Americans hit bottom in qualifying loss to Guatemala.
By Robert Wagman
By Robert Wagman
(Friday, March 25, 2016) -- The United States men combined a shaky start, a disorganized defense, and a generally ineffectual attack to come away with an unexpected 2-0 loss to Guatemala in its CONCACAF World Cup semifinal qualifying visit to a packed Estadio Mateo Flores in Guatemala City.
To put the loss in perspective, Guatemala had not beaten the United States in their last 21 meetings, 13 of them World Cup qualifiers. Los Chapines last defeat of the U.S. was in a 1988 friendly.
Midway through the six-match Group 3, Trinidad and Tobago (2-0-1) is first with seven points, followed by Guatemala (2-1-0) with six points, the U.S. (1-1-1) with four points and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (0-3-0) with no points. The top two finishers in Group 3 advance to the final-round hexagonal.
The Americans face a critical rematch with Guatemala Tuesday night at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus Ohio at 7 p.m. (ET). The match will be televised by ESPN2 and Spanish-language UniMás.
The U. S. has developed the bad habit of conceding early goals, six times in the last eight matches, and this remained true tonight. The Americans came out surprisingly flat, and Guatemala swarmed forward. The U.S.’s disorganized defense gave up a corner kick in the sixth minute, which led to the first goal when Guatemala defender Rafael Morales beat Mix Diskerud to the ensuing kick and headed a sharp downward header off the back of an out-of-position Diskerud. The redirected ball caromed past a diving Tim Howard.
Guatemala captain Carlos Ruiz, well known to American fans from his eight All-Star years in Major League Soccer, made it 2-0 in the 15th minute on a play where American blame could be spread widely. Guatemala goalkeeper Paulo Motta sent a booming goal kick forward into the attacking end and it went untouched first by U,S, midfielder Michael Bradley and then the center of the American back-line. Ruiz took off running and settled the ball behind the defense, coming in alone on Howard and slotting the ball into the left corner of the net as the keeper took Ruiz’s fake and slid in the wrong direction.
The U.S. had any number of chances throughout the night but a combination of poor finishing and some good goalkeeping by Motta kept the U.S. scoreless. In the second half, coach Jürgen Klinsmann pulled two defenders and inserted additional, forwards but to no avail.
On the night, the U.S. suffered from poor defending, poor passing, poor possession, poor finishing and, on the whole, some very questionable tactics.
The American lineup was changed because of training camp injuries. Central defenders John Brooks suffered a knee contusion and Matt Besler incurred a concussion in practice Thursday. Midfielder Fabian Johnson arrived in camp with a groin injury that did not respond to treatment.
What was glaringly apparent was the Americans’ lack of depth. The injuries resulted in another makeshift back-line. Klinsmann started Omar Gonzalez and Michael Orozco in central defense. They have not teamed together before. Edgar Castillo made his first U.S. appearance in two years at left back, while Geoff Cameron, normally a center back, started on the right side.
In the absence of the suspended midfielder-defender Jermaine Jones, Diskerud was in the central midfield with Bradley. Up top, Clint Dempsey partnered with Bobby Wood. As usual, Dempsey played as a withdrawn attacker leaving Wood as the lone striker. As has become his habit or out of necessity, Klinsmann started a number of players out of their normal positions.
U.S. Player Ratings
Goalkeeper Tim Howard - 5: He could not be faulted for either goal, but saying that, he might have done better on both. On the first, he was left to guard the entire net without defenders stationed at either post, a prime example of questionable tactics.
Defender Geoff Cameron - 5.5: He looked lonely on the wing, but was solid when moved to the center of defense after intermission.
Defender Omar Gonzalez - 4: He has effectively been benched since a poor performance against Peru. Tonight was worse. Given the failure of his partner, he was essentially alone in the middle. If he wants to get to Russia 2018, should the U.S. qualify, he will have to play much better.
Defender Michael Orozco - 3:. With the Brooks and Besler injuries, he got the surprise start. He is not playing for his Mexican club and one can see why. He was just awful and seemingly out of his depth.
Defender Edgar Castillo - 4.5: He made the poor back-pass that resulted in the corner kick, leading to the first goal. He was not awful, but did not get forward much to contribute to the offense.
Midfielder Mix Diskerud - 2.5:. Granted, he was playing out of position, but he had as bad a game as any U.S. player in memory. He gave up the corner, then lost his mark and was outjumped on the first goal. Then, he failed to stop the goal kick and they made it to Ruiz for a 2-0 American deficit. He was mercifully subbed out at the half in what could well be his last appearance in the rest of the Klinsmann era.
Midfielder Michael Bradley - 4.5: He had an awful night. His possession and passing was off. He skied an open shot and potential goal. Then, he was issued a late yellow card. He relative absence showed how important he is to the U.S. cause.
Midfielder DeAndre Yedlin - 4:. At an advanced position in the first half, he did little or nothing. Moved back to defense in the second half, he was solid and he made a sterling play that prevented a third Guatemalan goal.
Midfielder Alejandro Bedoya - 6: He had a solid match, but was stoned by keeper Paulo César Motta twice. He might have been more effective if those around did better.
Forward Clint Dempsey - 5.5:. He actually had a pretty good night. He set up what were probably the best American chances to score, but when he received his own beautiful set-up, he hit the ball right at Motta. He was the best American, at times, especially over the final half hour. He tended to disappear for long stretches, especially in the first half.
Forward Bobby Wood - 4: Service to him was virtually non-existent. He was active, but generally ineffective.
Midfielder Darlington Nagbe (46th minute for Diskerud) - 5.5: He started several plays that should have resulted in U.S. goals. He added pace to the middle in a good performance.
Forward Gyasi Zardes (59th minute for Orozco) - 5:. He was active, but produced little.
Forward Jozy Altidore (66th minute for Gonzalez) - 5:. He looked good in an all-too-brief appearance. He had a sure goal denied by Motta in the 82 nd minute. He should start on Tuesday.
SoccerTimes U.S. Player of the Match: Alejandro Bedoya.