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Early take-aways from United States win over Guatemala

Oct 16, 2012, 9:44 PM EDT

Guatemala v United States - World Cup Qualifier Getty Images

KANSAS CITY — United States soccer team moved into final-round World Cup qualifying with a 3-1 win Tuesday over Guatemala in Kansas City. Here are some initial thoughts on the night as the United States’ drive toward its seventh consecutive World Cup (all of them since 1986) is now into its final push.

  • Advancing was always Job 1 on Tuesday, to get the result that propels them into the final six in regional World Cup qualifying. So, that’s a big check-plus. All the critical, comprehensive analysis can (and will) come later, because the second round was harder than most people expected. But for now, everyone can breathe a little. The United States will join Jamaica from this group in next year’s final stage.
  • Guatemala is out, obviously. They simply could not get the draw they came into Kansas City to get.
  • For all the face-twisting and teeth gnashing, the United States finished atop the group.
  • There were lots of good individual performances, as there rightly should have been against an outmanned bunch from Guatemala. Danny Williams and Michael Bradley performed well in the middle. Graham Zusi – those weren’t boos, they were yelling “Zuuus” for the hometown hero – added a lot on the outside, working well once again with right back Steve Cherundolo. And Clint Dempsey’s two goals speak for themselves; yes, they were tap-ins, but getting yourself in the right spots means a lot.
  • In the match that mattered, Bradley and Williams were the central midfield preferences for U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann. If we’re guessing, and unless Stuart Holden can get healthy and say something about it, that certainly is looking like the preferred central pairing for the final round and, if they make it, for Brazil 2014.
  • It must have been awfully frustrating in the late going for the Guatemalans, who had precious few chances on to gather themselves offensive and move forward over the last 20 minutes. That was credit to the U.S. ability to keep the ball, with Bradley orchestrating the drive to keep possession. Along with Williams, Dempsey and Cherundolo (and others, but those in particular), they kept the ball moving at a good pace – away from the tiring visitors, which was the important part.
  • All this high tech fitness stuff must be good for something. The United States clearly had more gas left in the tank after 65 or 70 minutes, when the Guatemalans wilted down to practically nothing. Even with the knowledge that they desperately needed goals, the visitors could do very little in terms of bothering the U.S. back line.
  • Lots of Americans – heck, lots of folks around the CONCACAF region – are celebrating this little dandy bit tonight: This was probably the last we’ll ever see of Carlos Ruiz in World Cup Qualifying. Truly, he may be the most infuriating player in the world.
  • No one on the field, on either side, has the sophistication to run the midfield like Bradley. His work throughout the match was tactically sound and technically adept, playing more offensively (slightly ahead of Williams) early, and then alongside in a more conventional 4-4-2 in the second half. And that third U.S. goal, all the way through, from the swell dummy to the delicate little chip over the goalkeeper, was top-class stuff.
  • In all honesty, it’s fair to begin asking if Carlos Bocanegra can play at this level anymore? He’s playing in the Spanish second division, and on a bad team at that. So, I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising that the speed of the international game catches him sometimes unawares.
  • It certainly did on that first goal, when the U.S. back line was all over the place. The line was too high, Bocanegra and Cameron were too far apart and then the U.S. captain simply didn’t have the foot speed to catch … Ruiz? Ruiz is a lot of things, but “fast” isn’t one of them.
  • Klinsmann: “We didn’t need to take that first goal. The good thing was the response. We turned it right around.”
  1. wfjackson3 - Oct 16, 2012 at 9:50 PM

    “For all the face-twisting and teeth gnashing, the United States finished atop the group.”

    Dempsey face?

    • joeyt360 - Oct 16, 2012 at 10:10 PM

      You win 1 internet. :-)

      • wfjackson3 - Oct 16, 2012 at 10:30 PM

        Hahahahaha, thats all I need.

  2. wfjackson3 - Oct 16, 2012 at 9:57 PM

    Last but not least, we should all remember that Klinsmann still hasn’t had the luxury of fielding our best eleven at the same time. Hell, he has been lucky to have 2 of our best 4 players at any given time. If our team can get and remain healthy, I think we will see some growth come WC time.

    • joeyt360 - Oct 16, 2012 at 10:11 PM

      True. I do think we should put his defensive choices under a bit of a microscope, but offensively, when you’ve had Donovan and Dempsey together so rarely, it must be said you haven’t gotten a full chance to prove yourself as a coach.

  3. wfjackson3 - Oct 16, 2012 at 10:31 PM

    Can someone please tell me what songs US fans sing during USMNT games? I would like to see the first stanza of My country ’tis of thee make an appearance in the fan support rotation. Everyone knows it and you have to be made of stone not to feel it when people sing it.

  4. drewvt6 - Oct 17, 2012 at 12:47 AM

    Remember when Eddie Johnson was a young up and comer and he plain old wouldn’t work hard to win the ball back? Where did that guy go? There certainly it’s something to be said about veteran players. Maybe one day after years of disappointment Freddy Adu, Torres, etc will learn this lesson

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