U.S. makes amends, lifts World Cup hopes by drubbing Guatemala in qualifier.
By Robert Wagman
By Robert Wagman
COLUMBUS, Ohio (Tuesday, March 29 2016) -- The re-energized United States men completely dominated Guatemala tonight and came away with a surprisingly easy 4-0 World Cup qualifying victory tonight before a not-quite-capacity 20,624 at Mapfre Stadium.
A second loss to Guatemala in four days would likely have kept the Americans from qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the first Cup the U.S. would have missed since 1986. Instead, the U.S. could clinch advancement to CONCACAF’s final-round hexagonal in the first of two September qualifiers to end the Group 3 of the semifinal round.
Trinidad and Tobago leads Group 3 at 3-0-1 for 10 points, followed by the U.S. (2-1-1) with seven points, Guatemala (2-2-0) with six points and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (0-4-0) with no points.
On September 2, if the Americans prevails at winless Saint Vincent and Trinidad and Tobago records a home victory over Guatemala, the U.S. is through to the final round. Should T&T not defeat Guatemala, the Americans might have to gain at least a draw in its finale against T&T September 6 in Jacksonville, Fla.
The U.S. showed more life from the opening moments then it showed throughout Friday’s 2-0 setback in Guatemala City. This was especially true in the midfield where Michael Bradley seemed to be everywhere.
The Americans figured Guatemala would bunker in, so the answer was to move the ball quickly from side to side, trying to open passing lanes. U.S. coach Jürgen Klinsmann used a 4-3-3 formation, playing three forwards so they could spread the Guatemala back-line.
Klinsmann made five lineup changes from Friday. As planned Brad Guzan moved into goal, replacing Tim Howard. He moved Geoff Cameron into the center of defense and paired him with Steve Birnbaum. Then he inserted DeAndre Yedlin as a wing-back.
In midfield, Klinsmann placed veteran Graham Zusi to pair with Michael, with Gyasi Zardes, Clint Dempsey and Bobby Wood up front.
This formation paid quick dividends. In the 12th minute, Dempsey jumped on a ball that had been headed back to him Zardes. Dempsey ripped his shot past goalkeeper Paulo Motta.
The U.S. made it 2-0 in the 35th minute when Cameron ran on to Bradley’s free kick and drilled a header into the net.
Just 20 seconds into the second half, the U.S. made it 3-0 when Zusi ran onto a ball that had been miskicked Zardes in the Guatemala penalty area. He found the right side of the net.,
Striker Jozy Altidore finished the scoring in the 89th minute when Dempsey beat two defenders into the box before feeding Altidore for the 4-0 whitewash.
A measure of the American dominance was the first threatening shot from Guatemala did not come until the 56th minute and it was easily kicked away by Guzan. Guzan’s first real save came in the 64th minute when he fell on a loose ball in his area, smothering it before any damage could be done.
“This sent a clear message that we are back in charge (of the qualifying round),” Klinsmann said. “No trip to qualifying for a World Cup is without bumps. We hit one the opening 20 minutes in Guatemala and could not recover, but tonight showed how we can play.”
U.S. Player Ratings
Goalkeeper Brad Guzan - 6: He had very little to do, but was there in the late going when he made the stops expected from a top-flight keeper.
Defender DeAndre Yedlin 5.5: The way the U.S. played, he was more a midfielder than a defender. In that role, he did very well helping move the play from side to side.
Defender Geoff Cameron - 6.5: He seems more relaxed in the central defense rather than on the outside of the back-line. He was not put under a great deal of pressure, but stood tall whenever Guatemala was able to get forward. Icing on the cake was the well-headed goal off the set play.
Defender Steve Birnbaum - 6: He showed no nerves considering how important this match was. He was calm under fire and worked well with his defense partner. An impressive start early in his international career.
Defender Edgar Castillo - 5.5: He certainly had a better night tonight than he had on Friday. He moved forward often and added to the pressure put on Guatemala.
Midfielder Kyle Beckerman - 6: He did a lot of the heavy lifting in the defensive midfield allowing Bradley to move far and wide. He made a number of key stops, yet was able to add to the offense any number of times.
Midfielder Michael Bradley - 7.5: Simply a great game. He seemed to be everywhere. He made numerous defensive stops and was also the key link from the midfield to the strikerss. He more than made up for his lackluster performance on Friday.
Midfielder Graham Zusi - 2.5:. Called in to replace the injured Fabian Johnson, he had little impact on the match.
Forward Gyasi Zardes - 6: His mission was to be active and help open up the Guatemalan back-line. He did a fine job. He assisted on a goal and came close to scoring himself. His contribution was a big plus.
Forward Clint Dempsey - 7: He was present and involved for every minute of the 90. He started the Americans off with a good goal and, with any luck, he could have had a couple more. He showed how valuable he can be.
Forward Bobby Wood - 5.5: H was extremely active, causing the Guatemala defense all kinds of problems. His role tonight was to play wide and to pull defenders with him. He might not have scored a goal, but he created openings for them.
Forward Jozy Altidore (66th minute for Wood) - 5: A good effort for a short while.
Midfielder Ethan Finlay (71st minute for Zardes) - 5.5: He thrilled the home crowd when the Columbus Crew star entered the match. He played hard and thought he had scored a late goals, only to see it disallowed on a highly questionable offside call.
Midfielder Christian Pulisic (79th minute for Zusi) - 5.5: The appearance of the 17-year-old now ties him to the United States going forward, important because Croatia also wanted him..He showed a good awareness of the game and made a couple of effective runs and an additional pair of solid defensive stops.
SoccerTimes U.S. Player of the Match: Michael Bradley.
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
Do you have a comment on this story or something to say about soccer in general? Send us a letter.