Better a day late than never (we were on the road yesterday): Below are the highlights from Tuesday night’s tilt at Livestrong Sporting Park, in which the U.S. gave up a shocking early goal to ex-MLSer Carlos Ruiz, then stormed back for a fairly convincing 3-1 win that sent them through to the final round of CONCACAF qualifying and eliminated Guatemala.
Clint Dempsey set up the first goal and scored the other two. Michael Bradley provided solid midfield anchorage, got forward effectively, and proved that he’s the most important U.S. player at the moment. Eddie Johnson was consistently dangerous, and assisted on the second goal.
To the highlights:
Three quick thoughts:
1. Jurgen Klinsmann’s goal celebrations were a tad much. Was it really that much of a relief, coach? Didn’t you expect to win? That said, we recall him celebrating almost the exact same way after Germany’s goals against Costa Rica in the opening game of the 2006 World Cup. So maybe it’s just his thing.
2. This Guatemala team was missing as many players as the U.S. was, and their replacements weren’t as good as Klinsmann’s backups. They started a 20-year-old in central defense, next to a player who plays in Guatemala’s second division, and they also trotted out two players currently without a club. So while the U.S. win was fairly solid, the competition was a step down from what it’ll be in the next round, and they never should have had any of the shaky moments they did.
3. Speaking of that next round, it’s probably the toughest Hexagonal since the U.S. started reaching the World Cup regularly in 1990. Mexico has never been better, and Honduras is loaded with talent, including some of the players who helped beat Spain in the London Olympics. Los Catrachos humiliated Canada 8-1 on Tuesday. The Canucks only needed a tie in that game to advance, and they did not come within a continent’s distance of getting one.
Panama is vastly improved, and filled with athletic, dangerous players, while Costa Rica is always competitive, featuring Real Salt Lake’s leading scorer Alvaro Saborio, and Fulham man Bryan Ruiz. Jamaica is the weakest team of the six, and they beat the U.S. 2-1 last month in Kingston.
Klinsmann’s team will have to sort themselves out before that round, which begins in February (according to U.S. Soccer).
The coach will have to infuse the team with new blood, too, the sooner the better. More on that in the next post.