and more.

  19. VIDEO — Christian Benteke turns Evans inside out to give Villa a 1-0 lead over Manchester United

    Dec 20, 2014, 12:45 PM EST

    Aston Villa v Manchester United  - Premier League Getty Images

    Benteke dances for space before lashing a curler into the goal to give Villa a 1-0 lead. It’s one of those “Why we watch” goals.

  20. WATCH: Match of the Day – Recap Saturday’s madness in the Premier League

    Dec 20, 2014, 12:40 PM EST

    PremierLeagueNBC

    Match of the Day begins at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC. Watch it live online, here.

Featured video

Week 17: PL Saturday recap