The USMNT traveled to Guatemala for its second World Cup qualifier on Tuesday night and came out of the game with a 1-1 draw. The tie, combined with the U.S.’ victory over Antigua and Barbuda on Friday night, gives the U.S. four points out of its first WCQ set.
Here are nine thoughts from the game.
Klinsmann again showed his pragmatism
While the starting lineup was listed officially as a 4-3-3 like Klinsmann has preferred in the overwhelming number of games during his year in charge, once the game started it was obvious the formation was really a 4-2-3-1.
Maurice Edu and Michael Bradley were deployed in a dual holding midfield role with Clint Dempsey playing underneath Herculez Gomez and Landon Donovan and Jermaine Jones on the wings. During the game, Edu and Bradley did well controlling possession for the U.S.
Klinsmann played a very similar formation deploying two holding midfielders (also Edu and Bradley) when the U.S. beat Italy in February and knowing that getting three points in Guatemala would be a difficult task, Klinsmann took the pragmatic, if albeit more negative, approach to the game.
Fabian Johnson’s return to the lineup made a big difference
Johnson returned from injury just in time for the USMNT helping solidify the left side of the Nats defense and providing the team with his, what are becoming trademark, runs forward. One of those such runs provided the assist on Dempsey’s goal.
The added bonus of Johnson’s appearance? He is now cap-tied for the U.S.
The U.S. showed a growing maturity
From the get-go, it looked as if the Guatemalans were intent on drawing Jermaine Jones into yellow card trouble pushing him often and coming into him with late tackles on a number of occasions. (They also chopped down Clint Dempsey every time he touched the ball)
However, Jones did well to show composure and avoid a yellow card.
Mario Rodriguez disgraced himself
Mario Rodriguez, the Guatemalan winger, added himself to the notorious list of footballers willing to cheat to win.
In the 23rd minute Clarence Goodson was yellow carded after a fairly innocuous challenge on Rodriguez because Rodriguez went down like he’d been shot.
Later in the game Rodriguez threw himself into Goodson in the box while awaiting a cross, then threw himself to the pitch grabbing his face looking for a penalty.
Football has enough of these type of clowns and needs to start retroactively suspending them for such reprehensible behavior.
Herculez Gomez still needs to do more while Jozy Altidore looked good
Gomez was thoroughly uninvolved during the first half creating little. He was replaced in the 64th minute by Jozy Altidore.
After being introduced, Jozy immediately pepped up the U.S. attack, drawing fouls and holding the ball up well.
In the 70th minute, when the game was 1-0, Altidore drove into the Guatemalan box before he was chopped down by a Guatemalan defender. Although the defender came out of the challenge with the ball, he went through Jozy’s legs to get it.
Altidore also had a goal incorrectly called back in the 79th minute after the referee failed to recognize advantage and blew play dead for a previous foul after Altidore had already scored.
Dempsey’s goal was brilliant
In the 40th minute, Fabian Johnson made a fantastic run down the wing before finding Clint Dempsey at the top of the box.
Dempsey used his first touch to deposit a Guatemalan defender square on his butt, then used a nice little move on a second Guatemalan defender also putting him on the ground before coolly putting the ball in the back of the net.
Tim Howard was huge
Thank God for Timmy Howard. The USMNT relied on him on a number of occasions to avoid defeat
In the 31st minute, Howard had a nice save on a Ruiz set-piece, he came up huge stopping an open Guatemalan shot from 10 yards out in the 38th, and stopped another point blank shot in the 69th minute.
Geoff Cameron repaid Jurgen Klinsmann’s faith
Although Cameron wasn’t given the start, Jurgen Klinsmann elected to replace a cautioned Clarence Goodson at the half, not wanting Goodson to pick up a second yellow and forcing the U.S. to play short.
Klinsmann elected to replace Goodson with Geoff Cameron. Coming into your first World Cup qualifier in the hostile environment of Guatemala City cannot be an easy experience, but Cameron acquitted himself well.
On a personal note…
I really want to thank Traffic Sports for providing the pay-per-view. For only $30 I got to watch the game in STANDARD DEFINITION, watch a choppy feed that went to a blue screen every time they tried to show a replay and got to listen to an annoying buzzing sound in the background for most of the match.
For $30 for one game the least they could have provided was a decent picture and sound.